Flathead Valley Community College’s new Broussard Family Library and Learning Commons, which officially opened on June 5, features more than bookshelves and racks of periodicals — the $3 million library has a virtual reality lab, a podcasting and video studio and a Makerspace, aimed at allowing students to collaborate and learn using the newest educational tools available.
With leading-edge technology, the new library is an innovative space designed for the rapidly changing digital world students face.
“We’ve looked at the need for a new library for a while to better meet the needs of our students and the community,” FVCC President Jane Karas said.
The library’s entrance opens into a bright gathering space, inviting for group projects and conversation. A coffee counter with an espresso machine and pastries provides a coffee shop environment. Couches and tables are lined with power outlets, allowing students to work with laptops and phones. Along the back windows is a row of “Brody” chairs that look like first-class airline seats, complete with pod-like dividing walls, adjustable lights and trays that can be flipped to accommodate computers or tablets, offering space for individual study.
In a small room off this main space is the virtual reality (VR) lab, where students can put on goggles to view educational materials.
“There’s a lot of exciting new curriculum and academic software programs for virtual reality,” Karas said. “Whether it’s an anatomy student being able to be a blood cell traveling through the human body, or a nursing student actually being able to work on patients, [or] … an art student walking through the Rijksmuseum or the Louvre,” VR technology allows FVCC students to experience a hyper-realistic learning environment from the lab’s chairs. The college also has equipment for students to create VR videos themselves.
A podcasting and video studio and Makerspace also give students opportunities to create new projects. With the studio’s “one-touch” microphone and camera systems, which are designed to be easy to use, students can record their own podcasts and videos. In the Makerspace, high-end technology and 3-D printers will allow classes at FVCC to work on a variety of projects.
“The Makerspace really gives our students … the chance to be creative, to develop projects, to design, to build,” Karas said.
The library incorporates its digital resources with its physical ones, bringing books and journals into the main space of the library to make materials accessible. There are no stacks here: Instead periodicals are on rotating racks in a large collaborative space, and bookshelves line the walls around tables and in the quiet study room. A writing center where students can receive help with papers is positioned nearby, so that students can do research and write in one space.
The Broussard Family Library and Learning Commons is the first part of FVCC’s ONE Campaign, a philanthropic effort to improve the college experience for both students and members of the community. The campaign has raised over $17 million to date for the construction of the library and the new College Center, which is projected to begin construction later this year.
“The college so appreciates the support we’ve had from the community for the last 52 years,” Karas said. “We wouldn’t be the college that we are without this wonderful community having built us and continued to support us.”