New commons area to feature university’s first silent study space

Forrest Milburn

The University opened its first completely silent study space on Wednesday in response to students dissatisfied with UT Libraries’ quiet spaces.

After receiving input from graduate students and staff on what would best help them with their studies, organizers said the Scholars Commons — located on the entry level of the PCL — will create a space encouraging a research-friendly atmosphere for students needing to finish their work.

“Whereas we have all these other spaces around PCL that are sort of noisy and boisterous, this one’s going to be much more reserved and quiet for serious scholarship and scholarly study,” said Travis Willmann, UT Libraries communications officer.

Although the Scholars Commons is open to all current students, Willmann said UT Libraries expects the space to primarily serve graduate students working on research.

Aside from the open commons area for studying, students will also find a computer lab with programs, including data analysis software such as Tableau Public and Stata/MP on 15 iMacs. Organizers said the lab will also be open to current students in need of specialized software.

“The pockets of access to the software we’re providing access to are scattered across campus and sometimes by department affiliation,” Jenifer Flaxbart, research and liaison services librarian for UT Libraries, said. “Here, anyone with a current student or staff member ID can come and access those software programs on the computers.”

Graduate students will have the opportunity to have their works and curations showcased from time to time in a small exhibit area near the commons’ entrance, which is currently showcasing a work titled “The Scholarly Voice Through Geology and Art” from the Department of Art and Art History.

“I imagine that [exhibits] will be … a mix of artifacts, including print materials, scanned items and works of art that provide a visual representation from any discipline at the graduate or faculty level,” Flaxbart said.
The Scholars Commons also features non-silent meeting rooms and study areas solely for graduate students in an effort to promote collaboration on assignments across all departments and schools at the University, Willmann said.

Ellen Murray Coonrod, art education graduate student, said she was excited to see how the commons, especially the graduate student area, would incentivize collaboration among students.

“There’s so few opportunities for class division and collaboration across the schools, and I think this could be a potential instigator for that,” Murray Coonrod said.