Renditions show the Learning Commons’ expected layout after renovations. Photo courtesy of Erica Drumm
Renditions show the Learning Commons’ expected layout after renovations. Photo courtesy of Erica Drumm

Learning Commons prepares for long-awaited renovations

May 15, 2023

Regardless of grade, interest, or schedule, it is a near guarantee that every student at York has spent at least some time in the Learning Commons, but the area has avoided major renovations for some 20 years and counting. However, renovations that were intended to be made last summer are beginning over this year’s break, and according to librarian Erica Drumm, they include several changes to the layout, each one reaching for a more personal area for students, including new spaces and a relocated Test Makeup Center.

“The walls are largely staying where they are, with just a few little adjustments,” Drumm said. “The Testing Center is now going to be accessed from the hallway, which will be nice just in the purpose of the space, so students can enter from the hallway and not have to wiggle their way through the learning commons and interrupting other kids with what they’re doing there.”

Design aspects of the space will be seeing changes as well, ditching the traditional wood-dominated look in favor of a more contemporary style throughout the space.

“I will admit that I am partial to wood, so I’d call it a refresh,” Drumm said. “But I guess the broader atmosphere that we were going for was “academic comfortable”, I would say are really the two things we kind of kept in mind.”

Along with finding a more comfortable space for students, strides are being made to accommodate several students’ needs that have developed in the past 20 years since the last major renovation. Learning Commons Chair Jonathan Immel argues that updates to the space in order to help students is necessary in an ever-increasingly developed environment like York.

“The Elmhurst Public Library has great, great spaces that we’ve tried to emulate in different ways,” Immel said. “While we go through with this facelift, one of the things that’s really happened at York is blended courses, and students are looking for different kinds of spaces. Compared to when this library was last done, there have been just so many changes, the amount of projects that involve recording and screencasting and podcasting are huge, and those were never thought of before.”

A similar attitude towards the renovations was shared by freshman and frequent library-goer Ava Silverstein, who says that a more individual-centered space is ideal for any rendition of the Learning Commons.

“It has a lot of areas for different kinds of study, and it’s really the best place to go for quiet,” Silverstein said. “And as long as it’s functional, and as long as it continues to provide students with enough space, because I know there are a lot of people that like to go before and after school, as long as they can support those basic needs then I think the renovation is amazing.”

Regardless of enthusiasm shared by many, the consensus on the necessity of renovations to the space is far from unanimous. Some, like sophomore Annabella Liutikas, who uses the library about twice a week, argue that the area is fine as it is, and renovations are unnecessary.

“Compared to other libraries it is more traditional, but I don’t think it necessarily needs to have a refresh,” Liutikas said. “Don’t get me wrong, I do love the Elmhurst Public Library, but I like how this one is different as a much more traditional setting.”

No matter the layout nor style, traditional or modern, the Learning Commons will always be an essential part of York as a building and school, which is a sentiment shared both by staff and students.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a complete overhaul,” Immel said. “While I do think a lot is going to change, I do think that there’s a sense of preserving the York brand, and the York style.”

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