EWU Learning Commons officially unwrapped

By Nicole Livingston, Staff Writer

Commons brings services together

Students, staff and faculty gathered at the JFK Library to witness the ribbon cutting symbolizing the official opening of the Learning Commons on Sept. 28.
Starting in July, staff members from the library cleared out a large area on the east end of the library that housed many academic journals which are now archived and available for viewing online.
The journals have been replaced with brand new furniture, computer equipment, mobile furniture and whiteboards.
A new feature added to the tables is a whiteboard surface. The whiteboard surface works just like any other whiteboard, now with the added convenience of being able to write on it while sitting at a table.
PLUS groups, the Multimedia Commons, math tutoring and the Writers’ Center are now located in the Learning Commons. Before, the Writers’ Center was located on the third floor of the PUB. The Multimedia Commons was once the MARS Lab, which was located on the third floor of Monroe Hall.
Kristina Pfleegor, the interim assistant to the director of the Writers’ Center, said she is pleased with the relocation.
“It’s totally different. It’s really great to see students coming in already. Usually, in the PUB, it’s pretty quiet for the first few days, so it’s just fun to have that energy.”
Although she is pleased with the change of scenery, she has acknowledged that it will take some adjustment. Before moving, the Writers’ Center was more independent from the other student services. She says she thinks the open motif may present some challenges for the response sessions, as they are supposed to be a little more private. However, the whiteboards are mobile, so they can be moved to act as partitions.
“It’s going to be an adjustment. There’s going to be a lot of stuff to figure out, especially since we’re kind of collaborating now, more, with the multimedia center,” said Pfleegor.
Mary Ormsby,  a sophomore involved in putting together the plans for the commons, was present for the opening and was excited to see it all come together. “It’s incredible. It’s pretty much exactly what I pictured and what we wanted when we came back from our trip.”
During spring quarter last year, a group of students took a trip to see some other university libraries and the corporate headquarters of Amazon.com. From looking at those places, the students gained some ideas about what they wanted a learning commons to look like at EWU.
Colin Ormsby, interim vice provost for undergraduate affairs and director of institutional research, demography and assessment, as well as Mary Ormsby’s uncle, was one of the leaders on the project. He helped organize trips to other universities, including the University of Washington, and the Amazon.com headquarters to explore ideas for the learning commons.
This project got started when the previous dean of the libraries, Richard Wilson, got a group together to see what a new kind of learning environment would look like. Due to Wilson retiring earlier than anticipated, the new interim dean of the libraries, Ted Otto, teamed up with Colin Ormsby and over 160 students, staff and faculty members to get the project in motion.
“A lot of people worked very hard at the last minute to get this done. We essentially started the vision and installation of this around July,” said Colin Ormsby.
Within eight weeks the journals were moved and archived and with the remaining time the commons was set up.
According to Colin Ormsby, it was important that student input was taken into consideration and that they were involved through the entire process. All of the things that are in the Learning Commons now were chosen by the students involved in the project.
“We’ve involved students the entire way through, down to picking out the furniture you see,” said Colin Ormsby.
He also shared an anecdote about going to Seattle and seeing an administrator at one of the institutions the group visited and how they thought it was wonderful that they were getting students involved.
“To us it was kind of a no-brainer. I’m going to walk through to see it, but I’m not going to use it the way a student would. So, it needs to be a student-friendly environment.”
Colin Ormsby also wants to make sure the space keeps up with the students’ needs as the years go on.
“We’re looking at multiple phases for the Learning Commons. So, as we see how the space is being used, we’ll then make changes in accordance to how the students use it.”