Over the past 12 months we’ve tried various ways to engage our learners in the library environment. Aside from the usual displays and larger learner engagement projects such as the Six Book Challenge, we’ve found a few simple additions to our library have had a large impact.
To the side of the library counter, as learners walk in, we have a game of Scrabble constantly running. We don’t keep scores, the aim is simply to see if you can put a word down. Many of our learners (and staff!) will regularly stop at the Scrabble board to have a look at the letters and see if they can play a word or two. It’s fantastic to see the range of learners who partake in this; including some of those who you would least expect! On more than a few occasions we’ve let groups of learners take the Scrabble board over to a table in the library so they can play a game together.
Another way we’ve tried to engage our learners is by starting a ‘Word of the Day’ display. There’s a glass partition wall as you enter the library, and we decided to buy some glass pens to see if we could use this as a learning space. We have to be a little bit careful with the colours of glass pen used (some show up much better than others), but for the most part the glass pens work brilliantly.
The Word of the Day display has prompted much more discussion than we might have expected. One of our first words was ‘fortissimo’, and this caused quite a stir amongst learners and staff. Two of our Italian-speaking members of staff were insistent that the Oxford Dictionaries definition of ‘fortissimo’ was too narrow. Several of our learners questioned the inclusion of foreign words in the dictionary, which then turned into a discussion about the assimilation of foreign words into the English language. It was wonderful to see such a diverse group of learners and staff really engaging with the display.
Most recently we’ve turned one of our walls into a whiteboard using Smart Wall Paint. The transparent paint turns the wall into a whiteboard style surface that can be written on with whiteboard pens and then simply wiped away. The paint was an experiment for the college; we didn’t know how well the paint would work, or whether the learners would engage with it. We’ve only had the Smart Wall Paint surface for a few weeks, but thus far it would seem that the experiment is a success!
We’re planning on using this wall in various ways, but to get things started we decided to pose a question to our learners and staff: what are you reading at the moment? The response we had to this was excellent; having writing on the wall really caught our learner’s attention and many more of them than we anticipated were eager to add what they were reading to the wall. In the future we will also be using this wall as a collaborative learning space – students will be able to use the wall for group work.