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Penn State Library Getting Knowledge Commons

Construction for the new reading room should be complete by August.

Library patrons hold on to your hats, e-books, and iPhones, because there are some exciting new happenings underway! As a part of the ‘For the Future’ campaign, the construction of “The Knowledge Commons” has begun! By next fall, the relocated Foster Auditorium and a new Reading Room will be open to students.

Through the rest of the year, the library, OPP, and the architects involved with the project will formulate plans for the rest of the renovations. Sally Kalin, the associate dean of University Libraries for University Park, explained that they hope construction begins in early 2011 and is completed by late 2011.

The ‘For the Future’ campaign, which plans to raise $2 billion in the next 5 years, is extending its reach to help mold the library to meet the ever-changing technological advancements of the day.

The funds are being raised to achieve 6 objective: to enhance honors education and encourage innovation across the curriculum; to enrich the experiences of students beyond the classroom and prepare them for global leadership; to build faculty strength and capacity through support for dedicated teachers and scholars at every stage of their careers; to foster discovery and creativity through interdisciplinary research initiatives; and to sustain the tradition of overall quality for which the University has become recognized around the world.

With the support of this massive campaign, the libraries will be raising up to $40 million, most of which will fund the creation of The Knowledge Commons. The Knowledge Commons will be a technologically driven learning environment that combines library resources, new media technical improvements, and a passion to further meet the needs of our student body.

The commons will be based off of what Ellysa Stern Cahoy (assistant head of Library Learning Services) calls “digital literacy”. Cahoy considers this to be a merging of information literacy, technology literacy, media literacy, and visual literacy. The commons will foster “content creation skills” including podcasting, blogging, and video creation. The commons will also feature a Geospatial Technology Consultation Service where students can learn to construct a map to support research projects. Among other achievements, this is yet another way that the library will assist students and ready them for future working environments.

As for the layout of this cutting-edge learning space, the same WTW Architects of Pittsburgh who designed the Stuckeman Family Building and the expansion to the HUB Robeson Center will be modeling the commons. The commons will include a prominent consultation desk with a helpful staff primarily to assist students. There will also be a quiet reading area for studying and a media center will be constructed to facilitate the new technological implementations. All of this will be located in the Pattee library.

As of now, funding is in place for the initial phases of the commons, though additional funding is always welcome. Long time-dedicated supporters of Penn State, Mr. and Mrs. Peter G. Tombros and Dr. and Mrs. John R. McWhirter have recently donated $2.5 million in support of the Knowledge Commons (The largest gift in the Libraries’ history!). Such donations will continue to be necessary to assist the campaign in carrying out their plans smoothly and efficiently.

If you want to find out more about how the libraries are working to make the student experience better, check out this video that explains why a great university needs a great library.

[Photos: University Libraries Development Office and the Penn State Libraries Knowledge Commons Facebook page.]

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