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. 

It’s not necessarily comfortable or uncomplicated to undertake the reimagining of a building so aged and seemingly monolithic. Staff and patrons have patiently tolerated the disturbances — aural and olfactory — that have emanated from the radically transforming area for the better part of the semester, plus. In the end, any transient discomfort will be rewarded with a refreshed and markedly improved library.

Progress in the new 44-seat Media Lab.The space will meet the needs of the 21st century student, who not only consumes ideas from available resources provided at the Libraries, but who, in turn, uses that knowledge to create something new. The expansion of our Media Lab pilot from last summer into a full-blown 44-seat permanent space is another step toward realizing the expectations of modern library users. And the incorporation of modular sharing technologies into the Learning Labs — four tech-enhanced classrooms in which extra-academic learning opportunities will occur — reflects the development of collaborative study and learning, where individual experiences and perspectives intermingle to create a more comprehensive consideration and clearer understanding of shared ideas.

"Save Your Soles" marketing campaign poster.Location has been a guiding principle in the conceptualization of the Learning Commons, as well. The Libraries’ initial partnership with the University Writing Center is hoped to serve as an example of how collocation can improve academic outcomes by offsetting attrition that occurs when resources and services are spread across campus. Creating a one-stop shop in the center of the Forty Acres will make it possible for students to undertake almost all of the necessary steps for projects and papers — research, collaboration, composition and production — in a singular space, and there are already opportunities availing themselves in discussion with other potential campus collaborators.

At the heart of this project is a desire by the Libraries, their partners and university administrators to impact student success, and helping to generate a student population with competencies in Future home of the University Writing Center.written communication skills and abilities with creative technologies is a promising path to that goal. The Learning Commons will serve students campus-wide, regardless of their college affiliation, with services for needs that cut across the various fields of study at UT, and it’s located in the branch with the largest and broadest selection of general resources on campus.

Look for more information on Learning Commons developments and events over the summer as we approach the anticipated opening of this essential new space for current and future students at The University of Texas at Austin.


Individuals and corporations who invest in the Learning Commons will be recognized with their name in the completed spaces they have sponsored. To support the creation of the Learning Commons, please contact Natalie Moore or visit our online giving page today.

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