The Phyllis and Charles Self Learning Commons at Whatcom Community College finished construction in May 2020 but was unable to open its doors to students due to COVID-19.
“We opened the WCC Student Tech & Study POD on the first floor of the LRN in March 2021. This was our first opportunity to provide access to students while observing COVID-19 protocol for health attestation, social distancing, masking, etc,” said Senior Director for Facilities and Operations Brian Keeley.
The official campus opening was winter quarter 2022.
“So many different pieces are combined in the same building, we’ve got tutoring upstairs, a help-desk right there as you walk in the door, they’ve got little private study rooms, and of course larger spaces for bigger groups upstairs,” said Stephanie Rytter, a part-time library assistant and student.
The newest addition to Whatcom’s campus is the Media Center which is housed in the Learning Center. Multi-Media Services Manager Russ Nelson, who also supervises the makerspace not only has experience with all the center has to offer but his background includes work in broadcast communications, television production, stagehand work, and propbuilding. Nelson said he’s learning new things alongside the people using the center.
“For me, getting my hands on the stuff and working with it, that’s how I learn best,” said Nelson.
At the Learning Commons, students receive academic support, tech support, food and coffee to fuel the brain. “A place for people, for students, to gather in groups and collectively study, or collaboratively study together. That was a big driver of a lot of the spaces over there,” said Keeley.
Since 1974, Whatcom has had some media equipment for students to use. Before digital media, when content was kept on film slides and manually cut negatives, these resources were considered a section of library services. Moving into a digital age meant the equipment needed a different set of skills to support the new technology. Today, IT (Information Technologies) manages and supports digital media across campus.
Instead of only one edit station, the new center has 10 with upgraded processors. Instead of a few cameras that record to an SD drive, the center has 10 prosumer JVC DSLR cameras that record video and external audio. Completely new additions include drones, two sound editing booths and a soundproof recording room with professional audio mixers, mics and speakers.
The makerspace, a generic term for a crafting workshop, is right next to the media center and it contains electronic benches, a computerized embroidery machine, a vinyl cutter, a laser cutter, and soon a sublimation printer.
“There’s a downloadable list of equipment you can check out and canvas course links for the safety course, that would get you into the maker space,” said Nelson.
Students looking to use the 3D printers can take a form from the help desk or front desk to the media center to make a request. Nelson said he hopes to have the request process available online as well.
Currently, the cost of 3D printing is covered under a grant but Nelson said when the grant is depleted the printing will be available at cost.
So far the media center has been used by musicians, D&D enthusiasts printing character miniatures, a print of Thor’s hammer and engineering students (you know, for actual homework).
Use of Whatcom equipment for personal gain is strictly prohibited. For example, you can’t use the equipment to run a business, Nelson said. It is also important to note that students are financially responsible for whatever they check out. Nelson admitted, some of the stuff gets pricey. The average camera is about $2,000.
Caitlyn Pipperd, who works at the help desk, is a fan of the accessible balcony on the third floor as a good place to do homework.
“It is gorgeous and no one knows about it … so people actually should know about it because it is so pretty.”
Directly behind the main help desk back wall is the research help desk which can help students “find the researchers needed to write their research papers, or even personal investigations,” said Library and Information Science Adjunct Faculty Margaret Bikman.
Bikman strongly encourages students to approach the research desk for any questions.
“We don’t give up easily. If a student comes here and we can’t find it right away we will run down the hall saying ‘we found it we found it!’ or we will keep at it until we find whatever sources the student or faculty or staff need.”
On the main web page whatcom.edu under student services, information for the library and the research center can be found by clicking library. Circulation Desk Manager Linda Compton said students can get help 24/7 via the library chat service.
On the second floor, the new library has added to its book collections and reading space. Taking input from students, faculty and staff on what should be present in the library’s selections Compton said, “If you’re taking a class, you would be able to come to the library and find information on your subject.” As long as you have an Orca card anything on the shelves can be checked out.