The New Learning Commons

Isabelle Goyette, Jessica Riddell, and Jamie Crooks spoke with the editors of Be You @ B.U. magazine about the renovations of the campus library. Part of the Executive Committee of the Learning Commons Project – Communications Sub-Committee, they enlighten us on the plans and visions of the new learning space and what we can expect in the future.

Bishop’s University is always working to create an environment that is best for its students. Last January, we began renovating the John Bassett Memorial Library into an innovative Learning Commons. It will reflect our learning profile by featuring collaborative spaces for studying, technology, and communal learning. And, it’ll be open just in time for you to start your year here! Here’s all that you need to know about the new Learning Commons.

What changes can students expect to see from the current library?

In the past 15 years, many educational institutions (especially in higher education) have reimagined the role of the library as a learning commons. As a result, there is a large body of research connected to the intersections between learning, space, and technology. We have designed our learning commons to reflect our personality and learning profile: this means that there are lots of communal spaces for collaboration – in the food court, in a two-story lecture and social space, in a faculty sandbox, in new meeting spaces – and also spaces for quiet study. ITS is moving into the new space to support the most up-to-date technology that will animate learning. Furthermore, the Writing Centre and a new student success space run by the Student Representative Council (SRC), in conjunction with the Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC), will enhance our ability to support learning for all members of our community.

What, if anything, about the old facility will stay the same?

The excellent services provided by the Staff and Librarians will remain!

Why/how do you think that the library will promote a better learning environment?

Libraries are not static spaces or repositories, but in fact, spaces for creative and curiosity-driven learning journeys. Since this is a Learning Commons that will serve as an idea incubator for the next 25 years, we have thought carefully about the intersections between space, learning, and technology. Technology – and higher education for that matter – will change dramatically, and in ways we cannot anticipate. Therefore, we have endeavored to create spaces that are flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions while enhancing our model of education.

In your opinion, what is the most important and/or exciting about the construction of the new library?

The level of community engagement in the design process has been inspiring. We took, as our starting point, the belief that for this project to have a positive and long-lasting impact on the institutional culture of the University, members of our community are our best collaborators. The integrated design, led by the architect firm Lemay, has incorporated the vision of members of faculty, students, staff, librarians, administrators, and alumni. We have worked hard to create a shared understanding of what the Learning Commons is to ensure that the communal space is accessible to all members of our learning communities. Furthermore, the community engagement process has inspired and sustained conversations about what a liberal education is and how we can enhance our current model. Bishop’s University has a wealth of expertise, knowledge, passion, and energy in the diverse members of our learning communities.

Is there anything else that you would like to add about the plans for the library?

The Learning Commons project provides us with an opportunity to extend our thinking beyond the limitations of bricks and mortar to create something that encapsulates a vision of who we are and what we do. This large-scale project is a chance to build a learning space that represents the true sense of a “commons” – that is, a space accessible to all members of a community who have responsibility for, and investment in, a shared vision of learning.


For more information on the New Learning Commons, check out

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