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Elms College Upgrades Library to Meet Students’ Evolving Needs

CHICOPEE — To help today’s digitally advanced students get the best possible use out of their library system, Elms College is giving the Alumnae Library a facelift this month in the form of a new ‘learning commons’ that will encourage learning through collaboration, discussion, research, and inquiry.

Learning-commons spaces are an exciting trend at higher-education institutions, driven by the increasing availability and use of digital modes of information retrieval and sharing. Students now get their information not only from texts, but also online and from each other, and academic libraries are evolving into dynamic, integrated spaces that do far more than house books. Such spaces combine the library, computer lab, research center, support services, and meeting places to give students every possible resource for learning.

Education has grown more collaborative over the years, and these common landing spots allow groups to innovate and collaborate much more freely than they could in the past, establishing connections and improving participation to promote learning and academic development.

“Students need space to work together on learning projects, access technology, utilize academic support, and explore library resources,” said Joyce Hampton, dean of Student Success and Strategic Initiatives at Elms.

The college has invested approximately $50,000 for the technology and the collaboration-friendly furniture, and also invested in a new transformer. The investment gives all Elms students — undergraduates, graduate students, and non-traditional students — a common space that is devoted to them and their scholarship, with resources designed to enhance academic success, facilitate degree completion, develop interpersonal skills, and ultimately make students more marketable.

“I am hopeful that students will view the investment in their library as an investment in themselves, and will begin to treat the library as if it were their second home,” said Anthony Fonseca, Alumnae Library director.

It’s also an investment in Western Massachusetts, as the library and its resources are open to the public. The new area will include computer workstations; lounge chairs with tablet tabletops that can be powered up; Backbone media platforms with 50-inch, wall-mounted flatscreens that allow for media sharing and collaboration; mobile whiteboards; café-height worktable areas with power and data access; mobile worktables with power access; laptops available for library use; new printer technology; and upgraded wireless capacity.

“Students will now have a comfortable and attractive space to collaborate in an area that provides the tools needed for them to do their best,” Hampton said. The learning commons (LC) will officially launch in January, she added, and after that, the space will continue to grow as needed. “We hope to learn what our students use most, as well as to understand from our faculty what components would best support students. LCs must adapt and evolve to fit ever-changing needs, so the mobile, adaptable furniture and infrastructure improvements were chosen with this concept in mind.”

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