10 Ways to Use the Learning Commons

The Learning Commons isn’t just a library; it’s a combination of space, information, and yes, food.

by Zach Johnson-Medland

  1. Study with friends (or not). Pick a room to study in, or if friends are too much of a distraction, build yourself a private starship chair fortress in a secluded corner complete with laptop stand, bean bag chair and any other movable furniture you can co-opt.

2. People-watch. Drinking coffee and watching people may sound creepy, but whatever…it’s fun!

3. Have an event, meet-up or get-together. Get some friends to host a coffeehouse, and check with the Student Activities so you can hang up signs.

4. Recover from a workout. After that hard jog around the creepy graveyard, grab a green smoothie to recover.

5. Pull an all-nighter. Usually the Learning Commons is open until around 2 am, and the service desk until 12 am, hours can be found here. You can stay up and study if you need too, but try to get some sleep!

6. Use the Seed Library! Tucked into the nook around the corner from the first-floor bathrooms, the Seed Library looks like some mysterious old cabinet from your grandparents, but really its filled with tons of donated seeds that are free and at your disposal! (Just take what you’ll plant). There’s something for everyone to grow, even in your windowsill.

7. Settle in with a book. It’s still a library at heart, despite the emphasis on digital technology, so grab that paper book from the New Books section, find a big blue chair, and flip through it.

8. Watch the automatic book retrieval system. While you’re waiting for your book you can run up and down the aisles watching the retrieval system do its work.

9. Browse the magazines. Or, while waiting, you could just go to the Magazines Section in the back of the Learning Commons first floor, and flip through all the magazines. It’s much easier, and less exhausting than chasing an automated robot.

10. Use a locker. Need to run out, but don’t want to lug your stuff with you? Ask a librarian how to use one of the lockers (its really easy) and charge your devices inside it–just remember to take your stuff out at the end of the day! And try to give commuters first dibs, they don’t have dorms to keep their stuff close by.

These ideas of what to do in the Learning Commons are just the tip of the iceberg–what are yours?

Zach is studying for a BFA in Graphic Design with a minor in English. He’s been writing and drawing since he could hold a crayon. Zach constantly seeks to combine his aesthetic creativity with linguistic logicality through art, poems, and stories.

tree canopy

This Earth Day, Help Plant the Next Generation of Trees at Marywood!

by Amanda Avery, Librarian, Arboretum Committee Chairbest time to plant a tree proverb

It’s no secret that the building of the new Learning Commons required the sacrifice of a significant number of mature campus trees–trees that bore witness to many milestones in Marywood’s history.

Happily, through the efforts of the Sustainability Committee and the intrepid students of the Pugwash Environmental Club who raised nearly $4,000 and donations from community organizations and nurseries, 100 new trees will be added to campus, bringing new life to Marywood’s Arboretum and “putting the ‘wood’ back into Marywood.”

trees will be planted this Earth Day Weekend, April 22, 23, and 24. Anyone is welcome to come help plant!

  • Planting will happen each day from noon until 5pm.
  • Hate digging? Good news! Holes will be pre-dug by our wonderful grounds crew prior to planting. We will plant, backfill, water and fertilize.
  • We’ll plant about 35 trees/day.
  • President Sister Anne Munley will plant the first tree.

If you’d like to volunteer, just show up or contact:

Robin P. Ertl (Chair, Sustainability Committee; Faculty Advisor for Pugwash) | Phone: 570-961-4548 | Email: OR Zarlasht Abubakr (Student President of Pugwash, Marywood’s Environmental club) | Phone: 570-330-0162| Email:

Earth-Day-2016-Poster-Earth-Day-NetworkBesides the obvious aesthetic benefits of adding trees to campus, trees offer people the opportunity to “pay it forward” to the future, by increasing the capacity for CO2 sequestration, shade and cooling, as well as enhancing well-being, health and mental outlook, offering the community at large a natural respite, not to mention the multitudinous benefits to wildlife and ecological diversity. This project is a perfect demonstration in action of Marywood’s Core Values, as well as our contribution to Earth Day 2016’s “Trees for the Earth” challenge, which aims to get 7.8 billion trees planted before its 50th anniversary.

Many of the tree varieties to be planted are Northeastern natives, or support birds and other wildlife. They will also increase the diversity of trees in our Arboretum Collection.

Gallery of new tree varieties:

Thanks to One, Two, Tree Farm of Waymart, PA and Conifer Corners of Factoryville, PA!



Learning Commons #haikuphoto Challenge

Article by Sue Jenkins, Clinical Assistant Professor of Art

If you love poetry, photography and instagram, you’ll love taking part in the first ever Learning Commons Haikuphoto Challenge where students, faculty, staff, and the greater Marywood Community are encouraged to share their poems and images celebrating the Marywood experience. Before I tell you how to participate, though, I want to share a little about the creative side of writing poetry and making images.

On Poetry and Imagery: Haiku and Photography

As a designer and fine art photographer, I’d like to suggest that Haiku and Photography are both forms of poetry. Haiku, if you’ve forgotten exactly what it is or have never heard of it, is a type of traditional Japanese poem that consists of three lines with 5, 7, and 5 syllables each, in that order. Unlike regular poems, haiku forces the writer to condense ideas into their purest form.

Here’s an example of a famous haiku. Count the syllables as you read each line:

First autumn morning
the mirror I stare into
shows my father’s face.

– Murakami Kijo

As you read each line, a picture emerges in your mind, and as you reach the final word, the picture becomes clear, as if it were a photograph you could hold in your hands—or view on your smartphone.

With the popularity of social media sites like Instagram and Facebook, where users share images with astounding frequency, I think there has been a recent positive cultural shift in what constitutes a good photograph. In the past, the average person would take a snapshot without regard to composition, light, color, or any other formal element. Today, by contrast, these aesthetic choices are embedded directly into image making and image sharing processes. For instance, on Instagram users must only use a square format instead of portrait or landscape, which forces the image inside an even 9-slice grid. Users are also presented with options to scale, crop, apply a filter (Mayfair, LoFi, Hefe), and manually adjust image qualities like brightness, contrast, saturation, shadows, and highlights. The results—with minimal effort—can be downright stunning!

Now, I have a question for you. What happens if we combine the sense of beauty that constrains the haiku poem and marry it with the visual impact and storytelling qualities of a photograph? Well, we get the #haikuphoto

5linepoem by Sue Jenkins

water-poem-VI by Sue Jenkinswater-poem-IX by Sue Jenkins

In exploring this concept on my own while pursuing my MFA in photography, I decided to create photographic poems. I called my multipart photos Quatrains (four images) and Quintains (five images) after the terms used for poems. Here are some examples of my work from a series that focuses on water, motion, and respite.

Since that time, I’ve become more intrigued by the idea of photographic storytelling that captures the poetry of a moment in a single narrative image. I’ve also been dabbling with the idea of writing haiku for each poetic image I share on social media. Here’s some examples of my recent #haikiphotos

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Now it’s your turn! I cordially invite you to take the Learning Commons #haikuphoto Challenge

Here’s how you’ll do it:

  1. Capture a photo that tells a Marywood story either inside the Learning Commons or somewhere else on campus. Or, use a photo you had already taken.
  2. Write a haiku for it.
  3. Share your haikuphoto(s) on your Instagram feed with the hashtags #haikuphoto and #learningcommons and include your haiku poem as your photo’s description.
    NOTE: If you don’t use Instagram please submit your #haikuphoto by posting on the Learning Commons Facebook page.
  4. Submit as many images as you like. The more the merrier!
    Here’s an example of how it might look on Instagram:#haikuphoto by Sue Jenkins

In honor of National Poetry Month the ‪#‎haikuphoto‬ submission period is now open for the entire month of April. Then, in May, we’ll share the best #haikuphotos here on the Learning Commons blog.

Ready, set, go!

Got questions? Write Sue Jenkins at


Photo of sunset from LC

View from the Commons: “A Colorful Sky”

by Arwa Alibrahim

At the beginning of 2016, while looking through the Learning Commons windows at the colorful, beautiful sky of February, I stopped for a moment to think: What do I really need to be accomplished? What must I do to be satisfied?

Especially as an international student who left home and family behind on the other side of the earth–the “Middle East”–I asked myself is all that distance and longing for my people back home worth it? Then, I suddenly smiled as I see my dreams coming true.

Honestly, I am so happy, and perhaps one of the happiest people around at least. I can’t believe that I am now striving with one of my biggest dreams; studying abroad. Although I am achieving it a little late at thirty years old, I truly can’t suppress my good feeling and how proud I am to be here at Marywood and get the opportunity to have such an experiment. All I want to say right now is a few words:

Do not tell your dreams to those who are pessimistic…

If you have to tell somebody, tell those who can build them up with you, or at least to those who encourage you to do so…

Sometimes you really do not need anyone, you just need you…

Because you have the strongest power…

More significantly, no one understands you as you do… No one loves you as you do…

All you need is to believe in yourself, then, GO!


Arwa Alibrahim is an international student perusing her master degree in Higher Education Administration program at Marywood University. She enjoys reading, writing, and drawing. She originally has a scholarship from Saudi Arabia Cultural Mission. She expects to complete the degree in May 2017. One of her objective to study abroad is to learn a new educational systems to be part of the educational development in Saudi Arabia in the near future. 

Reflections on the LC’s First Semester


As the end of its first semester wraps up, Learning Commons faculty, staff, and students reflect on the use and impact of the new space.

We asked ourselves:

What aspects are working really well or have been particularly successful? 

How do we think the LC is impacting students, faculty and Marywood in general? Surprises?

Ideas for changes or improvements in how the LC is utilized?  What would you like to see in the coming year?

Here are some thoughts:

“…Librarian offices are located in a busy hallways on the main floor, allowing students to drop-in on their way to the printing area and restrooms. This proximity makes us more accessibly to students.” -Librarian

“I do think the LC space could be used much more efficiently and effectively.”

“…The Cafe’s cold brew and late nite menu.” -Student

“The building is GORGEOUS and being inside is like sitting in a glass atrium. All the windows and natural light make for the perfect meeting spot whether its to hang out with friends, browse for books, grab something to eat, study alone or with a group, or meet for a class, being in this building FEELS GOOD. I think it gives students, faculty, and staff a sense of pride while also providing a sense of history, being a part of history, because the building is so new and high tech.” -Faculty

“I’m amazed that everything is working as well as it is and how relatively smooth transition was…as well as there being minimal complaints about the retrieval system and browsing.” -Librarian

“I like the idea of a scavenger hunt, [it] is fun and interactive-also have a book reading (not club) but [with] rewards for reading and reviewing books.” -Student

“The students love working in the space. I also think the lobby space for tables has been a nice surprise. It gets more students in the building.” -Librarian

“I … don’t know where to go to search the catalog to even request a book. Do we need to make a kiosk and video? –Faculty

“The cafe, I’ve heard, has taken traffic away from Nazareth which is both a blessing and sometimes a curse when the noise can sometimes make it hard to hear in that vicinity.” -Staff

“A Learning Commons is for the students and the students should be able to have some ability to manage the space and develop the culture in the building. Furniture is used and is moved. Rooms shouldn’t be on “lock down” if they don’t need to be.” -Librarian

” [I’d like to see] adding a 1-credit information literacy course, or adding an official info literacy component to Univ 100.” -Faculty

“…the LC has definitely become a central area for students to congregate, meet, rest, and convene before and after class–they literally can pass through it on their way to anywhere on campus and in doing so, grab lunch or pick up a book, print something, or even make an appointment with one of us. So I think it is already the student social heart of campus and I also look forward to the outside spaces being expanded next year.” -Librarian


Students are making use of the space in ways that suit them best. Without a doubt, the LC is the new hub of activity on campus (and we suspect there’s more to it than the novelty). We’re delighted how quickly our students and community members have adopted the LC. The volume of foot-traffic and use of the space has grown steadily, especially during finals, where we saw upwards of 250 students studying, especially after 10pm.

Students are taking advantage of the ubiquitous technology and connectivity. Every other student (and probably more)are using their own personal technology; phones, laptops, tablets–when in the LC, using the provided charging stations and network individually in carrels and study rooms and in groups at large tables and cafe areas.

taco catPeople are really USING the features of LC, and not just for study. They are rearranging the furniture and kicking back, they are creating and developing projects in the media rooms, hosting events and promoting club fundraisers and initiatives. Classes are taking place in the computer lab and alcoves, Socrates Cafe has migrated to the 2nd floor wingback chairs, and faculty are meeting with students here over coffee instead of their offices.  Remnants of studying and gathering are on the writable surfaces–sometimes a whole wall will be filled with notes or equations–it is really impressive! And then other times there will be the random quote or messages, which we like to collect on Instagram. Check out the hashtags: #marywoodlearningcommons and #whiteboardart and our student bloggers who are documenting the use of the LC space.

The Book Retrieval System is working remarkably well. These are the early days of a huge shift in information access and technology. Despite the steep learning curve and some outages early on, the retrieval system has been quiet reliably zipping to and fro, delivering requests in a timely, accurate, and safe fashion. We basically brought the system online with the start of the semester, so we are particularly proud of our circulation and OIT staff for making this transition in such a short amount of time. In terms of online browsing, there are exciting changes afoot in terms of what we have planned for our catalog interface and virtual research experience in 2016…

Online Engagement. The new space has also inspired an uptick in our pageviews and “Likes” just this past semester (+150! since last semester), and people are interacting with us online more as well. Students are “checking in” at the Learning Commons on Facebook to tell others that they are there and continue to look for answers to building, as well as research questions online–which is great because we are working towards a more social catalog, research platforms, and outreach.

We’re even making an impact in the larger library world! Marywood Librarians had a chance to talk with Library Journal columnist, Stephen Bell, who in a recent post, mentioned Marywood as an innovator in ASRS and library architecture.


  • No more “Study Room Roulette.” For those that might have been frustrated with the  first-come-first-serve availability of study rooms, the launch of the room reservation system 25Live, in January 2016, will provide time-limited access to groups of students of two or more.
  • A new and improved catalog and virtual shelf browse. 🙂 We are happy to be working with Koha, an open-source (woot!) catalog platform which we’ll launch mid-2016.
  • Storage Lockers. Did you know they are located on every floor, including terrace, and have outlets to power stashed devices? You will be able to program the lock with your own code–no keys to lose!


    The Bayleaf will kick off our first Archives reading and exhibit with artwork and excerpts from the 2015 Cenntennial issue: Wed 1/20 at 9pm, 2nd Floor LC.

  • Events, exhibits, and happenings! Starting in January 2016, we hope to offer many more activities, speakers, curated displays, book reviews, contests and lectures in the future.
  • A “Menu of Ideas:” interactive faculty, student, and visitor pathfinders. We hope to offer some personalized ideas for utilizing LC spaces, resources, and partners in the coming semesters. Gaming, resource apps, scavenger-hunt type tours, faculty displays and browsing kiosks are ideas on the horizon. We want to inspire faculty to model the best use of the LC for their students–and to see more of them explore the building.


  • Climate Control. There seems to be two settings: savanna hot or arctic cold. Hopefully, as we learn the “personality” and quirks of our new building, we hope to find a happy medium in terms of temperature and comfort. Brrrrrr!
  • Expanded 24-hour access and additional security is directly determined by staffing, though we would love to see increases in both.
  • Faculty engagement and collaboration. There are many ways to get involved and partipicate in shaping the direction of the LC. Whether it’s joining the Learning Commons Committee, hosting a lecture, or curating a themed resource display for a course, we want to help facilitate ideas!
  • A permanent home for our fledgling Seed Library. Though relatively new, our Seed Library is one of the few in the area–not only a University, but community resource. We’d like to see the Library (and its vintage card catalog home) integrated into the Learning Commons proper, so that everyone can conveniently take advantage of this great and unique “library.”


knowledge bar

How do you like your Knowledge served?

We hope now that many students, faculty and staff have had the opportunity to use the LC that we’ll continue to proactively develop its direction from the ground-up.

In sum, for those of us that reside in and facilitate the LC, there are already clear signs that the LC is on its way to being a great academic resource and the “intellectual and social heart of the university”–which will really just depends on the desire, creativity and collaboration amongst our community.


We invite you to share your thoughts here on the Learning Commons Blog, where librarians, faculty, staff, and students write about a variety of topics we hope will be interesting to everyone in our community, including LC technology, libraries, research, book reviews, or whatever comes to mind!

Join us on FacebookTwitter @MarywoodLC, and Instagram @marywoodlearningcommons.



Faculty Books On View

Inside the Learning Commons:
Faculty Books On View

In addition to teaching, many faculty at Marywood work on scholarship to further their knowledge and understanding of information in their respective fields. Faculty scholarship comes in many flavors including, among many other endeavors, writing scholarly papers and articles, attending and presenting at conferences, exhibiting works, teaching or developing courses for other companies, maintaining a private practice, and writing books.

To celebrate Marywood faculty’s the achievements in writing, an entire display case at the top of the stairs on the 2nd floor of the Learning Commons is devoted to showcasing recent books by members of the Marywood University Academic Community (exhibit now closed). Among the books you’ll find:

  • Administrative Studies
    Alexander R. Dawoody: Public Administration and Policy in the Middle East
  • English
    Erin A. Sadlack: The French Queen’s Letters
  • Graphic Design
    Steven Brower:  Satchmo: The Wonderful World and Art of Louis Armstrong
  • History
    Adam D. Shprintzen: The Vegetarian Crusade: The Rise of an American Reform Movement 1817-1921
  • Graphic Design
    Sue Jenkins: Web Design All-In-One for Dummies, 2nd Edition
  • Sociology
    Brian A. Monahan: The Shock of the News: Media Coverage and the Making of 9/11
  • Psychology
    John J. Lemoncelli: Healing From Childhood Abuse
  • History
    Samantha Christiansen (co-editor), The Third World in the Global 1960s
  • Mathematics
    Craig M. Johnson: Exploring Mathematics; Investigations with Functions
  • Academic Advisor for International Students
    Erkan Acar: Educating Globally: Case Study of a Gulen-Inspired School in the United States

Join the Learning Commons in celebrating these writing achievements by visiting the 2nd floor to view all the works on display. Then, if you happen to see those authors on campus or in the classroom, be sure to congratulate them on their scholarship!

Commons Plants: Landscaping with PA Natives

For those of you who were a little (or a lot) dismayed to see the felling of many of Marywood’s Arboretum giants–here’s a lovely-looking Pinterest board we stumbled upon, curated by LC Architect Theresa Thomas, that shows some beautiful picks for Learning Commons flora. While we can’t say if the squirrels will agree, we think they will be worthwhile residents of the newfound canopy space.

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March 2015 Building Progress

Photo Credit: Katlynn Whitaker, 2015.

Photo Credit: Katlynn Whitaker, 2015.

Mid-March the Learning Commons Committee jumped at the chance to see the interior and building progress, and nothing could dampen our enthusiasm, not the ill-fitting safety gear, not the sleet, nor the mud. So. Much. Mud.

Thanks to Wendy Yankelitis and the Sordoni crew, for letting us stomp and wander around, take pictures from weird angles and ask repeat questions about office space and which floor we were on! 🙂

Behold! An inside/outside look at the LC:

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