Have a cup: Library adding creature comforts, coffee

Students, faculty and staff returning to the Jane Bancroft Cook Library this fall are finding a more inviting, more comfortable, and more caffeinated environment.

Major renovations to the first floor include new furniture and a new layout to accommodate group study, private study and a lounge area.

But the centerpiece of the new Library Commons is a coffee shop, where the New College and USF Sarasota-Manatee students and staff can grab a free cup from 8-10 a.m.,  and 8 p.m. to midnight.

The library will have a grand opening Sept. 6 starting at 5 p.m., to show off the new space to students, staff and potential donors.

Brian Doherty, the dean of the library, says it’s all about creating a place where students want to be. “The main goal is to get people in the library,” he said. “Particularly at a small school, we can see people in silos. We want to break down the silos.”

Libraries, Doherty said, used to simply be a warehouse for books. But starting in the 2000s, designs such as the Google open space concept started to change the way people collaborate. Open, comfortable spaces foster creativity, Doherty said. “We want to have students to want to be here and to be able to be engaged for long periods of time.”

An artists's rendering of the Cook Library Commons area.
An artists’s rendering of the Cook Library Commons area.

Plans for the Commons were born when Doherty, Provost Barbara Feldman and Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Julie Morris attended a conference at Pepperdine University over the summer, where they saw the potential of what a library can be for a college. “Then the question became, ‘How do we do this?’” Feldman said. “How far could we go in terms of making the library a welcoming space based on the funds we could scrape together?”

At Pepperdine, they saw furniture that included pod-type personal study areas, as well as collaborative working spaces, “Which seemed like the way to go,” Feldman said. “We’ll see what students like and what they use. Then we’ll look to raise money to do the second floor.”

Feldman says she has supplied 1,000 reusable travel mugs that were distributed to students during Orientation that will hopefully reduce the amount of waste the coffee shop generates.

The coffee will be free, although Feldman says there will be a box for users to make voluntary donations. She feels strongly that even though the coffee shop won’t be a moneymaker, it’s important to have a place for students to safely gather on campus late at night.

It turns out the new space may not only be comfy and convenient – it may boost student performance. Doherty said research has found a correlation between the amount of use of modern libraries, which collect and store information in a number of ways, with student performance. “It impacts not only retention rates, but success rates. Employers expect students to be able to work with all kinds of information.”

Other aesthetic upgrades students will notice this fall is the addition of more color on the walls and improved lighting — the fluorescent ceiling lights have been replaced with LED fixtures.

“The library was built in 1986,” Doherty said. We’re trying to move forward.”

Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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