Connected libraries: Surveying the current landscape and charting a path to the future

Hoffman, K. M., Subramaniam, M., Kawas, S., Scaff, L., & Davis, K. (2016). Connected libraries: Surveying the current landscape and charting a path to the future. College Park, MD; Seattle, WA: The ConnectedLib Project.

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Connected learning is a powerful educational framework that emphasizes creative and social learning experiences that are driven by learners’ personal interests. The framework’s core principles include learning contexts that are peer supported, interest powered, and academically oriented along with experiences that are production centered, openly networked, and bring together learners and adults around a shared purpose (Ito et al., 2013). The “connected” in connected learning refers to connecting in-school and out-of-school learning, connecting interests to opportunities, and connecting the learner to peers and mentors. In making these connections across the entire “youth learning ecology” (Martin, 2015), the connected learning framework promotes an equity agenda meant to help close the economic and cultural gaps faced by many non-dominant youth (youth from sociocultural groups who have historically been excluded from institutionalized sources of power) (Braun, Hartman, Hughes- Hassell, Kumasi, & Yoke, 2014; Ito et al., 2013). Success in today’s information-based society requires not only access to information, but to the skills and literacy to use information to create value and knowledge (Garmer, 2014). The connected learning framework addresses this need.

As social and technological hubs for their communities, libraries are natural environments to connect learning, creativity, and knowledge production. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the MacArthur Foundation have recognized this opportunity in their funding and research priorities (Braun et al., 2014; Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2014; MacArthur Foundation, 2015). While libraries are being recognized as ideal environments to promote connected learning opportunities for youth, most of the available literature on connected learning in libraries has been focused on individual case studies; it is therefore not generalizable to libraries of different sizes and capacities, and serving diverse populations (Hill, Pro tt, & Streams, 2015).

Our IMLS-funded project, ConnectedLib, seeks to ll this gap by examining the different types of connected learning that are happening in public libraries across the United States, shedding light on the challenges in facilitating connected learning in libraries, and providing the resources that are needed for teen librarians to implement connected learning successfully at their libraries. Our first step is to bring together and synthesize the existing relevant literature into a single overview — this document. In the following pages, we examine what connected learning is and how it has evolved. We provide examples of connected learning in libraries, discuss opportunities and challenges, and review existing resources for public librarians who wish to implement connected learning principles in their youth programming. We also discuss how the ConnectedLib project plans to address gaps in the existing connected learning research and resources for libraries.

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