Saturday, April 14, 2012 - 12:38pm
Layout of the proposed Learning Commons

The layout of the proposed Learning Commons

In fall of 2013, University of Iowa students will have a tech-infused, 24-hour, comfy study space and one-stop academic help center … with good coffee.

Designed with significant input from students, the new Learning Commons will provide an “intellectual hub” with space for 500-plus students. The 37,000-square-foot space in the UI Main Library is the product of a unique partnership among Information Technology Services (ITS), University Libraries, and the Office of the Provost.

“The Learning Commons is focused, first and foremost, on furthering the academic success of students,” says University Librarian Nancy Baker. “The staff will provide students with a ‘concierge’ experience. They’ll answer common academic, library and technology questions and point students to the resources they need to succeed, like help with their research, writing, or tutoring.”

Features of the project include 18 group study spaces, 200 desktop and laptop computers, a 45-seat TILE (Transform, Interact, Learn, Engage) classroom with glass walls and sliding doors, printers and scanners, TVs and projectors, and multimedia resources.

“Our design team spent a lot of time watching how students study, and particularly noticed how much they leveraged technology in their daily work habits. This space, with its multimedia resources, collaboration technologies, and wall-to-wall wireless, is reflective of the way today’s students integrate technology into their lives,” says ITS Learning Spaces Director Chris Clark.

Of course, the design team also considered students’ stomachs, because students can’t concentrate on their studies when they’re hungry. The Food for Thought café will offer an expanded menu that includes hot Panini sandwiches, fruit, and other snacks as well as espresso and gourmet coffees.

“We want to create an ambiance that welcomes students,” Clark says.

According to Associate Provost Beth Ingram, the most important feature of the space is its flexibility.

“The Learning Commons is many different kinds of study spaces and services rolled into one,” she says. “With technology, information, and expertise combined in one location, it’s a space where students can study with a group or by themselves; where they can have a coffee with friends and then go to a workshop on stress management; where they know they can get answers to questions about information resources, technology, or tutoring services.”

Of course part of the challenge in creating such a massive space for students is minimizing the impact the construction process will have on daily student life. Associate University Librarian Hope Barton says the impact on current study spaces will be minimal. The area being remodeled was office space, and most of the construction will take place during the summer.

The total project cost is estimated at $14.5 million. The primary funding source is the UI General Education Fund, but that doesn’t cover the entire cost of the renovation. Private support is also critical to creating learning spaces for students. For more information about how private support benefits students, contact Randy Rumery, UI Libraries liaison for the UI Foundation, at, 319-335-3305 or 800-648-6973. You also may visit

“This will really be a fantastic resource for University of Iowa students,” Ingram says. “We’re excited to see the project come to completion so students can start making the most of the new space.”