John Kenney Forrer Learning Commons Making Progress

Anticipated Opening Not Yet Announced

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Photo by iBEAM Construction Cameras

Photograph from webcam on roof of Bowman Hall

Bridgewater, VA– The Forrer Learning Commons has been a long anticipated project by both the Bridgewater College administration and the student body. An endeavor that began with planning in 2014, construction is progressing towards the finish but an opening date has not been set.

The John Kenney Forrer Learning Commons replaces what was once Bridgewater College’s Alexander Mack Library. In an interview with current Director of the Forrer Learning Commons Andrew Pearson, background information for the move to a learning commons was uncovered. 

“The Mack”, as it was often referred to on campus, “which was built in 1963, has been a great library and was part of Bridgewater College’s vision at the time to be a center for learning,” said Pearson.

The Alexander Mack Library structure “was built really, really well as a box, but it was truly a book box library” said Pearson. 

Pearson said, “We had some study spaces, and some books, but we didn’t see it in our vision and our research that it was enough to support the success for our students…we wanted to increase the level of support for our students.”

While the Mack Library was held dear by many, it was not without flaws. An overworked air conditioning unit led to a sweltering second floor and unworkable conditions for students. Combined with a bee infestation and weeping walls due to condensation,  it became evident that the 60 year old building needed a renovation. 

Pearson went on to explain that, “As part of our needs assessment, we noticed that students need different kinds of learning spaces and community spaces…you need spaces to meet and hangout, you need spaces to learn and the way you learn may change even in the course of a single day.” 

The basis of the Forrer Learning Commons is to bring a community of learners together not just to learn, but to socialize and to access the number of services that will be in the new facility such as the Writing Center as well as the Digital Scholarship Gurus.

“Sometimes this [learning] may be in a group study spaces, and sometimes you may need to work with your head down and need to be working on your subject with nobody around,” said Pearson. The new learning commons hopes to accommodate all of these situations within the same building, which the Mack Library wasn’t able to do. 

When asked if the Learning Commons will do a better job of enabling students to complete their work and have access to an ample number of tools to do that work, Mr. Pearson said “Absolutely, no doubt.”

As questions regarding the delayed opening of the Learning Commons filter around campus, many students wonder whether or not they will even be able to see it open before the school year ends. “We had hoped we would be able to finish during August and have it open for Fall semester,” said Pearson. Clearly, accomplishing that meant putting a rush on finishing the building, which was not something that would benefit the quality of the construction work itself.

“We had well over 80 weather days last year as one of the rainiest summers in the history of Virginia and had numerous weather delays. This, as well as the complexity of the project itself, there’s lots of variables that go into a 12 million dollar construction project, and many of those things are outside of your scope of control,” Pearson said.

The John Kenny Forrer does not have an official  opening date, and will most likely proceed with a “soft opening,” hopefully later this Fall.