New PCL Space Gives Students What They Want: More Power

PCL Give Students What They Want: More Power

“Buzzing” and “bustling” are probably not words one would use to describe UT’s Perry-Casteneda Library (PCL) on an average Tuesday morning. But yesterday wasn’t your average Tuesday. On the day before the fall semester formally began, student leaders, UT Libraries staff, faculty, and administrators were all mingling on the fifth floor of the library, sipping coffee and nibbling on pastries.

The occasion was the inauguration of a new study space dubbed the Collaborative Commons. Nearly the length of a football field, the book-free strip is painted in bright colors and covered with carefully arranged chairs, desks, and media areas. Students can use the multi-screen, laptop-connected “mediascapes” to practice presentations or review notes. Perched on a tall stool or reclined in a puffy chair, they can also flip through textbooks, type papers, or use the space to simply unwind.

“They’re probably going to watch movies here, occasionally,” says Jenifer Flaxbart, the PCL’s head reference librarian. And administrators are OK with that. The new facility is meant to encourage both relaxation and group study. “If they like this space,” she says, “they will work together hard to meet deadlines and learn here, and that is so exciting.”

Flaxbart is also happy to report that one of the students’ most pressing needs has been addressed: more outlets.

“When we asked students what they were looking for,” she laughs, “one said, ‘If you provided whiteboards with outlets, I would never go home.'”

Libraries director and UT vice provost Fred Heath says it’s all part of a long-term transformation aimed at building more efficient libraries and improving the undergraduate experience. He points to the closing of the Undergraduate Library, now the Flawn Academic Center, as a key moment.

The Flawn Academic Center, with its Wi-Fi, bright lighting, and cozy furniture, is now a better study space, Heath says. And he thinks the new Collaborative Commons is even better. It’s the newest example of UT Libraries’ mission to help students study—and learn.

“There’s a difference between study and learning,” he says. “And that’s what we’re trying to do: Make it the best possible learning space for really bright students.”

See the before and after below.


Photos courtesy UT Libraries.


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