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University of Pennsylvania Library
Office of the Vice Provost and Director of Libraries


Contact: Joe Zucca, Dir. for Planning and Communications
215-573-4643 voice
215-898-0559 fax

APRIL 20, 2006


Prospective students and their parents seldom ask to see laboratories when they're making the rounds at universities. But at the University of Pennsylvania in recent days, one visiting high school student and his father made a point of visiting the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center in order to see Penn's new laboratory for undergraduate research, the David B.Weigle Information Commons. Judging by student response following the Commons' formal opening on April 11, the Library will be a main stop for many freshmen hopefuls at Penn.

A joint initiative of the School of Arts and Sciences and the Library, the Weigle Information Commons is a spacious facility designed to support collaborative learning. The Commons boasts some of Penn's most impressive technology, including Thinkpads, wireless keyboards, flatpanel monitors mounted on articulating arms, plasma displays, projection systems, and wireless networking. The Commons is home to the College Technology Center and the Vitale Digital Media Lab, places where students can use advanced technologies to develop research projects, hone their presentation skills, work with video, sound and digitized texts, and publish on the web.

The technology in the Weigle Information Commons is distinctive, but the facility is much more than a high end computer lab. From the project's earliest conception, Penn officials viewed it as an opportunity to co-locate a variety of learning support services-services that combine specialties of the Library and the School. "What differentiates this project," said Vice Provost and Director of Libraries Carton Rogers, "is the thoughtful integration of expertise and services that are often separated by organizational or physical boundaries on university campuses." In the Weigle Information Commons, resources of the Library are allied with those of Arts and Sciences to help students perform data analysis, acquire writing and research skills, develop learning strategies, and engage in peer to peer learning.

According to Rogers, the Weigle Information Commons will enable new forms of collaboration among librarians, faculty, and other academic professionals. "We're working on new service and program models that complement the many new teaching and learning modalities evolving on our campus." Even as they prepared for construction, the Library and School began experimenting with events that promoted research skills and showcased student scholarship. That experience has informed a slate of research and writing programs that were launched when the Commons opened on April 11 and will continue to develop in the next academic year.

The 6,800 square feet occupied by the Weigle Information Commons is located at the center of Penn's campus and the hub of undergraduate activity from early morning to the middle of the night. In addition to the Digital Media Lab, a large seminar room for classes, and several consultation desks, the Commons offers a variety of distinctive study environments, all designed with student input collected over several months. There are ten computer-equipped group study rooms, open alcoves where students can reconfigure tables and chairs for group work, and twelve diner-inspired study booths which seat four and come outfitted with a Thinkpad and pivoting flatpanel display for use by project teams.

Although the diner booth concept has been employed elsewhere, the installations in the Weigle Information Commons were designed with student input using mockups stationed in the Library months before construction began. At the Commons' opening, it became immediately clear that student advice on the booth design and other aspects of the study spaces had paid off. One of the first visitors said it all: "These study rooms are beautiful - a researcher's dream." In all, the Commons seats 187 and is surrounded by scores of recently updated study and service facilities and the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library's 2.3 million volume collection.

A successful fundraising alliance complemented the programmatic partnership between Penn's Library and its School of Arts and Sciences. The Weigle Information Commons is a reality because of the generosity of Penn alumni and Library friends, which included a $1 million naming gift from Penn alumnus, David Weigle. Plasma screens and Thinkpads were provided through a gift by Lenovo/Microsoft. For more on the Weigle Information Commons at the Penn Library, including photos and a floor plan, visit the Commons page.

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