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History of the Commons

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History of the Robert S. Lemle '75 and Roni Kohen-Lemle '76 Academic Commons in Mudd Center

In response to changes in student learning patterns, changes in libraries and educational technologies, and perceived campus needs for improved academic community and cultural space, a group consisting of representatives from the Library, the Center for Information Technology, Audiovisual Services, and the General Faculty Library Committee laid out broad outlines of a plan to create an information and learning commons on the main level of Mudd Center. The resulting project will be the first phase of a larger process of rethinking the Mudd building in order to enhance its centrality to the College's academic and cultural life. In August, 2006 the DesignGroup of Columbus, Ohio was selected as our planning architects.

The commons would provide centralized and coordinated research, information, technology, and learning assistance for Oberlin students. It would include an adjacent café that provides academic community space designed to encourage faculty-student interaction. It would bring together or coordinate a variety of services that are currently available in separate locations on campus and also introduce some new services. The commons would contribute to two areas of the College's strategic plan - curricular support and community building.

Specific components of the commons would include reference and research assistance; technology support; a combined library circulation and reserve service; an electronic classroom; current newspapers and periodicals as well as recent library acquisitions located adjacent to comfortable seating; and campus exhibition and cultural events space. Utilizing primarily peer advisers and consultants, the area would provide support for academic advising, writing, quantitative reasoning, and other learning needs. It would also serve as a central location for information about college offices, services, and events, reducing bureaucratic barriers and enhancing the extent to which students take advantage of College resources.

The commons would be rich in computing and educational technology. In addition to numerous networked workstations, it would provide advanced technology (such as digital imaging and editing software) that would support a variety of media projects. It would also include technology-based group study space and collaborative work areas. The commons would be open for extended hours - until 2 or 3 a.m. weekdays - though not all services would be provided during all hours of operation.

The planning group hopes that the commons can be completed by the beginning of the fall 2007 semester. The group is beginning a more detailed planning process that will involve consultation and input from various College administrative offices, students, physical plant staff, and faculty and strategic planning groups. Planning will be strongly focused on student learning and student-faculty interaction. The project will require some renovation of existing space, which would be completed during the summer of 2007. Initial work to create space for the commons (by removing the outdated Dewey Catalog, relocating the government documents collection to upper levels, and reducing the size of the reference collection) will be completed in the summer of 2006 and during the 2006-07 academic year.

Last updated:
September 30, 2012