The Rise of the Learning Centre
Libraries are traditionally known as quiet spaces used to read and research. With today’s technology, however, an abundance of digital information is accessible anywhere with internet access. Faced with this movement toward more universally accessible information, libraries are beginning to make the shift from being perceived as places that only house books, to places that provide access to the information and tools needed to succeed in modern life. We refer to these new spaces as learning centres.
They are emerging into a communal space that encourages collaboration, communication and community. They are a unique kind of destination, one that highlights digital learning tools and has a vibrant hum with activity and people.
By creating a modern, tech-centric area where students can congregate for projects and research, encourages them to collaborate, share ideas and think outside the box and is often considered the heart of a school.
So how do we turn existing libraries into these modern learning centres? We have put together a few factors to consider when redesigning your space.
When designing your space it can be daunting trying to decide what kind of furniture you want to include. It is a large investment, so you want to make sure the items you select are going to be fit for purpose.
You must consider the needs of your learners and the school community. This involves a significant amount of initial planning to ensure you make the most of your space and budget. Talking to teachers and students about their needs is a good place to start and of course, we are here to help with any of your logistical questions.
Through research, you will be able to establish how you can confidently accommodate the following key spaces in your learning centre:
Quiet space: An area to reflect, read and study.
Although we have moved away from the concept of a traditional library, it is still important to provide an area for students to study and read without distraction.
Create a space named the ‘quiet area’. Incorporate soft seating, cushions, and ottomans and individual study desks to develop this space. Some of our favourite furniture additions to a ‘quiet space’ would be:
- Halo cushion: These colourful cushions are light and easy for children to carry from activity to activity and to use as a soft seat. They provide a comfortable alternative to sitting on the floor and are durable enough for daily use.
- Modulus seating: is designed to add comfort, colour and fun to your space. They are easy to move around to configure in clusters or separate for quiet thinking and focus. The modulus seating is a perfect way to add flexibility to your space.
- Cubic ottoman: Cubic is a compact option designed to comfort, colour and fun.
Collaboration space: To discuss, brainstorm, share and tell stories
The millennials of today are a social generation who consume and spread knowledge by socializing and collaborating. This is why modern learning centres need to host a place where students can openly discuss information and collaborate on ideas or projects. Surfaces that are mobile and can transform, are a must. By having a variety of collaboration tables, flexible seating and active seating means students can take control of their space and gather together to work on tasks when necessary.
Consider adding interesting group tables and active seating to your collaboration space:
Puddle Table is a fun group table is designed for 1 teacher and 6 student positions - ideal for teacher-led group activities in your learning centre or classroom. Add a whiteboard top to make the table a great visual learning tool and a fun and creative way to teach in the classroom.
The Jellybean Table is a fun and versatile activity table. You can seat 3 or 4 children around the table with a teacher in the middle as a place for small group work.
The Lunar table is the perfect fit for any meeting or collaboration space for a quick group brainstorming session. This versatile table can also be made with a custom Melteca coloured top to inject colour to your space.
- Yoyo Ottoman brings movement and life to spaces and is a perfect addition for learning centres, classrooms, study areas and social spaces. Lively, versatile and contemporary, YoYo is great for encouraging free thinking in brainstorming meetings and creative sessions. The tumbler base creates gentle movement, activating muscles to support active sitting and as it is lightweight it can be easily picked up and moved around as needed.
Presentation space: To present, share and celebrate
Having a space suitable for presentations in your learning centre is a bonus, but not essential. This space can be used as a place for hosting events, workshops or student presentations. Fit it out with a projector, technology access, whiteboards, meeting chairs and a conference table.
Gravitate Flip Tables are an easy and practical space saver. Just roll them out for that impromptu meeting or classroom activity. The Gravitate would be a great addition to a presentation space as it accommodates many different tasks and is flexible in the sense that you can store them away easily depending on what style of work or presentation is required.
Soho Chair This multi-purpose chair can be used anywhere from waiting rooms, cafes, breakout spaces to auditoriums. It's curved back, diamond pattern and chrome frame create a stylish design to suit any aesthetic.
- Whiteboards are a must have in your presentation space as a useful aid while presenting or teaching. We recommend the porcelain range as the best choice for extensive use - ideal for education, commercial and other medium to high use applications.
Libraries need to have an area where students can go to create, practice and share. They can be built in with walls and glazing or can be defined by the furniture in the space. Known as a ‘breakout space’ where students can go to work in small groups, or study quietly. Many breakout spaces might have an online booking system put in place in order to book the room for the desired time that you need.
The furniture to support this area should be adaptable and comfortable; soft seating, ottomans, whiteboards group tables are all great additions.
- 4U creates a pleasant, joyful and lively space all while encouraging socialisation in shared spaces. Use on its own or as a double by placing two side by side. 4U's backrest support with adjustable height offers comfort and relaxation while resting, waiting, or sitting around with your friends.
The Lab Bench is a popular must-have table for modern learning group activities that require standing or stools in a breakout space. Ideal for 2 - 6 students depending on size selected.
- The Rectangle Table is a durable and practical table for group activities in the classroom with stools. Available to purchase with a whiteboard top to promote creativity, mental and physical engagement and peer collaboration.
- Base Ottoman is designed to add comfort, colour and fun to areas such as libraries, common areas, breakout areas, and staff rooms. Easy to move around, students can create a space that works for them.
- Lips is a rocking pouffe that assures a gentle motion that helps with concentration and focus. By activating muscles, it supports active sitting by requiring the minimum effort of the user to move. The energizing form supports free thinking in the classroom or meetings where brainstorming takes place.
A well-designed learning centre acts as a technology hub, giving students and the public access to all sorts of advanced resources such as; Wifi, iPads, audio-visual equipment and 3D printers. Some learning centres are even embracing the ‘maker movement’ and creating workshops where young people gain practical hands-on experience with new technologies and innovative processes to design and build projects. With the rapid advancements in technology it is important to keep your learning centre up to date, and by offering such technology you are creating a place that is going to encourage the development and innovative skills of students in your school or community.
Making the most of your learning centre
While learning centres are moving on an innovative pathway of development and growth, they are up against the challenges of shrinking budgets and differing public perceptions of whether or not they are a necessity in the digital age. However, we believe learning centres can create a real sense of community for a school or even a city.
With endless opportunities for community involvement, we know that a well thought out space will benefit plenty of people. Consider hosting events, educational workshops and learning programmes or perhaps you set it up as a space for coworking and collaboration? Whatever you decide, all of the above will create a sense of community and inclusiveness.
Understanding the importance of a learning centre will allow you to make the most of a multi-purpose space in your school or city. By considering these points, you will be able to choose furniture that will not only be useful but will add style and creativity to your space long term, as well as encouraging participation and learning in the next generation.