Towards a working understanding of today’s, and tomorrow’s, learning landscapes


Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 16 August 2011



Mitchell, E. and Barbara Watstein, S. (2011), "Towards a working understanding of today’s, and tomorrow’s, learning landscapes", Reference Services Review, Vol. 39 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Towards a working understanding of today’s, and tomorrow’s, learning landscapes

Article Type: Editorial From: Reference Services Review, Volume 39, Issue 3

We are all grappling with the impact of changing environments, physical and virtual. Many of us are also struggling to identify the extent, type and configuration of future space needs of both kinds.

In our effort to develop a working understanding of today’s, and tomorrow’s, learning landscapes we began with a call for papers on “learning landscapes and the new reality.” We included examples of topics as follows:

  • Authors may choose to focus on learning landscapes in college and research libraries, with a focus on the “commons” phenomenon.

  • We are also interested in articles on education in the twenty-first century (twenty-first century students, literacies, skills, etc.) and the evolving landscape of higher education, including new physical and fiscal terrains and corollary on-site and virtual challenges for libraries.

  • Manuscripts on learning landscapes in academic libraries with a focus on integrated planning that is holistic, systemic, and crosses functional and operational boundaries, and on integrated planning that is effective are also welcome.

  • Space strategies for the new learning landscape would also be of interest to our readers, with attention on cutting edge initiatives, best practices, cross-functional planning challenges, and innovative institutional approaches to planning, funding, administration and facilities, and/or emerging trends. Here, authors may choose to focus on academic, public or special libraries.

  • Contributors may choose to write about implications for reference and instructional services, considering, for example, the power of place in learning, collaboration opportunities, new roles, and the challenge of cultivating the learning landscape.

  • Some authors may choose to explore the language of learning landscapes – considering the evolution of phrases such as the learning society, learning environment, learning spaces, information landscapes, campus cultural concepts, etc.

  • Finally, we would welcome manuscripts that address the challenge of keeping up with research in progress, design awards within and outside the profession, conferences in and outside the profession, virtual conversations and knowledge communities.

The responses affirm wide interest in exploring the conceptual, personal, social, creative, physical and virtual spaces for learning in today’s libraries.

The articles in this issue offer a useful start to help thinking and debate. For readers who are already exploring ways of working with architectural and virtual space as a process, the articles offer more grist for the mill.

In this issue, you will find manuscripts on learning space or landscape design and development (Leo Appleton, Valerie Stevenson and Debbi Boden; Sabra Brock and Sara Tabaei; Somaly Kim Wu and Donna Lanclos), service design in our evolving spaces (Lisa Kammerlocher, Juliann Couture, Olivia Sparks, Matthew Harp and Tammy Allgood; Bharat Mehra and Donna Braquet; Amy Gratz and Julie Gilbert; Heidi Steiner), learning landscape evaluation (Bryony Ramsden; Kathleen W. Weessies). Three additional articles complete the issue – one on text reference service (Lili Luo), a second on information literacy instruction for satellite university students (Heather Nicholson and Nicole Eva), and a third on student consultants’ perceptions and valuations of research skills (Carissa M. Holler Phillips).

We look forward to continuing our effort to develop a working understanding of learning landscapes now and to come, in our next issue, Volume 39 No. 4.

Selected links and resources

The British Library. “Growing knowledge: the evolution of research”, available at: (accessed 16 May 2011).EDUCAUSE Review Magazine, Vol. 44 No. 2, March/April 2009 (the entire issue is devoted to learning spaces), available at: (accessed 16 May 2011).Farmer, L.S.J., Library eLearning Spaces, available at: (accessed 16 May 2011).Joint Information Systems Committee, “JISC infoNet”, available at: (accessed 13 May 2011).Joint Information Systems Committee, “Libraries of the future (blog for the JISC campaign)”, available at: (accessed 16 May 2011).“Learning landscapes in higher education”, available at: (accessed 13 May 2011).Oblinger, D.G. (Ed.), “Learning spaces”,, available at: EDUCAUSE e-Book 2006 (accessed 13 May 2011).“Library as place: rethinking roles, rethinking space” (CLIR Pub 129), available at: (accessed 16 May 2011).“Society for college and university planning”, available at: (accessed 13 May 2011).

Eleanor Mitchell, Sarah Barbara Watstein

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