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Learning Commons to Be Featured in American Libraries' Design Showcase

The Old Dominion University Libraries' submission for the Learning Commons@Perry Library has been selected for inclusion in the American Libraries' Library Design Showcase, the annual feature celebrating the best new and newly renovated or expanded libraries of all types. American Libraries is the magazine of the American Library Association (ALA).

This year's showcase will be published in 14 sections: 12 parts online at americanlibrariesmagazine.org/librarydesign12 starting Thursday, March 8, and excerpts of the showcase in the March/April issue of American Libraries and the American Libraries Spring Digital Supplement, which will be emailed to ALA members in April.

ODU's submission will be included in the Collaborative Learning online section Wednesday, March 14.

The annual showcase selects libraries that are "beautiful examples of architecture and that address service needs in interesting and effective ways."

As collaborative learning was a main goal driving the Learning Commons addition, university librarian Virginia O'Herron was happy to learn that ODU's new space will be featured as part of the ALA showcase in that category.

"We are excited that the Learning Commons@Perry Library was selected for this honor," O'Herron said.

Clark Nexsen, a Norfolk-based firm, was the architect for the project, which included an 8,000-square-foot expanded space to the front of Perry Library and 20,000 square feet of renovated space on the first floor. The new Learning Commons opened Sept. 6, 2011.

The Learning Commons is a dynamic and collaborative learning environment that incorporates library and information technology services and resources, reference assistance and research services, writing and tutoring services, enhanced technology and academic support services. Planning for the project began in 2008. Originally conceived as a project between the University Libraries and ODU's Office of Computing and Communications Services, the opportunity to include academic support services was realized when funding became available to build a Student Success Center.

To coordinate aspects of the building project and to plan the services and technology that would be offered in the Learning Commons, the Learning Commons Governance Team was established with representatives from the University Libraries, the Office of Computing and Communication Services and the Division of Academic Enhancement. The building project was completed in two phases. The first phase was the construction of the Student Success Center, which is located to the south side of Perry Library with a connection into the library.

The Learning Commons includes a variety of services, furniture and spaces. Upon entry, there is a soft open seating area furnished with flexible chairs and sofas and moveable whiteboards. The west side of this seating area features an area designed for interactive presentations, with a large screen and computer available to patrons.

The Help Desk is located in the center of the space and is staffed by all three partners who provide reference assistance and research services, computing and technology assistance, and academic student services assistance. In addition, a self-checkout station and equipment loan services are available from this service point.

The Learning Commons has six collaboration rooms designed to accommodate four to six people, each equipped with flat-panel monitors, laptop hookups and computers. A large collaboration room is designed for eight to 10 people and also includes a flat-panel monitor, laptop hookups and a computer. Its presentation room is designed with the same technology and equipment found in all ODU classrooms; a "green" screen enables students to practice class presentations. The Multimedia Innovation Lab includes 12 high-end Mac computers and a sound booth with technology for media content creation. In addition, there are two designated areas with six high-end Windows-based media computers and six GIS workstations.

Included in the Learning Commons is a large conference room with seating capacity for 80, which can be divided into two 40-seat-capacity meeting rooms. Both sides of this conference room are equipped with presentation software, dual screens and a presenter's workstation. The Library Instruction Room is equipped with 23 workstations, six tables with seating for four at each, an instructor's workstation and projection system.

Macs and Windows-based computers with network printing are located throughout the Learning Commons. Many of these computers are also equipped with scanning capabilities and dual monitors. Wireless connectivity and an abundance of electrical outlets are also available for students using their own laptops. Additional computers and printers are located on the second floor atrium in an area designated as "The Loft" of the Learning Commons.

In addition, the Learning Commons partners collaborated on campus to create additional services to enhance student learning. New spaces include tutoring and writing services through the Math and Science Resource Center and Writing Services.

New restrooms, an Einstein's Express Café and vending machines are all part of the Learning Commons, which is open 24/5 during the fall and spring semesters, and during regular library hours for the summer semesters.

This article was posted on: March 8, 2012

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