NEWPORT, R.I. – Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, President U.S. Naval War College (NWC) Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley, and Library Director Allen Benson each squeezed their ceremonial scissors cutting the ribbon to ceremoniously open the NWC’s new Learning Commons today.
The commons, part of the Henry E. Eccles Library on campus, is designed to allow NWC students to access better, more functional learning spaces that have the functionality they need.
Reed, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, stressed that the new Learning Commons adds to the global reputation of the school.
“I’ve always been impressed with the officers who come from here,” said Reed. “Both U.S. officers and those of our allied nations.”
The refurbished space has three levels, 86,000 sq. ft., and available seating for 508 people.
During his remarks at the ceremony Harley highlighted the collegial aspects of the library.
“This new Learning Commons is truly for everyone to utilize,” said Harley. “It is a place for each and every student to use and benefit from.”
Making more functional learning spaces available to students is the ultimate goal of the upgrades.
“We should try to ensure that it is possible for the students to learn,” said Benson. “And that they are given the space and the conditions necessary for learning. Finding out what these conditions are, and providing them, is at the heart of what our Learning Commons is all about.
The refurbished Learning Commons is located in the Hewitt Hall on campus. For two years the library was housed in the century-old Sims building while the upgrades took place.
For decades prior to the upgrades, the library wasn’t keeping up with students’ needs including issues of connectivity.
“Throughout the 90s we just began to split at the seams,” said Julie Zecher, reference librarian who helped coordinate much of the relocation. “The collection of books and paper material grew and the need for space outpaced what we had. We are now in the 21st century and the demands from the students for technology is greater than ever. We needed a different kind of space.”
The need for the upgrades dates back decades with funding finally being made available in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that Reed helped pass.
“U.S. Naval War College has a proud tradition,” said Reed. “And this facility will only enhance it.”
The original NWC space for the library was in Founders Hall on base that is now home to the NWC Museum. In 1885, books were requisitioned for use by the first officers assigned to the school. In 1904 a building was erected to house the library which was then named the Alfred Thayer Mahan Library. In 1905 the first librarian was appointed. The library has been in Hewitt Hall since 1976 and is named in honor of the late Rear Adm. Henry Effingham Eccles, a noted logistician, strategist, and author whose association with NWC spanned 38 years.
The commons includes many new and expanded features including the Eccles Library and Classified Library, reference, circulation, reserves, interlibrary loan services; research collection covering naval and military science, history and strategy, management, economics, international relations, international law, oceanography, and political science; information resources department; help desk; library reference and research support; writing center; Naval Historic Collection; bookstore; café; private/group study areas and conference rooms; instructional design/innovation center lab; information technology asset management and media services; four classrooms, including two classified; computer teaching lab with 24 workstations; tablet/laptop charging stations; lockers for storing personal items; open-access workstations; and Wi-Fi access throughout.
NWC is a one-year resident program that graduates about 600 resident students and about 1,000 distance learning students each year. Its missions include educating and developing leaders, helping define the future of the Navy, supporting combat readiness, and strengthening maritime partnerships. Students earn Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) credit and either a diploma or a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies or Defense and Strategic Studies. Established in 1884, U.S. Naval War College is the oldest institution of its kind in the world. More than 50,000 students have graduated since its first class of nine students in 1885 and about 300 of today’s active duty admirals, generals and senior executive service leaders are alumni.