Shelton Learning Commons

Shelton Learning Commons uses CARES Act funding to help students navigate the pandemic

Lees-McRae students who struggle to obtain the technology necessary for college coursework can now take advantage of new resources through the Dotti M. Shelton Learning Commons.  

As part of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Shelton Learning Commons received $9,500 from the North Carolina State Library to put toward negating some of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jess Bellemer, director of library services, said the staff wanted to use the money in a way that would provide ongoing benefits to students.  

“The goal of the funds was to help bridge the digital divide and support people who needed technology to get through the pandemic, and of course we wanted to do something that would help us beyond this past year,” Bellemer said.  

This project/program/service is made possible by funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (IMLS grant number LS-246551-OLS-20).

According to Bellemer, many students have asked if the library would be able to provide laptops that could be checked out and used throughout campus.  

“It’s a misconception that if a student can afford to go to college that they can also afford to buy a laptop,” she said.  

Using the CARES Act funds, the Shelton Learning Commons purchased 20 Chromebooks and 20 webcams. Main campus students can reserve the laptops and cameras on a first-come-first-served basis to use for their classwork on campus or if they are taking courses over the summer.  

The Shelton Learning Commons has already seen students benefit from the new resources. “Students had to use these to take their exams even when they were here on campus,” Bellemer said. “A student who has one out right now is an international student using a webcam to communicate with his family, who are on a different continent.”  

Moving forward, the Chromebooks and webcams will continue to be available to students who need a laptop to take tests online or write a paper in their room.  

“Having laptops and webcams available to check out extends the reach of the library,” Bellemer said.  

The Shelton Learning Commons offers a variety of resources for students that go beyond physical books. In 2019, the library used another state library grant to open a Makerspace, which serves students interested in developing different skills. The Makerspace provides the instructions and tools for projects ranging from sewing and quilt making to podcasting and computer programming.  

Students also have access to a massive amount of information through the library’s digital collections related to academic needs, school and community history, and personal hobbies, like cooking.  

“Libraries should serve students as whole people,” Bellemer said. “We want to encourage them to be lifelong library users so they can get the most out of their public libraries after they’ve graduated.”  

Learn more about the resources available to students through the Shelton Learning Commons here

By Emily WebbJune 24, 2021
Campus Life