The Role of Learning Labs in Academic Libraries

Learning labs provide students with access to cutting-edge technology, resources, and learning support.

College libraries level up their offerings with the latest tech equipment and collaborative learning spaces.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, education has been moving into the digital space faster than ever before, and academic libraries have followed suit. Both educational institutions and libraries have been looking for ways to unite the digital and physical aspects of learning, with their efforts culminating in high-tech learning labs.

What sets these learning labs apart from a standard academic library, and what makes them so important? Let’s take a closer look.

What Do Learning Labs Offer?

A learning lab’s resources vary on a case-by-case basis, but generally, you can count on having things like projectors, computers, and other essentials for meetings and study sessions with your fellow students. However, some learning labs go above and beyond, providing visitors with high-grade 3D printers, professional cameras, and other useful equipment that students and faculty are unlikely to have access to at home.

These learning labs are open for students and faculty to use, and some may also include classes on the more advanced resources and technology. This opens new avenues for students interested in a career involving hands-on technological skills and gives professors resources to create a more interesting and engaging learning environment for their students.  


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Learning Labs and the Campus Community

Though the primary purpose of learning labs is, of course, to facilitate learning, they’re also an indispensable part of the campus culture and help students find communities of people with similar thoughts and interests.

For example, consider a learning lab with professional cameras, as mentioned earlier. Anyone who attends lessons in that lab will most likely learn more about photography. But while there, they can also meet other photography enthusiasts of all levels, forming lifelong friendships, business partnerships, and even smaller subgroups that meet outside of the lab.

In this sense, learning labs and academic libraries are the microcosm of the university experience and campus life. The university experience is both an academic and social pursuit, with the social elements of campus life often shaping the paths students take in their academics.

Universities should work toward nurturing that social element, as it ultimately allows students to prosper as scholars, making connections and meeting friends and colleagues alike. Academic libraries and their learning labs are just one of the many ways this is accomplished, making them a key part of any university.


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Universities That Offer Learning Labs

To better understand how these learning labs look in action, we’ve researched a few libraries that offer them. First up is the learning lab at the University of Texas at Austin, which functions both as a commons area and a classroom of sorts.

Although it doesn’t have as much highly specialized technology as others, it’s fully equipped for lectures, with whiteboards for conventional writing and flatscreen TVs capable of wirelessly connecting to external devices for digital presentations. It’s open to all members of the student body and faculty for social and class gatherings alike.

The University of Pittsburgh’s library learning lab leans much more heavily into the seminar format, providing tech like the 3D printers and cameras mentioned earlier, as well as VR headsets, die cutters, and laser cutting/engraving tools, all invaluable tools that could be the start of a lifelong hobby or even a career.

Want to learn more about how academic libraries enhance the learning environment? Feel free to visit us at EveryLibrary today!



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