The Scholars Commons, a UT Libraries pilot initiative introducing new spaces and approaches to research and data lifecycle support at UT Austin, opens on Wednesday, January 20 at noon. Located on entry level of the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL), it features space for silent study, a Data Lab, an exhibit area and a Graduate Landing Spot with a suite of study rooms exclusively for graduate student use.
Aesthetically compelling and functional in design, the Scholars Commons is a dynamic intellectual environment for scholars at all levels engaged in serious study. It is a gateway to a suite of services provided by the UT Libraries and campus partners to facilitate academic inquiry and scholarship, connecting scholars with librarians and with each other. UT Libraries subject librarians are available by appointment to consult on resources, scholarly publishing, research data management, and digital scholarship, and will provide workshops along with other experts from Learning Sciences and the University Writing Center.
Last spring, UTL librarians conducted focus groups with graduate students and faculty to learn more about their research and writing needs, and received survey input from over 1,100 graduate students and faculty. The Scholars Commons bring to life the spaces and services informed by these members of the UT Austin research enterprise.
The silent study area of the Scholars Commons offers a tranquil place for scholars to focus fully and reflect on their work without distractions. Researchers will be close to UTL’s robust collections and the expertise of service providers at the Research Help & Check Out desk. Study tables, comfortable chairs, and abundant outlets make it easy to drop in for a few minutes or stay for an entire afternoon of productive work. This area will be a unique UTL space on campus in that it is designated as a completely silent study area.
Graduate students wanted a place for networking with their colleagues that would be flexible for a variety of needs and the Graduate Landing Spot in the Scholars Commons is a home for graduate students within PCL. Students can swipe their UT ID cards to enter a suite adjacent to the silent study area comprised of four technology-equipped group study rooms that may be reserved online, a lounge for heating and enjoying meals, and a general purpose study and networking area. This space is open to graduate students of all disciplines.
Part of the pilot will include an increased focus on digital scholarship and the digital humanities. A Data Lab with 15 dual-boot iMacs allows UTL to offer access to high-end statistical analysis software, like SPSS and SAS, for the first time. The Lab can accommodate small classes and library workshops. Faculty interested in bringing a class to the lab to use the software can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Scholars Commons initiative will also highlight and promote UT scholarship in the form of events and rotating exhibits. The first exhibit in the space, Crafting Art and Geology: The Publications of Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877-1947), was curated by Dr. Janice Leoshko from the Department of Art and Art History and Department of Asian Studies. The Scholars Commons will also host lectures and seminars to share the world-class research that is being done at UT.
The Scholars Commons is a pilot project. Librarians and UTL staff will be soliciting feedback from users and taking note of the ways that scholars use the space, including what works and what doesn’t. Come by PCL for the opening event or to investigate the Scholars Commons to find your place for exploration and innovation within the Libraries.