With the opening of the new learning commons in Portland and Gorham, students can now go to one centralized location on either campus for studying, tutoring and much more. The learning commons in Gorham and Portland officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Glickman Family Library Thursday.

The university undertook the renovations to create centralized locations on both campuses for studying, student collaboration and tutoring. The resources offered at the learning commons were not previously centralized in one place. Tutoring, for example, was offered in a number of different places on each campus. There was previously an “information commons” on the third floor of the Glickman Family Library, but USM Learning Coordinator Paul Dexter said in a business proposal for the project that the learning commons is an “evolution” of the information commons.

“It’s a one-stop experience,” said University Librarian David Nutty. “An atmosphere for both learning and assistance.”

Designed by local architect Mark Lee of Harriman Associates, the learning commons has an open aesthetic, with tall bookshelves removed to allow greater vision and movement of light.

As libraries shift toward digital media, space previously committed to books, magazines, journals and periodicals has become more available for alternative uses. “We’ve moved a lot of print material online,” said Bill Grubb, head of reference and instructional services. “As we minimize space for print, we’re looking to increase student space.”

The new facilities on both campuses have a number of new features, including movable furniture, study pods, soundproofed group study rooms and larger seminar rooms containing flat-screen monitors wired for laptop connectivity. There is also a soundproofed audio/visual “recording vault” at the Portland location.

The Portland learning commons is located on the second floor of the Glickman Family library, while the Gorham learning commons is on the bottom floor of the Gorham Campus Library.

“I like the setup — it’s high-tech,” said Craig Lessard, junior biology major. “There’s more light, including individual lights at desks. The rolling chairs are convenient. And the walls have been repainted a nice, calming yellow.”

Others students had reservations about the new space. “I liked it a little more before,” said Meredith Hill, a graduate student in social work. “There aren’t as many computers now, and there’s tutoring going on close by while I’m working. It’s distracting.”

At the ribbon-cutting, University of Southern Maine President Selma Botman gave her congratulations and thanks to those involved in the project. “The creation of the learning commons is further indication of our commitment to student success,” she said. “ I look forward to students making use of the services available so they finish their degrees and go out into the professional world well educated, well-trained and satisfied with USM.”

The project was a partnership between university libraries, the Division for Student Success, Academic Support Services and the Facilities Management Department. The project cost approximately $400,000, divided evenly between construction and furnishing. Funding came in part from the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost and the Information Technologies Department.


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