The new Learning Commons redefines the collegiate library for the modern age. Much more than a repository for books, it is the functional and conceptual heart of the academic community. The building is designed to express the open, collaborative and collegial nature of higher education while maintaining the services and functions of a library. Its people-centric approach uses new technology to enhance the user experience and modernize internal processes.
Replacing the existing library, the Learning Commons has an expanded role as the central hub of every student’s day. It occupies the most prominent position on campus along the major pedestrian connection between the academic core and student life community. Site placement and design connects the building to adjacent outdoor spaces and to the entire campus.
It is the first university in the United States to house nearly its entire collection within an Automated Library System (ALS), allowing the space to be maximized for private and group study. Within the library’s open, expressive architecture, the ALS is visible and celebrated as it retrieves collection items from its bins. While there is a national trend of incorporating a hidden, back-of-house ALS to save space, Marywood University has taken a leap forward by housing 95 percent of its collection in the ALS, allowing space to be devoted to people rather than to books. Capitalizing on this approach, the new Learning Commons has a stratified scheme of active to quiet areas and a rich variation of study spaces.
The building employs an under-floor air delivery system, daylight harvesting controls and programmable sunshades for a more efficient and comfortable environment. By using the ALS, the team was able to seat a third of the student body in a facility far smaller than would have been required, resulting in construction and energy savings.
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson designed the Learning Commons in collaboration with Hemmler+Camayd Architects.