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Long-time Friends of Lees-McRae College Fund the Learning Commons Renovations

President Buxton with Dotti and Ed Shelton.

On Friday, Oct. 7, Lees-McRae held the dedication ceremony for the renovated Dotti M. Shelton Learning Commons. The event gathered about 70 guests ranging from students, to faculty, staff and architect and construction company representatives.

The $2.5 million renovations began in May 2016 and came to a conclusion in mid-September. Winston-Salem-based construction company Shelco, LLC—the same company responsible for the May School of Nursing and Health Sciences building—oversaw the revitalization of the building.

The Learning Commons, formerly Carson Library, reopened to students on Monday, Sept. 19. Dotti Shelton, for whom the Learning Commons is named after, and her husband Ed Shelton, are familiar faces on the campus of Lees-McRae and are residents of Dobson, North Carolina.

Ed Shelton received an honorary degree in Political Science in 1995, after attending Lees-McRae in the late-1950s, and for many years served on the Lees-McRae Board of Trustees.

In 2012, the school established the Shelton Scholars Program in their honor. A program that is awarded to one incoming freshman every four years during Scholars Day, and provides a $130,000 scholarship to pay for tuition, room and board.

During the opening remarks, Lees-McRae President Barry Buxton called the Learning Commons the heart and soul of the College. “The new Learning Commons will forever change the way people learn,” Buxton said.

He added that if it were not for the kindness and friendship of the Shelton family, many things, including the Learning Commons would not be possible.

Following the ceremony, guests were invited to walk around the building. The renovations included new and updated classroom spaces, enhanced wireless technology and new collaborative study rooms among other items.

The main floor now features a new “Provisions on Demand” market and new restrooms—an amenity once only found on the lower floor of the building.

Several pieces of furniture were replaced including reading chairs and tables. What was left remaining—which involved study room and main floor tables and chairs among others– was refinished and recovered to retain the building’s original 1960’s design.

Beyond the physical changes within and without the building, the facility’s name, once a library, is now a learning commons. And though that is true in the case of the Dotti M. Shelton Learning Commons, it isn’t quite all-encompassing. A learning commons is slightly, but importantly different.

Also sometimes known as information commons, scholar commons or digital commons, these spaces are different as compared to libraries because of their emphasis on study spaces. This includes silent study rooms, group study rooms, classrooms and tables, chairs and couches that can be moved and rearranged based on students’ needs.

Beyond books and magazines, learning commons also give visitors the chance to borrow technology including cameras, computers and other tools. The Dotti M. Shelton Learning Commons does just that.

Students can borrow computers and work on brand-new desktop computers. With those tools, they can navigate ever-expanding online databases like the North Carolina Libraries in Virtual Education—a state-wide database for books, magazines, videos and scholarly journals that smaller learning commons and libraries may not physically have on hand.

The Dotti M. Shelton Learning Commons is open to both students and the community Monday through Thursdays 8 a.m. until 11 p.m., Fridays 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sundays 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. The Learning Commons is closed on Saturdays.