Learning Commons @ your library

In the fall of 2013, University of Iowa students will discover a tech-infused, 24-hour, comfy study space and one-stop academic help center…with good coffee.

Designed with significant student input, the new Learning Commons will provide an “intellectual hub” with room for 500-plus students. The 37,000-square-foot facility in the Main Library is the product of a unique partnership among Information Technology Services (ITS), University Libraries, and the Office of the Provost.

“The Learning Commons is focused, first and foremost, on furthering the academic success of students,” says Nancy Baker, university librarian. “The staff will provide students with a ‘concierge’ experience. They’ll answer common academic, library, and technology questions and point students to the resources they need to succeed, like help with their research, writing, or tutoring.”

VIDEO: Learning Commons Walkthrough

“Our design team spent a lot of time watching how students study, and particularly noticed how much they leveraged technology in their daily work habits,” says Chris Clark, ITS learning spaces director. “This space, with its multimedia resources, collaboration technologies, and wall-to-wall wireless, reflects the way today’s students integrate technology into their lives.”

Features of the project include 18 group study spaces, 100 desktop and laptop computers, a 45-seat TILE (Transform, Interact, Learn, Engage) classroom with glass walls and sliding doors, printers and scanners, TVs and projectors, and multimedia resources.

The design team also considered students’ stomachs, because students can’t concentrate on their studies when they’re hungry. The Food for Thought café will offer an expanded menu that includes hot panini sandwiches, fruit smoothies, and other snacks, as well as espresso and gourmet coffees.

“We want to create an ambience that welcomes students,” Clark says.

According to Beth Ingram, associate provost for undergraduate education, the most important feature of the space is its flexibility.

“The Learning Commons is many different kinds of study spaces and services rolled into one,” she says. “With technology, information, and expertise combined in one location, it’s a space where students can study with a group or by themselves; where they can have a coffee with friends and then go to a workshop on stress management; where they know they can get answers to questions about information resources, technology, or tutoring services.”

Of course, part of the challenge in creating such a massive space for students is minimizing the impact the construction process will have on daily student life. Hope Barton, associate university librarian, says the impact on current study spaces will be minimal, since the area being remodeled was office space.

“This will really be a fantastic resource for University of Iowa students,” Ingram says. “We’re excited to see the project come to completion so students can start making the most of the new space.”