Student learning centre: what may come

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By Carys Mills

Imagine a space at Ryerson where students can watch a football game on HDTV or run their own cafe. A place where students can move walls to customize the rooms where they study and pull down USB cords and laptop power cords from the ceiling.

For over a year students have known that the Student Learning Centre (SLC) will eventually stand at the corner of Yonge and Gould streets.

They will be able to give input on how they would like this space to look at town hall meetings that started earlier this month.

But at the moment not much is visible beyond the empty pit left by Sam the Record Man. And the demolition of the Future Shop property, where part of the SLC would stand, is stalled because any further work will cause the World of Posters next door to collapse. Ryerson doesn’t own the property and can’t afford to buy it.

Ryerson president Sheldon Levy can’t search for an architect for the SLC until a budget for the project is approved by the board of governors, which will include the $45 million investment from the provincial government.

Still, the various stakeholders in the development of the SLC, such as university administration, students and the students’ union have started thinking about what they would like to see in the new student learning space.

Educational Consulting Services (ECS) was hired to create a report for the prospective architect based on the ideas of students, staff and faculty.

“We’re trying to get peoples’ imaginations going,” said Madeleine Lefebvre, Ryerson’s chief librarian.

Lefebvre said Ryerson has up to 19,000 square feet to work on the new site.

Some of Lefebvre’s ideas, such as came from visiting other institution’s learning centres.

Sean Carson, a third-year film student and RSU faculty director, was sent by Ryerson to Montreal last summer to check out the new libraries at Concordia and McGill universities. Carson said having a media floor arranged like an HMV with listening and viewing centres would benefit.

The inspiration for the moving walls and drop-down cords in the SLC came from the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Innovative Learning Resource Center, Levy said.

“What I did like about it was that the ideas were really that the centre would continue to redefine itself as students needed it,” said Levy.

He said that he would also like to see a cafe in the SLC that would be run entirely by a group of students.

While Lefebvre is open to suggestions, she said the SLC, “absolutely must be joined to the library.”

A glass bridge, like the one connecting the Rogers Communication Centre to Kerr Hall, may connect the buildings but joining them completely isn’t an option.

The library has notorious ventilation problems, and O’Keefe Lane, separating the existing library from the SLC, can’t be blocked.

Lefebvre said the adjoining floor might act as an open service area, with seating and fireplaces.

Lefebvre and Rebecca Rose, the VP education for the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), are both interested in a glass building, letting natural light in.

Both want to see Gould Street closed so there can be an entrance that looks out onto Lake Devo.

Most important to Rose is that the centre provide a 24-hour study space for Ryerson’s commuter population.

Both administration and students have suggested that some student services should be moved to the SLC, such as a second RSU members’ services desk.

When the project is finished, Levy said he already knows how to measure the success of the centre.

“I will know that it’s a success if in one week, one month, people come and say to me, ‘how could you be so stupid? You built it too small,” said Levy.

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