Throughout the spring months of 2022, onlookers could be seen at various points crowding around the Kehrl Building, commonly known as the college library. They were watching one of the most transformative building projects to come to Alma College in many years, the Learning Commons, take shape.
The Learning Commons project started in February 2022 and is expected to complete in early 2023. When it opens, leaders on campus say, it will be a hub of education and campus community.
“As a student, I never could have imagined something like this at Alma College,” said outgoing president of the Board of Trustees, and Class of 1983 graduate Eric Blackhurst. “I am so pleased that future generations will be able to socialize, study, collaborate, learn and create in this space. I believe it will help keep Alma College a vital part of our future and be something we can all be proud of.”
The Learning Commons will offer the same library services Alma College students have relied on for decades, but so much more. It will feature a cafe, open performance area, quiet study areas, open collaboration spaces, rooms for meetings and receptions, digital media center and book collections, and other offices and amenities. The goal is for there always to be something for students to do within its walls.
The roughly $14-million project was one of the signature elements of the “Our Time is Now” fundraising campaign, which wrapped up in 2021.
The project, guided by Michigan-based firms The Collaborative and Granger Construction, brought with it some changes of pace to everyday student life. The entire collection of books, known as the Monteith Library Collection, were temporarily packed up and moved off-site. Excavators and cranes were brought onto McIntyre Mall in order to make room for new construction. The covered side stairwell and main-level sidewalk bridge on the northeast corner of the building were taken out.
As of the time of this writing, concrete footings were being poured for a new, three-story glass addition that will go up in their place. The goal with this new design is to ensure the Learning Commons is open and transparent — welcoming and safe, with more convenient entrances.
The month of April was a milestone in the Learning Commons project as demolition of “The Stacks” began in earnest. In place of The Stacks, which was built in 1927-28, there will be additional windows and an entrance from the south side of the building, adding much needed light and accessibility. From the new south entrance, you will be able to walk directly through the Learning Commons to the north side where Clack Art Center is located.
A ceremonial groundbreaking event was held in May, in order to commemorate the philanthropy that made the Learning Commons project possible and the progress that has been made thus far. Students, staff, faculty, members of the Board of Trustees, the community and the press, among others, gathered to hear from a range of guest speakers and tour the progress of the facility.
“As the center of campus, the library has on one hand served as a meeting place for students keen to collaborate with one another, and on the other hand, a refuge for those seeking solitude and quiet,” said one of the speakers, Class of 2022 graduate Luke Losie. “It is the recognition of these contradictory needs that endows this new facility with so much hope.”