University Libraries Plans for ‘Learning Commons’ at Johnson Center Library

Posted: October 5, 2010 at 1:04 am, Last Updated: October 4, 2010 at 2:00 pm

The following was submitted by University Libraries.

The Johnson Center Library is destined to get a major facelift in the coming years. Beginning this week, representatives from University Libraries, along with students and faculty members on the Fairfax Campus, will meet to discuss plans to re-imagine library spaces in the Johnson Center.

The university community is invited to participate in planning for the Learning Commons @ Johnson Center Library. The following open meetings will be held in the Johnson Center, Room 311D.

  • Student forum: Thursday, Oct. 7, 3 to 4 p.m.
  • Faculty forum: Thursday, Oct. 7, 4 to 5 p.m.

An e-community around the creation of the Learning Commons is also under development. Faculty members and students are invited to visit to offer their input in the initial planning phases and as the project progresses.

The current Johnson Center Library offers circulation, course reserves, multimedia resources and reference services to faculty members and students across a wide range of disciplines, which complement Fenwick Library’s collections and services on the Fairfax Campus.

Planning will focus on how best to offer library collections, instruction, and other services in the Johnson Center’s dynamic environment.

Like many academic libraries nationally, Mason’s University Libraries has sought to create evolving learning spaces that adapt to students’ work habits rather than force arbitrary patterns of space use. The Learning Commons concept seeks to offer flexible library spaces where students can collaborate with peers, engage in cross-disciplinary learning outside of traditional classroom settings, have access to library and other academic support expert staff and use technology for learning and creating new knowledge.

University Librarian John Zenelis notes that the Johnson Center Library was conceived and planned some 20 years ago, along with the multipurpose building within which it is housed.

“It was revolutionary for its time, but now we need to update it so we can serve students more effectively,” he says.

The focus of the redesign process will be on how best to engage and support students by offering integrated services from the libraries in programmatic partnership with Mason’s schools, colleges and educational support areas.

“Through such partnerships and coordination, we will be able to assist students, undergraduates especially, to begin developing habits of scholarship in an environment presenting a seamless suite of learning programs and services,” Zenelis says.

George Oberle, head of the Johnson Center Library, adds, “We want the Learning Commons to be a welcoming destination that accommodates a wide range of student studying and learning styles. It will include areas for quiet study, instruction and group collaboration, and be a place that acts as a hub for technology projects and multimedia creation.”

The initial program planning and conceptual design phases are expected to be completed by mid-December 2010. Architectural redesign is expected to occur by mid-February 2011, with actual renovations expected to occur in a multiyear, phased project over the next few summers.

The university has retained Boston-based Shepley Bulfinch, an internationally known architectural firm specializing in academic library buildings, for the project. Shepley Bulfinch assisted in developing a master plan for the university’s libraries and currently serves as the architectural firm for the Fenwick Library addition.

The firm’s work will be guided by a steering committee whose membership will include faculty members, librarians, students and administrators.

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