Cooper lounge heralds new age of learning
College computer labs are so last century. In fact, many colleges and universities are doing away with them altogether.
Not so at the University of South Carolina.
The university’s Thomas Cooper Library has opened a space that bridges the latest technology and today’s changing college curriculum with needs -- and wants -- of college students. The result is the Cooper Technology Lounge, a modern space that is flexible and creative and fosters collaboration.
“College students today have grown up with social networking and a curriculum that calls for greater collaboration in terms of group study, projects and presentations,” said Alma Creighton, director of library computing services. “We solicited student input for the design of the Cooper Technology Lounge, and we’ve incorporated their suggestions from the soft colors on the walls and privacy screens to the flat screen TVs and comfortable and moveable furniture. It turned out to be an amazing space.”
The Cooper Technology Lounge is the only study and computer lab space of its kind in South Carolina and one of only a few in the country.
Library Dean Tom McNally said the new space wouldn’t have been possible if not for the Class of 1958, which provided the lead gift of $115,000.
“University libraries are seeing more usage of their facilities than at any other time in history,” said McNally. “Our technology lounge is our most used space. What better way to renovate this area than with a gift from our Class of 1958.”
McNally presented a large sign featuring the names of alumni who contributed to the 50th reunion gift to Ken Humphries, a member of the Class of 1958 and a former engineering dean at the university. It was 1958 alumnus Lt. Gen. Gerald C. Bauknight who spearheaded the project.
“It is notable that, although 2008 was a year of hard times around the world, the Carolina libraries still made a number of important steps for the greater Carolina community, both on the Columbia and regional campuses,” he said. “The Class of 1958 congratulates the libraries on the many ways it supports and enhances learning at Carolina.”
Sophomore pre-pharmacy majors Briann Luteran of Tom’s River, N.J., and Josh Rickard of Charleston are among the many students thrilled with the space. The pair study together and like to get together with other students to review and teach one another subjects.
“I like to get myself out of my room and study with people,” said Rickard. “The new lounge is modern and looks nice.”
“We’ve always studied at the library,” said Luteran, “but now we have more study space and white boards that we can use to teach each other organic chemistry or anatomy.”
The Cooper Technology Lounge is inviting, with soft colors on the walls and comfy furnishings. Sixty-four private, individual computer stations line the perimeter.
The interior of the main area provides the academic lounge experience, with its large opaque privacy screens, white boards and large flat-screen TVs that students can plug their laptop computers into. Students can arrange chairs and the various-size tables to fit the needs of any size group.
A second main area features large editing stations that include oversized monitors and the latest software for editing video, images and audio for presentations. For added convenience, hundreds of outlets are available for students to charge their laptops, cell phones, iPods and other personal technology. Eighty laptops are also available for students to check out and use elsewhere in the library.
Student president Meredith Ross talked about the popularity of the library and what the Cooper Technology Lounge means to students.
“The other day, a student said to me, ‘I’m starting to feel a little weird about paying rent to my apartment,’ ” Ross said. “ ‘I feel like that money should go to the library because I spend most of my time there.’ This gift is very meaningful to students because the amount of time we do spend in the library is enormous. What a tremendous new space this is to spend that time.
“It also is a wonderful example for those of us getting ready to graduate to see a class (1958) that has gone on to do wonderful things with their lives but not forget their alma mater and the place that gave them their education.”
Cooper Technology Lounge
- Atmosphere: Soft colors and comfy furnishings encourage a climate of learning; most furniture is easily moved to fit the needs of any study group
- Privacy: Sixty-four individual computer stations ring the perimeter of the facility; main area contains large, opaque privacy screens that can be moved to accommodate any study situation
- Hi-tech convenience: Large, flat-screen monitors can accept laptop connections; editing stations with oversized monitors allow students to work on presentations that may include video, still images and audio; hundreds of AC outlets enable students to charge laptops, cell phones, iPods and other personal technology
- Ease of illustration: Plenty of white boards and markers encourage team learning, whether through sharing illustrations or working out equations or discovering new methods.