Sunday, August 3, 2008

Cal Poly Learning Commons - Part 1 of 3


California Polytechnic State University, known as “Cal Poly” has a tradition of hands-on learning, or “learning by doing” (California Polytechnic State University, 2008). The Cal Poly campus located in San Luis Obispo will be the focus of this discussion. The campus is served by one large library, the Robert E. Kennedy Library, which was completed in 1980 (Kennedy Library, 2008).

In recent years, several factors combined to make renovations of the library desirable and practical. Firstly, major changes in library staff duties and culture opened up new ways of thinking and re-energized the organization (Somerville & Schader, 2005). Secondly, the realization that certain spaces were under-utilized: their functions, although once very important, were not serving the needs of the today’s students and faculty. Thirdly, funding sources were found to study methods of redesigning spaces (Kurfess et al, 2005) and to undertake their physical renovation (Kennedy Library, 2005).

On November 7, 2005 a new service area in the Robert E. Kennedy Library was officially opened (Kennedy Library, 2005). Named “The Learning Commons,” this service area covers parts of the first floor and second floor (Learning Commons Team, n.d.). It includes three computer labs, which are used part-time for regular classes, part-time for lab components of classes that do not normally meet in computer-enhanced facilities, and part-time as open computing labs (Kennedy Library, 2005).

In general, any Learning Commons serves many purposes, including increased interdisciplinary collaboration. This can occur via formal lectures, through group projects, or in informal ways by facilitating a relaxed atmosphere for socializing. Another important function is “to enable students to manage their own learning within an environment designed to both prompt and facilitate the use of the full range of library resources” (Lundkvist, Sundlof, Tanskanen, & Tiburzi, 2005, n.p.).

At Cal Poly, the “Learning Commons is a collaboration between the Robert E. Kennedy Library, Information Technology Services and the Center for Teaching and Learning” (Learning Commons Team, n.d.). This cross-campus partnership is important for the success of the Learning Commons, providing a diverse team of experts for students and faculty to draw upon.

In summer 2008, additional renovations of Kennedy Library space began. The second floor Learning Commons area is being transformed into an even more inviting space. “With new carpet, modern furniture and fresh ideas, the library can offer students a more efficient place to study” (Bieker, 2008).


Bieker, C. (2008, July 17). Library becomes more study-friendly. Mustang Daily. Retrieved from the Mustang Daily web site:

California Polytechnic State University. (2008). About CalPoly. Retrieved from the California Polytechnic State University web site:

Kennedy Library. (2005). Cal Poly Learning Commons ribbon cutting launches innovative environment and services for students and faculty. News. Retrieved from the Robert E. Kennedy Library web site:

Kennedy Library. (2008). Library History. Retrieved August 2, 2008 from the Robert E. Kennedy Library web site:

Kurfess, F., et al (2005). Toward a user-centered I2-enabled collaborative learning and teaching environment: The Cal Poly Scandinavian style participatory design project [PowerPoint slides]. Presented at the Internet2 Member Meeting, September 20, 2005. Retrieved from the Internet2 Members web site:

Learning Commons Team. (n.d.). Learning Commons: The Digital Teaching Library (DTL.) Retrieved from the Learning Commons web site:

Lundkvist, P., Sundlof, R., Tanskanen, S., & Tiburzi,M. (2005). Strategic design of a learning commons at Lulea University of Technology. Lulea, Sweden: Lulea University of Technology. Retrieved from the Lulea University of Technology web site:

Sommerville, M.M. & Schader, B. (2005). Life after the Reference Desk: Co-creating a Digital Age Library. The Charleston Advisor, 7(1),56-57.

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