Tag Archives: Learning Commons

Forging Ahead with The Foundry

3D Printing at a maker event.
3D printing at a maker event.

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”

Those words of Thomas Edison are representative of a sentiment that is increasingly reflected in the way that libraries are evolving to meet modern needs. In a departure from the traditional notion as a place where people go to simply gather information, the modern library is becoming a vibrant space where knowledge is partnered with tools that allow users to immediately synthesize ideas into creative output.

The University of Texas Libraries have, in recent years, been working with campus partners and administrators to reimagine spaces to meet these new expectations, and the results have been worth noting. The opening of the Learning Commons on the entry level of the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) provides students with onsite support for writing projects through a partnership with the University Writing Center, and a substantial new Media Lab offers users the opportunity to create the kind of dynamic multimedia projects that are gradually replacing project papers as a measure of student understanding. The Scholars Commons — opened earlier this spring, also in PCL — provides a space for both isolated study and cross-discipline collaboration, and includes a Data Lab for greater capacity for complex data visualization, making synthesis of information possible within arm’s reach of essential resources.

From a Libraries' maker event.
From a Libraries’ maker event.

With the launch of the new undergraduate major in the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET) announced in February by the College of Fine Arts (COFA), the Libraries are partnering with the college to develop a new kind of creative space in the Fine Arts Library (FAL) to support the specialized needs of students in the new program. “The Foundry” will occupy space in the main level of the FAL, and will consist of a series of interconnected studios designed to support audio recording, video production, fabrication, 3D printing, animatronics, game design and fiber arts where students can gather to create independently or collaboratively, and where they’ll have immediate access to traditional library resources and services to augment their work. Although it was developed primarily to support CAET, The Foundry is open to every student at the university.

The focus of the space redevelopment is to provide advanced technological systems for all aspects of performance, game development, music production, digital visual arts, and other forms of digital entertainment. The project is funded by the Office of the Provost, the Libraries, the College of Fine Arts and by a generous grant from the Hearst Foundations.

From a Libraries' maker event.
From a Libraries’ maker event.

It’s not quite Menlo Park (yet), but libraries are finding ways to become a larger part of the creative process by providing the materials and tools that allow ideas the potential to be realized at the point of conception. Edison might even be impressed.

Construction on The Foundry began with the close of the spring semester and is slated to open in time for the students’ return in the fall. Check back for progress reports on the renovation throughout the summer.

Steps Toward Success

Students at PCL.

Think back to your time on campus.

What do you remember?

I can tell you what my first few days on the Forty Acres looked like: I walked across campus to the North Administration Office for orientation, walked back to my office to eat lunch, then walked to the Flawn Academic Center to have my identification card created, walk back to my office, and finally walked to the Brazos Parking Garage at the end of the day.

If your experience as a student or faculty member was anything like mine as a new staff member, you can probably relate: working and studying at the University of Texas means you get around quite a bit!

As you might imagine, the University of Texas Libraries is one of the many locations that students flow in and out of throughout the course of their week. With one of the largest footprints on campus, our nine libraries see over 2.5 million visitors every year.

University of Texas Libraries is more than a location. It is a destination that provides resources and expertise that are fundamental to student success.

Research shows that first-year students who used library services in their first semester have a higher grade point average and are more likely to graduate in four years.

The Libraries are making a huge investment to improve the student experience both in our physical spaces and with enhanced technology-rich supportive services.

Save Your Soles at the Learning Commons.The Learning Commons at the Perry-Castañeda Library is our first step toward our goal of becoming a one-stop-shop for research, writing, digital media technology, and oral communication.

More research and collaboration; less walking.

Will you join me in supporting our Save our Souls campaign? Each gift will help us provide the technology and academic support services and transform the undergraduate learning experience for our students.


If you or your company is interested in contributing a matching gift during the campaign, please contact Natalie Moore for more information.

Halfway Home to the Learning Commons

Hallway to staff offices.

We’ve mentioned in past summers that even while students are mostly taking a well-deserved break and faculty are about and abroad staying abreast of trends and developments in their respective fields of focus, the Libraries use the regular academic hiatus to upgrade and transform services and spaces to meet the evolving needs of a constantly changing campus community.

Learning Commons concept drawings by Gensler.This summer is no different. We’ve highlighted the new space to open for an incoming class of Longhorns — the Learning Commons, a different kind of learning space that will inhabit a renovated space of some 20,000 sq. ft. on the ground level of the Perry-Castañeda Library, and represents the largest transformation of space in the PCL since its construction in 1977. The concept has been a long time in planning, but will finally be realized as construction of the new space ramps up to meet a mid-August deadline.  Continue reading

The Price of Transformation

 

Building the Learning Commons in the Perry-Castañeda Library and the Creativity Commons in the Fine Arts Library come with a big price tag. The University of Texas Libraries has invested time, money, and staff to these projects, however, there is still a need for funding.

Phase one of the Learning Commons will transform 20,000 square-feet on the entry level of PCL. In addition to adaptive-learning classrooms and a new media lab, the Learning Commons will serve as the new home for the University Writing Center. These changes are all part of making the Perry-Castañeda Library a one-stop-shop for student research and productivity. The  overall cost for the first phase of the project — roughly $4.5 million — has been shouldered with the help of the Office of the Provost ($2 million), the College of Liberal Arts  ($500,000), and the Libraries ($1.5 million). The Libraries will still need to raise roughly $500,000 in order to fund the technology needs,  the most critical of components for the Learning Commons. Funding opportunities for the Learning Commons:

  • Digital Media Lab Sponsor – $75,000 (2 available)
    Provide a space for 50 students to access state-of-the-art technology to assist them in creating presentations, media production, gaming projects and collaborative assignments.
  • Learning Labs Sponsor – $50,000 (2 available)
    Provide technology-enhanced large classrooms available for instruction and student study.
  • Learning Labs Sponsor – $35,000 (3 available)
    Provide technology-enhanced smaller classrooms available for instruction and student study.
  • Technology Sponsor – $25,000 (3 available)
    Provide hardware, software, technical assistance and installation of digital technology in the Learning Commons.
  • Collaborative Space Sponsor – $15,000 (5 available)
    Provide general study and work space for graduate and undergraduate students.
  • Learning Commons Sponsor – $10,000
    Support enhanced research, writing and academic assistance each student in the Learning Commons will receive.
  • Student Sponsor – $1,700
    Provide services in the Learning Commons for one student. Students will have access to research and writing assistance, tutoring, academic support, digital media production training and assistance.

The Fine Arts Library’s Creativity Commons will transform the way students and faculty use the libraries at the University of Texas. The Creativity Commons will include maker workshop tools found in colleges elsewhere on campus, like 3-D printers and shop tools, in addition to game development, recording and video production studios. The Libraries believe that hosting these labs is pivotal to students’ success because while these tools are available in other areas on campus, they are restricted to students of a certain major. The University of Texas Libraries has partnered with the College of Fine Arts to fund staff to create and manage the various aspects of the Creativity Commons. The overall cost of building the Creativity Commons is $175,000. Funding opportunities for the Creativity Commons:

  • Video Production Studio Sponsor – $50,000
    Provide high-end video technology and equipment to check out and enable students to have access to high-end cameras and a responsive editing facility with large format monitors.
  • Game Developer Studio Sponsor – $35,000
    Provide equipment and technology for game development and testing.
  • Maker Workshop Sponsor – $25,000
    Provide a DIY space for students to create, fabricate, build, hack, and code.
  • Technology Sponsor – $25,000
    Provide all necessary hardware, software, and instillation for the Creativity Commons.
  • Recording Studio – $15,000
    Provide a variety of equipment for song/music creation – keyboards, computers, mixers, microphones and a “voice over booth,” that will have sound isolation for signers and narrators to practice and record vocal parts.
  • 3D Design Workspace Sponsor – $15,000
    Provide a cluster of medium-level 3D printing stations that will be fully support from design assistance to implementation.
  • Student Sponsor – $5,000
    Provide services in the Creativity Commons for one student. Students will have access to state-of-the-art technology and equipment as well as expert training.

The UT Libraries will embark on its very first crowd-funding campaign in March to raise $10,000 for the Recording Studio in the Creativity Commons. The campaign has partnered with five “champions” to spread the word about the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio. Fine Arts Librarian Laura Schwartz, UT Libraries Chief Development Officer Gregory Perrin, Psychology major Rosa Muñoz, Theatre and Dance and Advertising major Sara Robillard, and Librarian and local Austin musician PG Moreno are championing the project to students, faculty, alums, friends, and community members to gain their support. The campaign will kick off on March 23 and run through May 1. For more information or to get involved, please contact Natalie Moore.

Philanthropy continues to play a key role in the Libraries success. Individuals and corporations who invest in the Learning Commons and/or the Creativity Commons will be recognized with their name in the completed spaces they have sponsored. To support the creation of the Learning Commons or the Creativity Commons, please contact Gregory Perrin or visit our online giving page today.

Make It New: A Learning Commons at PCL

Learning Commons conceptual drawings by Gensler.
Learning Commons conceptual drawings by Gensler.

“A real building is one on which the eye can light and stay lit,” exhorted poet Ezra Pound, commenting on the need for architecture to be visually engaging in order to stimulate the mind — a thought that could just as easily apply to that which occurs within a given structure. With the Perry-Castañeda Library’s (PCL) recent entry in the Austin Chronicle’s “Best of 2014” issue with the dubious distinction of “Best Brutalist Architecture,” there’s little promise that the edifice of the 70’s-era building would meet Pound’s condition for generating intellectual inspiration, so the Libraries must instead focus on that which occurs within the walls of its spaces to spark creativity and innovation.

To that end, the Libraries is undertaking its largest transformation of space since the PCL’s construction in an effort to adapt to the changing needs and practices of its users, as well as to the expectations of the larger campus community.

This semester, construction is beginning on phase one of a project to create a cross-campus collaborative space in the Libraries’ flagship branch where student learning at the university will enter a new era. The University of Texas Libraries Learning Commons has been in development over the past 18 months through engagement with campus stakeholders and discussions with university administrators to envision the transformation of outmoded library space into a place where active learning and modern scholarship can occur.

“Libraries have learned from recent paradigm shifts to be more agile than they were traditionally,” says Executive Associate Director Catherine Hamer. “While shrinking budgets compound the difficulty of making wholesale changes to how we operate, we’ve continued planning and executing on efforts that are known needs for students, faculty and researchers. We’ve been developing the Learning Commons as a major strategic goal behind the scenes for some time, and I’m gratified that we’re finally able to announce it as a reality.”

Library space designed by Gensler.
Library space designed by Gensler.

The 20,000 square-foot renovation on the entry-level of PCL will include new technology-rich classrooms built for 21st century learning, consultation spaces and meeting areas. It will boast a modern media lab with high-end software and support for digital media creation that will be available to every student on campus — regardless of college or school — as well as support for faculty who want to incorporate digital literacy into their courses. The Learning Commons will also serve as the new home for the University Writing Center (UWC), the first-of-its-kind partnership between the Libraries and another campus service unit devised to streamline resources for students at UT by locating specialized service at the point of need. Continue reading