As students and faculty return to campus in the next few days, they will discover that the Warren Hunting Smith Library has been transformed, both in design and in purpose of use. The striking changes are part of a project known as the Learning Commons, which combines key resources from across campus into one space, simplifying and streamlining support services for teaching and learning. The Commons combines aspects of the Library, Information Technology Services and the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) within the library building.
“This project reaffirms the library as the heart of the academic community,” says Provost and Dean of Faculty Teresa Amott. “Twenty-first century learning takes place in a complex environment of print and electronic materials that demands sophisticated set of research and technical skills. The Learning Commons has been designed to foster the development of these critical skills for lifelong learning.”
“In the past, students working on academic projects had to go from Gulick Hall to Williams Hall to the library to a professor’s office, and back to the library, Williams or Gulick,” says Chief Information Officer Fred Damiano. “The Learning Commons combines campus experts on technical support, instructional technology and academic assistance in one place to create an integrated service delivery point for students and faculty.”
The project’s design team included faculty members as well as staff from the Center for Teaching and Learning, Information Technology Services, and Buildings and Grounds. The design team worked closely with a student advisory board. The group’s intent was to create a warm and welcoming space that supports multiple modes of teaching and learning in a flexible and dynamic facility.
“The biggest change is on the first floor,” says Director of the Warren Hunting Smith Library Vince Boisselle. “It has just been transformed. Our major goal was to create a dynamic intellectual environment that incorporates all the people and resources necessary to provide support for scholarship in one location. This an exciting transition period for the library and the entire campus.”
The first floor of the library is now filled with a variety of venues for formal and informal instruction, individual and group research, multimedia technology support and production, and the main desks for IT Services, technical support, and access to library services. The space has more than 75 new computers with the availability of both Mac and Windows platforms. Nearly every piece of furniture on the floor – from the lounge chairs to the tables – is wired for power and network connectivity so that students can easily use their laptops throughout the space.
“It’s an integrated model that allows for all offices involved to work collaboratively,” explains CTL Director Susan Pliner. “From our perspective in the CTL, we hope that our presence in the Learning Commons will increase the desire for facilitated learning, especially with study mentors and study tables available for all departments and programs who want to participate.”
The integration isn’t just a co-location of offices but instead is a coordinated venture with the directors of the library, CTL, IT Services technical support, and instructional technology all sharing a pod of offices so that they are in constant communication. In addition, the staff of the Center for Teaching and Learning is now located on the second floor of the library making it a centralized location for meetings.
With the massive addition and renovation of the Scandling Campus Center now complete next door, Amott is hopeful that, “…we will create synergy between the newly renovated library, the academic center of campus, and the newly renovated Scandling Center, the social center of campus.”