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Lake Region State College upgrades library to meet modern study habits

Lake Region State College students Evan Stack and Nicholas Fassos study in the the Learning Commons inside the Paul Hoghaug Library. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 3
Sheila Collins, director of the Learning Commons inside the Paul Hoghaug Library at Lake Region State College, wants the center to be a place that's energetic. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
Lake Region State College student Eric Johnston waits for students to arrive for his math study lab at the the Learning Commons inside the Paul Hoghaug Library at LRSC. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

DEVILS LAKE — There's not a bad seat in the house in the new Learning Commons at Lake Region State College — nor a bad spot to stand, for that matter, if you prefer to use a height-adjustable computer desktop.

Director Sheila Collins said the space inside the Paul Hoghaug Library has been transformed to adapt to the different ways students study and do research today.

"This is not a shush-shush library. I don't go around telling students to be quiet," Collins said. "This is supposed to be a place that's energetic. Learning is supposed to be exciting and fun. I don't want to dampen any of that spirit."

Erin Wood, director of college relations, said LRSC spent $127,000 on the recent renovations and another $249,000 for new technology, furnishings, fixtures and equipment.

Most of the work was completed over winter break, and an open house was held Thursday to introduce the community to the new digs.

Among the many amenities in the space are a variety of comfortable seating arrangements and study areas, some with floor-to-ceiling whiteboards, which are popular for group study and interactive projects.

"The way learning is now is very collaborative," Collins said. "It's being part of a team, and this is where students learn how to do it."

Comfy, bright

Simple, modern cube furniture in bright shades of blue, green, teal and orange is spread throughout the space, as well as two areas with high-back, Star Trek-like swivel chairs situated near large windows that overlook outdoor green space.

Restaurant-style booths and high-top desk strips are available for guests to work side by side as well as regular-height desktops and the two movable desktops.

"The real tall basketball players like to stand and raise the desk way up," Collins said.

But the same desks work great for "the littles," Wood added.

The college teaches courses in early childcare, and an outdoor play area for the college day care is visible right outside the Learning Commons. Collins said she recently started a juvenile book section to help accommodate the younger readers.

"This is where everything comes together," Wood said. "You have your books. You have your databases. You have multimedia presentation technology. There's even a recording studio. And there's people to help you with all of those things."

The Learning Commons also includes a seating area with a large-screen TV as well as two glass-wall classrooms, one equipped with a state-of-the-art smartboard. Students also can use air media links to tap into laptops or phones.

On a recent visit, student Eric Johnston was parked in one of the classrooms as he waited for students to arrive for his math study lab.

"This is a major change, a total flip. It's really nice," Johnston said of the upgrades. "I like that it has a place to plug in everything. Everywhere you sit you can plug in your phone or device. You don't have to worry that your computer is going to die."

He said the three wavy-surround study pods also have been very popular with students.

"I do love the look. It's really modern," he said. "I like these little spaces because they're really cool."

Each unit has its own lamp, comfortable chair and rocking foot cube along with a swing desktop.

Even though the pods are open on top, they give the feeling of private space, making it easier for students to block out noise or other distractions.

More traffic

Second-year student Amber Stewart, one of four students who works part time in the Learning Commons, said she has seen many more students use the space since the changes.

"It's bright and it just seems like it pulls people in when they walk past," she said. "Last year, I would do most of my homework in my room, but now I'll come in here because it's nice, and there's always people in here."

Collins said the space still has books, of course, but not as many of them are out on the floor. She keeps books from 2012 and later on display, along with a large section of periodicals.

More books are kept in back, and students also have access to more than 5 million items through the interlibrary loan program. In addition to the paper form, more than 20,000 e-books are available.

Fourteen desktop computers are stationed throughout the Learning Commons, and 12 more laptops are available for students and staff to check out.

Community members are allowed to check out books, Collins said. All they must do is fill out a library card at no expense.

Collins said there are a few more details to be finished such as artwork for the walls. She said staff members are seeking student feedback before making those decisions.

Library hours are from 7:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday.