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BCC Transforms Jonathan Edwards Library Into Learning Common
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
03:54AM / Thursday, October 15, 2020
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Students can come into the Digital Commons and connect to large monitors and have access to IT support.

The library has been renovated over two years.

The decor, furniture and technology has been upgraded. There is also the idea of putting in a cafe.

The design has been to provide central academic services that make the library a hub.



A book sanitizer has been installed to aid in getting texts quickly and safely back on the shelves.   
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Community College is renovating the Jonathan Edwards Library into a technologically advanced "learning common" for students.
 
The goal is to transform the space, which before only offered library services, to become the primary academic hub of the campus.  
 
Under the direction of Dean of the Library and Learning Commons Richard Felver, BCC has brought academic technology, tutoring, and testing into the existing space. While the library staff is already a strong support to students, having all of these utilities in one place will provide a stronger support system, he said.
 
This project was first financed through BCC's Strategic Planning Incubator funds, and the balance was met over two budget periods to spread out the cost using the facilities maintenance and improvement lines.
 
This project began in 2016 when the library transformed one of its underutilized rooms into a technology-rich collaboration area. This room was equipped with computers and large screens that could connect to laptops, tablets, and phones. Students immediately flocked to the area and continue to utilize it for group work.
 
Following this, in 2018, the computer lab was was moved to the library because its previous placement was out of the way and less desirable. Because of the accessible nature of this new space, it was renamed the Digital Commons.
 
The Digital Commons' decor was modernized with bright colors and new carpeting, paint and furniture. 
 
These commons provide access to both PC and Mac computers, free printing and scanning, and a staff of academic technology experts to aid students with technology needs.
 
Because of the success of these renovations, BCC decided to relocate the Tutorial Center to the library. This was well received, said Felver, as the renovations have made the library an attractive and inviting space for students to enjoy spending time in.
 
In the fall 2019, the new Tutorial Center had a great increase in usage from students taking advantage of free tutoring sessions provided by BCC as compared to 2018.
 
"During pre-COVID times, every student who came to the library or the Digital Commons to print or to check their email, would walk by a bustling Tutorial Center, full of students and tutors," Felver said. "And I'm quite sure this increased visibility contributed to the nice increase in the number of students taking advantage of free tutoring sessions in fall 2019 as compared to the previous year."
 
The Testing Center was moved to the bottom floor of the library, which is a quieter and more comfortable space than its previous location on the second floor of the Koussevitzky building.
 
On the top floor of the library, a new main desk has been installed where students can access Circulation and Research help as well as a Steri-Book sanitizing machine for COVID-19 times.
 
To support all of these renovations, the internet and wi-fi infrastructure was upgraded from a limited multimode fiber system to a high-capacity, single-fiber network complete with the latest wi-fi access points. This signal can even be broadcast to the parking lot for students who need to use the internet during the summer when the library is closed.
 
Felver said this is especially important for supporting BCC students because some may not have access to a strong internet connection at home.
 
"Strong wi-fi is the lifeblood of a modern academic library and we are very pleased to offer such a robust and fast network," he said.
 
The last phase of this renovation will be creating a space where the the Learning Common can offer food and drinks at a reasonable price to students. Currently, the library is food and drink friendly, but having a small cafe directly within it is Felver's ideal way to complete the transformation.
 
The Learning Common is following all COVID-19 policies including mandatory social distancing, the use of face masks, hand washing, and increased sanitation.
 
An important tool that the library was able to purchase using the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, a nationwide $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress, is the state-of-the-art Steri-Book SB-601. This machine can sanitize up to six books at once using ultraviolet rays within 60 seconds.  
 
Libraries are required under state guidelines to quarantine book returns for three days before lending them out again. This hindered the Jonathan Edwards Library because the standard is to have at least one copy of popular books and required textbooks available at all times.
 
With this machine, staff are able to disinfect every book, laptop, or hotspot that is returned and have it back in circulation.  The machine destroys viruses, bacteria, and mold and can also be used on cell phones, keys, wallets, laptops, or really anything that fits inside of it.
 
"We have spent a considerable amount of money and staff time building this collection over the past few years, and [the sanitizer] is much appreciated by students and faculty alike," Felver said. "To be able to say that we have at least one copy of every required textbook available for in-library use has been great PR for the library/college and I'm quite sure has helped with retention/completion."
 
This transformation of the library, named for the noted 18th-century theologian and philosopher who preached in and around the Berkshires, will provide students with a place to access all of their academic needs at once.  It is designed to be a comfortable and welcome place where they can get help with research papers from librarians, check out textbooks from the Reserves collections, receive technology support and tutorial and testing services all in one spot.
 
With all of these services put into one place, the aim is that students will further utilize all that BCC has to offer for them.
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