Making Space for Active Learning in Your Library Logo and project partners

Making Space for Active Learning in Your Library is a self-paced learning experience to guide your library through the process of rethinking and reconfiguring physical space to make room for active learning and work with your community to create new services and programs.

The content originated with the Small Libraries Create Smart Spaces project, which guided 15 small libraries from around the country through this process of transformation in their spaces and services. (We are pleased to announce that OCLC has received a supplemental IMLS grant that will allow the next iteration of the WebJunction program Small Libraries Create Smart Spaces. The application process will open in January 2019 for libraries interested in becoming a Smart Spaces library.) The libraries in the first cohort ranged in size of population served from 570 (Hot Springs, NC) to just over 16,000 (Cornwall, NY). Examples of these libraries’ successful application of the process are included in all three courses. Although the project was specifically designed to be actionable by small and rural libraries, the process can apply to any library type or size.

The program is presented in a three-course sequence.

1. Active Learning and Community Discovery introduces the concepts of active learning and placemaking, and the tools and process for community discovery.

2. From Discovery to Design builds on the results of the community discovery process, adapting design thinking approaches to arrive at an actionable idea and a space ready for transformation.

3. Action Planning and Implementation takes the planning through the steps of making the space and service transformation happen.


Participants will receive a WebJunction Certificate of Completion for each course they complete.

The foundational content for this course was developed as part of the Small Libraries Create Smart Spaces project, with funding from OCLC and a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), project #LG-80-16-0039-16. WebJunction partnered with the Association of Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL)

Format: Self-paced Course
Developed by: WebJunction, in collaboration with Project for Public Spaces (PPS)
Length: includes 1.5 hours of recorded instruction, plus 5-6 hours of reading and assignments; the community discovery process is open-ended but plan on 1-2 months to make meaningful use of the community engagement tools.

Overview: introduces the concepts of active learning and placemaking, and the tools and process for community discovery

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Recognize the shift in the library’s role in its community
  • Define the key characteristics of active learning in a library setting
  • Recognize effective strategies for authentic community discovery of community needs and interests
  • Use community data sources to describe community and identify target audiences of discovery
  • Utilize appropriate tools, methodologies, strategies to conduct community discovery activities related specifically to active learning opportunities at the library
  • Recognize the value and potential contributions from partners and volunteers

Lead Course Developer: Betha Gutsche

Format: Self-paced Course
Developed by: WebJunction, in collaboration with Shannon Barniskis, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, School of Information Studies, and Lauren Stara, Library Building Specialist, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners
Length: includes 3 hours of recorded instruction, plus 5-6 hours of reading and assignments

Overview: builds on the results of the community discovery process, adapting design thinking approaches to arrive at an actionable idea and a space ready for transformation

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Re-envision the use of library space and the characteristics of engaging space in a manner that supports community active learning priorities
  • Designate and clear a space in the library to prepare for transformation
  • Understand the principles and general process of human-centered design and design thinking
  • Synthesize community input to identify patterns and priority needs for use of library space
  • Apply techniques of ideation and prototyping to develop actionable ideas

Lead Course Developer: Betha Gutsche

Format: Self-paced Course
Developed by: WebJunction
Length: includes TBD hours of recorded instruction, plus TBD hours of reading and assignments; the actual implementation time is dependent on many factors, including the scope of the project, level of support from staff, community members and funders, and unpredictable things like weather and infrastructure.

Overview: takes the planning through the steps of making the space and service transformation happen

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Clarify goals, purpose and intended outcomes
  • Formulate a project plan and manage implementation
  • Effectively enlist the support of partners, community members and volunteers
  • Activate the space with people and programming

Lead Course Developer: Betha Gutsche

This course will be available soon!