College of Liberal Arts

UT Libraries, Liberal Arts Opens New Learning Center

Wed, Aug 26, 2015
President Gregory Fenves opened the Learning Commons in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 25.
President Gregory Fenves opened the Learning Commons in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 25.

The Learning Commons in the Perry-Castañeda Library opened this fall semester, creating a cross-campus collaborative space to support developments in student learning styles and needs at The University of Texas at Austin.

The 20,000 square-foot renovation is the largest transformation of space since the library opened in 1977, and represents an effort to adapt to the changing needs and practices of academic library users, as well as to the expectations of the larger campus community for a 21st century research library.

The new space includes five technology-rich classrooms for adaptive, collaborative learning techniques, a 44-seat media lab with high-end software, and consultation and meeting areas available to all students, as well as faculty who want to incorporate digital literacy into their courses.

The Learning Commons will house the University Writing Center, administered by the College of Liberal Arts, in a first-of-its-kind partnership with the Libraries designed to streamline student resources and create a one-stop-shop for student research and productivity.

“This collaboration represents a significant turning point in the 22-year history of our writing center by promoting strong and effective communication skills in a central campus location,” said Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

In addition to writing assistance from writing center staff and support for digital media projects using enhanced media lab hardware and software, students will continue to receive instruction and research consultations with professional librarians.

UT Libraries hope to introduce additional services and workshops in the future through campus partnerships, including oral communication consultations for presentations, drop-in tutoring sessions with staff from the Sanger Learning Center and help with statistical analysis using specialized software available in the Learning Commons.

“Research shows that academic support services — such as libraries and writing centers — help students do better in college,” said Michele Ostrow, head of UT Libraries’ Teaching and Learning Services and a driving force behind the project.  “Bringing those services together in one place makes it easier for students to access them and takes care of the problem we’ve seen where students who are referred to a service across campus don’t follow through on that referral.” 

Future expansions include the development of a Scholars’ Commons to support graduate and scholarly work. The space will continually transform to provide for different learning styles and more robust technologies, Ostrow said.

The Office of the Provost, the College of Liberal Arts and the UT Libraries funded the $4.5 million project designed by the architectural firm Gensler.

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