WKU dedicates Commons, Caboni sets sights on Cherry Hall

WKU+President+Timothy+Caboni+and+Student+Government+Association+President+Cole+Bornefeld+cut+the+ribbon+to+celebrate+the+dedication+of+the+Commons+at+Helm+Library+on+Aug.+31%2C+2022.

Michael J. Collins

WKU President Timothy Caboni and Student Government Association President Cole Bornefeld cut the ribbon to celebrate the dedication of the Commons at Helm Library on Aug. 31, 2022.

Michael J. Collins, City reporter

Members of WKU’s administration and local leaders gathered Wednesday to celebrate the dedication of the Commons at Helm Library. 

“For the first time, prospective students now visit the Commons as they tour campus with their families, and many of them have commented it’s unlike any other building they’ve seen,” President Timothy Caboni said.

In addition, Caboni said the university is preparing the early stages of a similar makeover to Cherry Hall. 

Members of the WKU and Bowling Green Community gather in the main floor of the Commons at Helm Library to celebrate its dedication on Aug. 31, 2022. (Michael J. Collins)

“For me, it is our most important building,” Caboni said. “What we want to do is take the same lens we had here at the Commons and think about how we can retain the building and celebrate the parts of it that are unique and special.”

He specified that the marble stairs in Cherry Hall — worn down by generations of students — will remain untouched in the redesign. 

Caboni first envisioned the Commons, announced at his investiture in 2018, as an “intellectual hub” where students and faculty can both learn and socialize. 

While the Commons first opened late last spring, the ceremony was scheduled in the fall to coincide with the beginning of a new school year. COVID-19 constraints delayed construction progress by an additional year until doors opened last semester.

The Commons are located at Helm Library, which originally served as the Health and Physical Education Building from 1931 to 1963.

The renovations to Helm Library cost $35 million in total, funded through a partnership with food provider Aramark.

WKU Student Government Association President Cole Bornefeld said the building has been “full of so much excitement and community” since the doors first opened.

“Students really feel like this building adds to the already special community that Western Kentucky has,” Bornefeld said.

Susann de Vries, dean of university libraries, said the role of libraries has changed drastically over the last few decades as work and school are increasingly done electronically. 

However, she said libraries offer unique opportunities to learn and create as a community, and the Commons is well suited to that role.

“When people come in and connect with the building, they find their ‘spot’ and just look up in awe and wonderment—it’s just a joy to see,” de Vries said.

City reporter Michael J. Collins can be reached at [email protected]