The Learning Commons offers new collaborative spaces
Students share a fist bump while studying in Zoe's
in Wilson Library, part of The Learning Commons
collaborative study space. Photo by Matthew Anderson
By Matthew Anderson
WWU University Communications
There's plenty of space for quiet study in Wilson Library, but you won't find it here on the second floor. Wisps of conversations drift from Zoe's Bookside Bagels near the north entrance, through the skybridge and on past the reference desk as students and faculty alike seek information, advice and camaraderie in the Learning Commons.
Reconfiguration of the library's second floor this past summer has opened up the whole space to collaboration, teaching and the sharing of information. The area is now known as the Learning Commons, housing the Tutoring Center, the Writing Center, the Teaching Learning-Academy dialogue groups and other programs.
Why all the changes?
Students operate differently now than they used to, says Carmen Werder, the Learning Commons' director. They're much more interactive, more social in the ways they glean and share information.
"We're really seeing this second floor as an interactive and collaborative learning space," Werder says. "We wanted to create a physical space where this kind of interaction could happen outside the classroom."
Seven programs are now in the Learning Commons: In addition to the Tutoring Center, the Writing Center and the Teaching-Learning Academy, the center is home to Circulation Services, Instruction and Research Services, the Student Technology Center, and Writing Instruction Support. Speckled in and among these areas are pockets of space for class and group meetings.
Faculty, too, are making use of the space; some, such as Anthropology's Kathleen Saunders and Huxley's Troy Abel, are holding office hours in the Learning Commons in addition to their own offices.
The Student Technology Center is now a part of
The Learning Commons in the library.
Photo by Matthew Anderson
The space also is used by other academic units. For example, the Committee on Undergraduate Education, together with the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and the Academic Advising Center, is sponsoring "Viking Landing: Making the Most of Your GURs" on Nov. 9. The event will feature faculty, advisers and upperclass students discussing how to explore academic areas of interest through Western's General University Requirements.
"We don't expect the library to be completely quiet; we also expect it to be a collaborative, vibrant space," Werder says.
The moves are based on reams of data gleaned from students and the literature on learning in the past several years, Werder says. That data have shown that students want dedicated collaborative space as well as quiet space for study and reflection.
"We're not forgetting that," Werder says. "In fact, there is a corresponding campaign going on to develop the Library's upper floors. What this reorganization does is say, 'If you want collaborative space, go to the second floor. If you want solitary, quiet space, go upstairs, especially to fourth floor central and the fifth floor."
What's next? Lots. But, of course, having no additional funds means the library is limited in what it can do in the immediate future, Werder says.
"We're building the Learning Commons together," she says. "We want the campus to help grow and expand it. An advisory board composed of faculty, staff, and students from across campus is convening to explore its development and growth, and they welcome ideas from others about what they would like to see happen here."