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Fenwick Library addition provides modern research and collaborative space for students

January 29, 2016   /   by Jamie Rogers

The newly renovated Fenwick Library features a research commons, a 24-hour cafe, and designated graduate study spaces. Photo by Evan Cantwell.

The opening of the 150,000-square-foot addition to Fenwick Library was the culmination of five years of planning and construction to transform the space into a collaborative learning environment, library administrators said.

“When I first arrived at the university, it was obvious to me that we needed to start thinking about modernizing Mason’s central library for the 21st century,” said John Zenelis, George Mason University’s dean of libraries.  “After much waiting and then six long years of planning and two years of construction, I think we have finally achieved our goal.”

The building had been closed since late December while some one million materials were moved. The $60 million state-funded expansion is mostly finished, but workers are still putting the final touches on the building. A new 24-hour café and study area will be completed in this spring, but all other library services are now up and running.

Fenwick offers great opportunities for innovative programming and supports contemporary scholarship and research for current and future students and faculty, Zenelis said.

“Collaborative learning spaces are in high demand at the university. The University Libraries’ seminar, instructional, group study and presentation practice rooms allow for a variety of teaching and learning approaches, and encourage collaborative group work,” said Patricia West, head of  Gateway Teaching and Learning Services for Mason University Libraries.

Fenwick has 30 new group study rooms that can be reserved by two or more people.

By creating dynamic spaces with the technological resources that students need to succeed, the libraries strengthen the student experience and provide an environment that is conducive to learning, West said.

Groups can check out laptops from the library’s self-serve laptop dispenser or bring their own for use in one of the MediaScape collaboration study rooms. The study rooms allow a group to easily share ideas, presentations and research by allowing up to four users to sync their computers to a large screen for group viewing.

Some of the 1.5 million people who visit university libraries each year will enjoy Fenwick’s new unified full-service assistance desk and its new special collections research center. Work from the research center as well as student and faculty artwork will be displayed in two new exhibition areas.

“Students engage in learning and research by being active participants in creating their own knowledge. Participating in original research or generating original creative pieces allows students to situate new information within the context of their own lived experiences, “ said Jason Byrd, head of Information Services for Mason University Libraries. 

“When students are able to connect what they are learning with what they already know, they become more engaged in the learning process.”