CASE STATEMENT
for Tufts University Advancement

LEARNING COMMONS

A group of students are engaged in intense discussion with each other. Fingers are flying through open books and over the keys of laptops and handhelds. A question stops them short for a moment. Then ideas—and fingers—begin flying again as they resume their collaboration.

These students are working on an assignment that challenges both their critical thinking skills and their ability to work together. They are reinforcing newly learned concepts, learning how to approach problems, evaluating massive amounts of Internet-age information, and honing teamwork strategies. This learning—and learning how to keep learning—will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

Driven by sweeping advances in media and technology, the interactive, collaborative approach to learning is redefining education in institutions of higher education all over the country. One by-product: institutions have begun re-thinking the role of the library. Many have moved toward a “learning commons” concept in which the library serves not as a mere warehouse of books and place of secluded study, but also as a hub of interactive learning. In her 2007 study on learning commons, Susan McMullen, professor and reference and information resources librarian at Roger Williams University, writes, “In strategically aligning new library spaces with the nature of the educational experience, the planning focus has…become less about library operations and more about student learning.”

The successful pilot “mini-learning commons” established in the library’s reference area—together with a telling faculty survey—have spotlighted the need for library space dedicated to media creation, production, and practice, as well as multimedia-supported interactive teaching and learning. By supporting ongoing innovation, you will help Tisch Library take this significant step toward realizing a dynamic, technology-driven vision of student-centered learning.

Tufts University therefore invites you to join us in seizing this opportunity to create a multimedia center in Tisch Library. Your gift will support the library in a way that better aligns with today’s educational realities and demands. Specifically, it would allow the university to commit to a five-year contract for a librarian with the technical expertise to support faculty and students who want to incorporate multimedia in their coursework and research. The gift would also provide resources to help establish and equip a library facility that can evolve with changes in media and technology.

The impact of this gift on the campus would be transformative. It will provide centralized resources to boost creativity and innovation in teaching and learning, enabling faculty and students to explore new and changing opportunities presented by media technologies. The space established by this gift will foster academic approaches that mirror real-world collaborative decision-making. It will serve as a model for future initiatives to promote lifelong learning.

In an interview with Traditional Building magazine, architect Ralph Jackson, principal of the firm Shepley Bulfinch Richardson & Abbott, states, “[A] library is not simply about storing books; it’s about creating an environment where all of the stakeholders—users, visitors, staff, administration—feel the building working for them.” We believe adding multimedia capabilities will be a significant first step in the right direction to realize this vision for Tisch Library.