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Learning Commons Grand Opening

Rebecca A. Eckland
learning commons grand opening

Vice President of Student Services and Diversity Estela Gutierrez poses with Wizard at the Grand Opening of the Learning Commons.

Traditionally, a library is the heart of a college campus, and is understood as a space where learning occurs. However, the large stacks of books and card catalogs organized beneath the Dewey Decimal system no longer fit in a world where mobile devices connected to the Internet expand the learning experience beyond the walls of any campus building.

The Grand Opening of TMCC’s Learning Commons is a celebration of this paradigm shift, and a re-imagining of a public space that promotes academic success. NSHE Vice Chancellor of Community Colleges Nate Mackinnon, TMCC Foundation board members, TMCC leadership, staff from Tutoring and Learning Center, the Library staff and TMCC students convened on a quiet, rainy morning to honor this new space that offers students a place where old-fashioned learning can occur alongside new technologies and amenities that invite academic success.

A Brief History of the Elizabeth Sturm Library

Former TMCC President Dr. John Gwaltney, who spoke at the Grand Opening Event, shared his memory of how TMCC’s library came into existence. Gwaltney recalls sitting in his office, and receiving a call from then Nevada Senator Bill Raggio asking if Gwaltney could build something on campus for three million dollars. “They’re going to send all that money South,” Raggio explained, but Gwaltney replied there was little that he could do with those limited funds.

“TMCC was not the list for any buildings,” he remembers. Yet, as the legislative session came to a close, an unexpected turn of events was unveiled: TMCC received $7 million to build a new library—this would become the Elizabeth Sturm Library on the Dandini campus.

Renovations and Innovations

The Learning Commons began as an “Umbrella Concept” that would enable student tutoring services (offered through the Tutoring and Learning Center), WebCollege services (access to online learning) and Library services to cohabitate a space that enables students to “plug-in” their electronic devices. The new space enhances the already-existing library services (which includes: books, library materials and online databases) to merge with other vital academic supports.

Since the Tutoring and Learning Center’s relocation to the Learning Commons last fall, TMCC students have used tutoring services 4000% more than in previous years. Its 100 tutors are available to help students with everything from their homework to using one of the new book scanners that are also included in the renovations. “This is remarkable,” said TMCC President Karin Hilgersom, who also spoke at the event. “We don’t want students to go home until after they finish their work, and have the help they need to succeed.”

The “Fine Focus Learning Lab,” located on the first floor, facilitates interdisciplinary learning through the presence of microscopes and anatomical models. The logo for this newly renovated space was created by TMCC Graphic Communications student Kayla Pressburger.

Additional upgrades include whiteboard tables in the TLC that allows for open sharing of ideas between students, tutors and faculty. A brand new classroom with 46 computers, 2 new high speed book scanners, new study rooms with ample natural light and beautiful furniture that also feature power outlets to keep electronic devices charged.

Evolving Learning Environments

Interim Library Director John Fitzsimmons has noticed a remarkable difference since the renovations to the Learning Commons were recently completed. “Before, the space was dated. The color palette was one-note, whereas now it has a lot more color,” he said. He has noticed an increase in attendance in the library, with more students using the space for studying and learning.

“There were 35 people up here the day it opened,” he said. As the official Grand Opening event ended, students populated the space—which will be used as a quiet study area—and others utilized the new glass-walled study rooms. Technology has been updated in the renovated space, too.

One new addition are the high speed book scanners. These aren’t your grandmother’s copy machines; download the MyDocs app and scan a textbook directly to your phone. From there, use the app to make flashcards of the textbook.  Tutors from the TLC are trained to assist students in utilizing new technology like the book scanners to support student success.

As Gwaltney explained, a library is not just a collection of books, but a sanctuary that houses a million human thoughts. With the recent renovations to the Learning Commons, TMCC will be able to host billions.