Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Truly Uncommon Commons at Loyola

"Wow, wow, wow" was all I could say when I stepped inside the Klarchek Information Commons at Loyola University Chicago. I felt like I was in an infinity pool--the floor seemed to disappear into the shockingly blue, wide expanse of lake. The entire back wall which faces the lake is glass, and I had a hard time looking at anything but the lake, even though the commons amenities are quite impressive.

One of my Frye colleagues who works there showed us pictures during one of our morning "sharing sessions" at the institute last month. I was so impressed, I knew I had to visit the next time I was in Chicago. I'm glad I did.

The four floor facility features 220 computer workstations (20% Mac) with good wireless coverage throughout the space. Library and IT help are available at the service desks throughout the commons. Other services include a digital media lab and laptop support for students. The space includes six classrooms and a cafe as well.

In general, the commons is largely devoted to services, study, and collaboration; to access the library's physical collection, visitors must use the walkway connecting the older library building with the new information commons. Interestingly the third floor of the commons is truly a quiet reading room with a "no technology zone" policy enforced; only print materials are allowed there. It seems there is something for everyone here, and indeed, the staff report that the commons is incredibly busy, especially at night.

Back to the amazing building itself--can I say enough about that view? You may be wondering about all of that glass, particularly what it's like to be right on the lake, say in January. So was I. The building is actually silver LEED certified and includes an impressive array of environmental features. You may also be wondering about what the view is like opposite the lake. It's a nice picture of campus, and the fourth floor even includes a "green roof" which contains Illinois native plants and wildflowers. How cool is that.

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to visit, and I encourage you to check it out next time you are in Chicago. In the meantime, here are more pictures from Michael Stephens.

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