Learning Everywhere: The Hyperlinked Library as Classroom


Published: March 29, 2016 by Michael Stephens

Michael StephensThe Hyperlinked Library model is a response to the socio-technological change. One major facet of this model is an emphasis on the library as a facilitator of discovery, exploration, and play as a way to learn about the world. These learning events and experiences can be both in the physical space and the virtual. Jenkins (2006) defined “play” as “the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem-solving” (p.4), and argued that play is one of the most valued skills for the changing landscape of education. “Today’s networked technology,” according to Thomas and Brown (2009, p.2),  “is more than just a conduit to communicate information; it is a platform to share and network imaginations.  Technology, like never before has become a tool to build worlds.”

Evolving Learning Environments

The Elements of the Creative Classroom Research Model (Innovating Teaching and Learning Practices 2012), developed by the European Commission Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, represents the potential for new models of learning. The commission defines the Creative Classroom as learning environments that fully utilize information technologies to enhance learning and teaching practices. The term ‘classroom’ is used to represent all types of learning environments: formal, non-formal, and informal. The library as creative classroom could reflect with this approach as well.  Libraries could continue to develop learning opportunities with user-focused planning and insights from research such as this. The library as creative  classroom may include physical spaces for instruction and discovery as well as online, multi-scale platforms focused on social learning and participation. Highlights of the model echo ideas from Thomas and Brown (2009), the Horizon Reports and others. A complex model of multiple sections, four primary elements are included in the “learning practice” area of the Creative Classroom model:

Learn by creating.
Learn by exploring.
Learn by playing.
Learn with others in a collaborative environment.

How can we apply these ideas to various approaches to learning and engagement promoted by libraries?

Mobile Learning

As detailed above, people want to learn from anywhere. Libraries housing unique and valuable collections, works and artifacts of local significance, and information sources not yet digitized must find ways to reach out to a public that will never have the opportunity to visit their buildings and who may never easily happen upon their websites. Consequently, librarians that are already providing online services and digital materials must constantly scan for innovative solutions that could be included in their information center offerings and mobile applications. Providing mobile access to unique collections, services, and support creates presence for libraries in the palm of users’ hands. These might include such services and applications as WolfWalk from the North Carolina State University (NCSU) library. WolfWalk (2011) is described on the application’s Web page as:

…a photographic guide to the history of North Carolina State University optimized for mobile devices. The application includes a location-aware campus map and a photo viewer for browsing historical photographs by decade or theme. WolfWalk features 1000 photographs of important people, places and events in NC State history. WolfWalk is a pilot project to explore new user interaction models with digital collections on mobile devices.

NCSU’s Hunt Library also utilized Instagram, a photo sharing social network, to promote and engage with students during the opening of the new library (North Carolina State University Hunt Library Instagram 2015). The service continues currently and indicates a successful social media engagement and education opportunity implementation. Duke University’s mobile offering for smartphones (DukeMobile) includes access to librarians and mobile collections.  Public libraries, such as New York Public Library, have created unique applications that highlight collections and access to patron-centered services such as holds, account management and catalog search. These examples promote learning by exploring and learning by collaboration and sharing with others.

Next time, we’ll look back at what lead to this evolving learning landscape.


DukeMobile,  Available from: https://oit.duke.edu/what-we-do/applications/dukemobile (accessed  September 30, 2015).

Innovating Teaching and Learning Practices: Key Elements for Developing Creative Classrooms in Europe (2012), Available from: http://www.openeducationeuropa.eu/en/article/Innovating-Teaching-and-Lea… (accessed  September 2, 2015).

North Carolina State University Hunt Library Instagram 2015, Available from: http://d.lib.ncsu.edu/myhuntlibrary (accessed October 20, 2015).

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011),  A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

Wolfwalk, 2011. Available from: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/reports/wolfwalk ( October 23, 2015).