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Renovation of Cowles to Start this Summer

Cowles Library is pleased to announce the first major renovation in the Library since 1998’s restoration of the Reading and Atrium. The “Lower Commons/After-Hours” project focuses on student success by providing a quality study space designed to facilitate social learning in a comfortable and safe environment.

What is this project?

Funded by generous donations and matching funds from Drake, the Lower Commons project builds on the success of the study space near Cowles Cafe. Additional amenities — restrooms, a drinking fountain and vending machines — are brought into the immediate cafe area and a new entrance will allow Drake to create an extended after-hours operation for late-night study in portions of the space. The renovation will commence this summer, pending final administrative review.

Reclaiming the “dead space” of what is now a large hallway creates a buffer between the active social learning space of the Lower Commons to preserve the traditional quiet, individual study space of the Reading Room and it’s atrium.  The hallway is actually the entrance to the 1937 portion of the building.  Now known as the “Historic Entry,” we expect this space to be a quieter study area as well as a fine space for selected, small events.

What are the next phases?

The current renovation cycle is expected to continue through 2016.

The Lower Commons space is one component of a larger learning spaces design planning concept for Cowles Library. This particular space is designed as a social learning space supporting informal group work and individual study in a social setting. This space does not directly provide technology tools, classrooms, concentrate academic support services or support formal collaborative activities such as presentation practice. These activities and services will be the focus of the second phase of the renovation (“Upper Commons”) extending throughout the remainder of the First Floor.

The Lower Commons  also facilitates a transition to classical, individual study spaces in the second floor Reading Room and Atrium. Renovation projects on the second floor will include a focus on creating and maintaining technology-enabled, very high quality individual study and learning spaces in more traditional library configurations and converting Room 201 (known variously as the “Glassed-In Room” or “the fishbowl”) into a new campus conferencing center.

How can I learn more?

Visit the project website at The website includes detailed floor layouts, architectural designs, furniture designs, project documents and a discussion area.

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