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Campus Celebrates Grand Opening of O’Leary Learning Commons

Library Transformed into ‘Amazing’ Learning Center

OLeary Ribbon-cutting
Retired Library Director Pat Noreau, left, who oversaw the transformation of O’Leary Library into the O’Leary Commons, and Sheila Riley-Callahan, executive director of academic services and special programs, cut the ribbon to officially open the facility.

By Christine Dunlap

Calling the transformation of O’Leary Library into the O’Leary Learning Commons “amazing,” Chancellor Marty Meehan praised the vision and dedication of all involved in the yearlong renovation project at the official opening of the facility on Feb. 15. 

“A revolution has taken place in this building,” Meehan told the students, faculty, staff and visitors gathered for the ribbon-cutting event. “Here, students are provided with the latest technology, access to the best scholarly databases and a radical new design that supports how they learn today.”

Bright and open with modern décor, the Learning Commons is a dynamic, interactive resource for students. Offering a fresh approach to academic study and research, the Learning Commons has new gathering and study areas. A new library reference and research center features an open computer lab with more than 75 workstations where students can receive research assistance with online resources. 

There’s even a Starbucks café on the first floor. Outfitted with wireless Internet access throughout, the renovated space is enhanced by new lighting, ceilings, carpeting and furnishings, creating a welcoming and comfortable place to learn.

The library’s fourth floor was also completely renovated, with more than 100 seats for quiet study and room for the University’s reference, fine-arts book collections and circulation desk. 

Pat Noreau, who recently retired after many years as director of the libraries at UMass Lowell, stayed on beyond her retirement date to see the project to completion. “I am proud that in no small measure, the Learning Commons is a positive example of how working collaboratively to transform the use of space can result in enormous benefit to our faculty and students and enhances the overall excellence of the campus,” she told the crowd at the opening. 

The newly expanded Centers for Learning and Academic Support Services at O’Leary provides students with academic guidance in new tutoring and advising rooms, and a new writing center. Sheila Riley-Callahan, executive director of academic services and special programs, thanked the administration for providing the resources to create the Learning Commons. 

She noted that 25 years ago, when the Centers for Learning was established, tutoring was provided in small out-of-the-way locations around campus. Now, the Centers enjoy visibility and flexible, functional spaces on the first floor of the Learning Commons. There are also locations on North and East campuses and at the ICC.

Aimee Russo, a UMass Lowell graduate currently pursuing an advanced degree in the Graduate School of Education, has served as a writing tutor at the Centers for three years. 

The Learning Commons, she told those assembled, “is a place that excites and welcomes students and motivates us to learn, study and collaborate.” 

Designed by Winter Street Architects of Salem, the project began last summer under the direction of Federal Construction Corp. of Lynnfield. The approximately 19,000 square feet of renovated space is more energy-efficient and is part of the renaissance on UMass Lowell’s South Campus. Check out a photo gallery from the day's event.