Photo of Nancy Allen, Dean of Penrose Library

“The Academic Commons at Penrose Library will be a dynamic center that will support social learning, interactive technologies, student-centered programs, and, of course, individual study and reflection.”

Nancy Allen, Dean of Penrose Library

Introducing the Academic Commons

Libraries have always held a special place in the public’s imagination. They are centers of exploration and inquiry, of mystery and romance. They’re conservators of knowledge and intellectual heritage. The late Lady Bird Johnson once said of libraries, “Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.”

To adapt to changing times and demands, university libraries across the nation are rethinking everything from how they care for collections to how they assist patrons. That’s especially true at the University of Denver, where Penrose Library is embarking on a remarkable transformation into a new people-focused enterprise: the Academic Commons.

The Academic Commons at Penrose Library will be a dynamic center that will support social learning, interactive technologies, student-centered programs, and, of course, individual study and reflection.

In the new Academic Commons — housed in a reconstructed, state-of-the-art, LEED-certified building — students and faculty will find plenty of books and journals. They’ll also find a light-filled space designed according to a new learning model, one where students can work in groups, develop team projects, use the latest technology in innovative ways, and collaborate with professors and each other.

Just as important, there will be continuity of service. As always, students can tap into services offered by the Writing Center, the Research Center, the Math Center and the Technology Help Desk — housed together in one location. Faculty will be able to draw on a vast array of resources, including the expertise of the Center for Teaching and Learning. There, they will benefit from many new opportunities related to pedagogy, from applying the latest technology in the classroom to learning the art of blogging.

Penrose Library has long offered DU students and faculty a robust learning center. But the truth is that the building — for all its midcentury modern charm — belongs to another era.

When Penrose was built in the early 1970s, library spaces were designed to support individual study and a teaching style largely dependent on lecturing. Information had an address in the stacks or within a roll of microfilm. A research project started with the card catalog.

Today, a new adventure in learning lies ahead. Penrose will continue to be the place where history comes to life, thanks to Ascend: The Campaign for the University of Denver. We are incredibly fortunate that the Academic Commons at Penrose Library will allow us access to extraordinary materials located around the world, as well as our own, right here, on site. Is there any higher or nobler cause than the promotion of wisdom and knowledge? As the inscription over the door of the ancient library at Thebes read, the new Academic Commons at Penrose Library will continue to provide “medicine for the soul.”

— Nancy Allen, Penrose Library Dean

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Ascend — The Campaign for the University of Denver