Opinion: An Uncommon Learning Commons

An Obstacle Prevents Bridgewater Students From Having Access to a Campus Library

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Photo by Brooke DiCicco

Students and faculty gather at the entrance of the Learning Commons’ vestibule, waiting for the doors to open at 1 p.m..

Dean Barker, Staff Writer

Bridgewater, Va. – I am currently a junior at Bridgewater College. During my freshman year, I frequently used the Alexander Mack Library as a place to study, work on assignments or just to get away from my noisy floor. So although I was looking forward to the new and improved John Kenney Forrer Learning Commons, I was disappointed that I would not have a library for my sophomore year. 

When the plan was first released, we were told that the Learning Commons would be ready by the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. However, after a while, it became clear that this was not the case. Excessive snow and rain delayed the progress. Then a contracting issue pushed the opening back. Rather than actually discussing the development of the building, it merely became a comical topic among students. Ultimately, we adjusted by using dorm lobbies and the Eagles’ Nest to replace the library as quiet places to study.

The delays continued until the Learning Commons was opened on Feb. 24, the Monday before spring break. After such a long wait, the students had five days to use their library before leaving campus for a week. Then, three days after we got back, campus was closed for the rest of the semester in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

After three-and-a-half semesters of waiting, Bridgewater College students had a total of eight days to access the John Kenney Forrer Learning Commons, and those who were studying abroad still have not seen it.

I spent a total of three days there. It’s a nice library, with a coffee shop, study rooms, little “huts” that give students privacy, etc. The temperature is certainly more moderate than the Mack, which could get very hot at times. I’m not going to get into the circumstances that led to this delay or blame certain people, especially when I don’t know all the details. All I will say is this: dang.

We knew we would have to wait a while for the Learning Commons to be completed, but we did not expect to wait an extra semester-and-a-half. And we CERTAINLY did not expect to have access to it for only eight days before a global pandemic kicked us out. Assuming we can return to campus in the fall, I will have had access to a library for a little more than half of my time at Bridgewater. 

Obviously, with the spread of this virus, people are facing conflicts that are far more serious than the lack of a library building. Right now, people need to be healthy and smart. Nonetheless, the lives of all people have been seriously affected by the coronavirus, and Bridgewater College is no exception. 

These are not common times, and whether it’s the building itself or the story of its opening and what happened so quickly after, there is nothing “common” about the John Kenney Forrer Learning Commons.