Radford awarded grant to renovate classroom space in McConnell Library


Radford University is the recipient of a 2018 Active Learning Center (ALC) Steelcase Grant to fund an innovative renovation at McConnell Library.

With the $67,000 grant, the library’s Information Literacy Center B is undergoing a complete redesign that will transform the way librarian instructors engage with students and students engage with one another.

Formerly a traditional classroom with narrow rows of seating and desktop computers, the new space will consist of large tables conducive to teamwork and collaboration, laptop computers, removable whiteboards that can be circulated around the room or mounted at the front of the classroom, and an open-flow design that will allow instructors to better engage with students.

The project, scheduled to be completed this August, will profoundly impact the learning experiences of thousands of Radford University students.

According to instruction librarians Alyssa Archer and Liz Bellamy, McConnell Library’s information literacy program hosts more than 3,000 Radford University students in the Information Literacy Center B over the course of a year, with individual classes ranging from 15 to 30 students. This translates to about 30 percent of the university's students coming through this classroom every year to improve their research skills and sharpen how they find, evaluate and use sources of information.

A rendering of the renovated McConnell Library Information Literacy Center B

A rendering of the renovated McConnell Library Information Literacy Center B

Archer and Bellamy, along with a team of additional instruction librarians, began re-envisioning the classroom space last August. They recognized the room’s layout and outdated furniture were not consistent with their pedagogical approach that is deeply ingrained in active learning and staying abreast of new technologies.

“The space was definitely holding us back,” Bellamy explained.

They also wanted to ensure the space aligned with the university’s newly-developed strategic plan and the library’s core mission, both of which highlight the importance of experiential learning, academic excellence and transformative educational experiences.

Director of Faculty Development Susan Van Patten and Charley Cosmato, Director of the Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning, partnered with the group to write the grant proposal, which was submitted in January. “We could not have done this without collaboration with FDC and CITL,” Archer explained. “They helped provide a solid research proposal and theoretical grounding that made this proposal stand out in a very competitive pool.”

Radford University was announced in April as one of 16 recipients from across the United States. There were more than 1,000 submissions. This year’s grant recipients represent a variety of institution types and learning models, and all are showing a commitment to innovation and improving student outcomes. As part of this partnership with Steelcase Education, McConnell Library and FDC/CITL will conduct research on transactional distance to see if the new learning environment affects student movement patterns, librarian instructor experience, as well as the students’ emotional response to the room.

“Thank you so much to Steelcase Education for this opportunity, and we're looking forward to working with our partners in University Facilities and representatives from Barrows, Inc. [a furniture dealer contracted by Steelcase to implement the space] to make this ALC a showcase on campus,” Archer said.

Jun 20, 2018
Mary Hardbarger
(540) 831-5150