Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

PCC Library writes a new chapter for its Southeast Campus location

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A traditional library typically is a place for books and solitary study. But at the Southeast Campus the new library is fully invested in the future and helping students achieve success in a world that increasingly relies on technology.

The three-story, 40,000-square-foot facility opened in 2015 and was built as part of the extensive improvements funded by the 2008 voter-approved bond measure. The project was a major part of Southeast’s transformation from a center to a fully fledged campus.The construction of two new buildings -- the library and Student Commons -- helped transform PCC Southeast from a center to a fully fledged campus.

Prior to the construction of the new building, library services were in a vastly smaller space in Mt. Tabor Hall and were minimal compared to what students enjoy now. As a center, Southeast only had about 1,000 items in its collection; anything else had to be ordered from another campus.

The new library has about 20,000 items with room for more. Supervisor Mari Krause said that just as important are the technology resources now available for checkout, including laptops, Chromebooks, calculators, headphones, video and still cameras, and voice recorders. The equipment is loaned for periods ranging from three days to a week, depending on the type.

“We’re more than just books,” said Krause. “Students have been very grateful when they realize what resources we have. It’s a huge relief for them. It’s one less expense for them to worry about.”

The building’s services are also a big change for Southeast. The new library was designed on a learning commons model, which means that in addition to traditional library services it also houses the Student Learning, Student Computing and the Reading/Writing centers where students can make appointments with instructors to work together on their papers. This is the first time that Southeast has had all of these services under one roof, said Krause.

“What I appreciate most about the building’s design is that it makes services seamless between departments,” she said. “For example, if a student’s question is more based in tutoring assistance, we can escort them to the Student Learning Center or Reading/Writing Center for best resources. If a student in either of those centers needs help finding more resources for their paper, the tutors can guide them to our librarians who can help with research and reference. This really provides more of a wrap-around service for our students.”

Krause said the library was also intended to accommodate the different ways students study – another departure from the traditional library. Like at all PCC libraries there are zones for four noise levels – “silent,” “whisper,” “hum” and “collaborative.” A sign near the main entrance shows the location of each zone.

Old School Coffee, located on the ground floor of the Southeast Campus library, is open to the public as well as students and staff.There are several small rooms that can be used for individuals or small groups; most are available on a drop-in basis but some can be reserved. There’s even a family room, where students can study while their children enjoy use of a laptop, LeapFrog learning tablet, puzzle box, picture cards and marker board, for up to four hours.

“Students can come into the library and whatever their particular need is, there’s plenty of space to accommodate them,” said Krause. “Having the private rooms, students can practice presentations or have space to get away from crowds. I think it’s amazing to have that much variety in one building.”

One a recent day during the first week of fall term, many of the desktop computers in the Student Computing Center were occupied. Private study rooms were busy too, while several students chose to relax or study in the many casual seating areas. First-year student Eric Wagstaff said he often uses his laptop at the first-floor computer bar, which has charging ports for mobile devices.

Jason Simms, a work-study student who is a part-time computer lab assistant, said he appreciates that the library “looks spacious and clean” and offers many places to work and relax.

“It’s a good atmosphere,” he said. “There’s a great view up on the third floor of Mt. Tabor, and it’s nice and quiet up there. Sometimes I’ll take my lunch up there.”

The physical environment adds to the library’s appeal. The architect, SRG Partnership, designed large light cones that flood the second and third floors with natural light and add to the building’s dramatic, modern style. PCC expects the library to be awarded LEED Gold certification this fall.The new library at PCC Southeast was designed on a learning commons model where students can access computers and receive help with tutoring, reading and writing.

Roberta Richards, one of the campus’ three full-time librarians, has been at Southeast about four years and seen its transition from center to campus first-hand.

“I think students understand that education is important when they see this beautiful space. Before (the library) was small and cramped and perfunctory,” she said. “A lot of our students have really hard lives and it’s wonderful for them to have this place that’s beautiful, a place to do your homework and be surrounded by the wisdom of the ages.

“When the building first opened we had tours for students who didn’t have experience with using libraries and they were blown away. I remember one student in particular who was walking through the stacks and said, “Wow, it’s just like in the movies.’ He had never been in a library before.”

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