Young adults in Wauwatosa now have a place to study, read or work on group projects without having to spend money at local coffee shops.
That message was a major takeaway from the unveiling of the new Student Commons at the Wauwatosa Public Library in late August.
The Wauwatosa Public Library Foundation undertook a fundraising campaign for the Student Commons project after learning from students that there are few places in Wauwatosa where they feel welcome to gather and work on school assignments and extracurricular activities.
Coffee is available at the library — users can purchase a cup for a nominal fee — and the new center offers many elements often found at coffee shop hangouts: artwork, a variety of seating, plenty of electric outlets and a strong WiFi connection.
"It was a terribly fun project," said library' director Mary Murphy as she addressed a gathering of people at the new Student Commons Aug. 24. Emphasis on the word "student." Local young adults in Wauwatosa were adamant they didn't want to be referred to as "teenagers" or "tweens," but instead, "students," Murphy said.
About the space
An academic feel is woven into the design of the new collaborative study space for students in grades 6-12. The area previously housed the library's new books section which has since moved around the corner.
This space is the first time the age group will have a space of their own at the library, Murphy said.
Walls painted with chalkboard paint and large whiteboards line the perimeter of the commons and a long, wooden serpentine-shaped table is in the middle of the space. All of the tables in the space are equipped with plenty of charging stations, as students are more and more working with technology. Some of the ceiling tiles have been removed, creating an industrial, urban feel. And artwork completed by students at area middle and high schools hangs on one of the walls.
The new center aims to give area students a no-cost place to congregate in groups to study or work on projects — a commodity that's often hard to come by in the city, Murphy. While coffee shops provide a space to gather, students must at least purchase something to be there, she said.
A new hot spot
According to Wauwatosa East student Jordyn Summerfield, 17, the space is one she envisions inviting her friends to.
"I'll definitely be using this space," said Summerfield, who was part of the focus group that helped dream up the student commons. She added the commons gives students a place to make some noise if working on group projects without disrupting other library users. The center, located on the library's second floor, has doors that close.
Nearly 300 donors supported the project, which was lead by contributions from local couple Jim and Jane Fischer and super-center store Meijer — each giving $25,000.
More donors who contributed at a major gift level included Julia and Bladen Burns, James Sanger and Mary Newton, Raymond and Janice Perry Foundation. There were other donors who contributed significantly, but wished to remain anonymous.
The entire project cost about $120,000 and all funding came from donations collected by the Wauwatosa Public Library Foundation. The project began earlier this spring and construction lasted between six and eight weeks. Planners hoped to have the space completed by the time school started in September.