Is This the Library?

Plans Unveiled for Learning Commons

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Plans for remodeling L.A. Beeghly Library were presented at the Student Government meeting on Monday, Febuary 11th. The goals for the remodel included to reimagine the library “as an energetic, learning-centered and student-centered environment” and to “enhance the physical connections of the building to the Campus and Community.”

Dean Lisa McDaniels spoke to Student Government about shifting the role of the library from that of a traditional library to a learning commons. Policy Committee Chair, Vidal Glassman, asked what the difference between a learning commons and a library was. While Dean McDaniels did not have much to offer on the subject, Edutopia, an online publication of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, defines a learning commons as a shift away from the traditional “archival” role of a library and into a space that promotes participatory learning. Dean Lisa McDaniels stated that she wants students to ask, “is this the library?”

Plans for the Beeghly Library remodel were drafted by architecture firm, Hord, Coplan, and Macht who produced a final report in 2018. From the images shown during the meeting the brick façade of the structure would be replaced with larger glass windows, giving the building a more modern look. There was discussion of removing the awkward wall & patio part of the building on the side facing the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts. Also presented as part of the remodeling was plans to extend a space out to the current sidewalk on the Academic Quad, directly in front of Halbritter. This suggestion came with the caveat that it was only theoretical and an unlikely reality.

A more open floor plan and event spaces are key features supposedly coming to the new library. Included also are multimedia spaces, spaces for active learning and experimental teaching practices, technology learning spaces,
and a dedicated room called the “Writing/ Speaking/Presentation Center.” Students within the Writing Center were not informed as to what this means for the Writing Center.

The current plan advocates for a kind of “dispersed books” system. According to Dean Lisa McDaniels, “The library will be everywhere and nowhere.” The current desks and chairs will be replaced with ones on wheels so that room configurations can be changed quickly.

Spaces for “hoteling” would also be added, meaning that permanent offices within the library would give way to office space shared among a variety of people. While this is becoming a more common practice in the business world, it is usually the result of budget cuts or real estate availability issues. According to Ana Swanson of the Washington Post, hoteling is best suited for companies that have a workforce that is more often on the road than in the office.

Remodeling brings more changes, including that quiet study space on the second floor may be reduced, if not in quantity at least in quality as the open floor plan presented calls for opening up some of the ceiling from the first to second floor to let more natural light through the building.

When concerns about quiet space to study in the library were voiced, the proposed solution at the meeting was that the quiet spaces could be divided by sides of floors, instead of floors themselves. However, when asked if there would be any kind of divider or noise canceller between the spaces, the response was vague, responding with “not necessarily walls.”

Since the current collection would have to compete with the new event spaces, talk about “pruning” the current collection of Juniata College and Huntingdon artifacts began. The size of the portfolio of the library is not expected to change but the number of books placed on shelves is a different matter.

When the floor was opened to student questions, talk quickly turned to longer hours for the library. Dean Lisa McDaniels seemed surprised by the request and said that she would look into the hours of other libraries of peer institutions. While the entire remodeling plan is still tentative and in the fundraising stage, Beeghly would have to shut down for renovations should it come to pass.

This article will be extended in future Juniatians with information from a recently accessed report from the architects that includes costs, further proposed goals, schedules, and the renovation plans.