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From left, Jeff Keehan, Peter Lawrence and Nathan Jones, all UW-Madison chemical engineering students, study at a table in the new, fourth-floor learning center at Wendt Commons. The six-sided tables are outfitted with laptops and can be used for scheduled group classes, individual study or group study.


A stack of books stood there a year ago. Now there is a beehive of hexagon-shaped tables, laptops, and flat-screen TVs.

Welcome to the modern university library.

UW-Madison will unveil new learning centers Tuesday at two campus libraries: College Library (UW-Madison’s undergraduate library) and Wendt Commons Library (the engineering library).

The centers are part of a general trend at college libraries away from print collections and toward flexible spaces.

The new centers, called the Wisconsin Collaboratory for Enhanced Learning Center, or WisCEL (pronounced “whistle”), are intended to be able to transform from a classroom, to a small group work space, to a place to study or get tutoring.

Renovating the two spaces cost about $2.5 million and is funded through the vice chancellor for administration’s office. Funds for operating the space comes from the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates, the Student Information Technology Initiative, the College of Engineering and the College of Letters and Sciences.

The spaces are outfitted with technology so students can watch videos, work in groups on computers or get immediate feedback through Web-based software.

“We aim to provide a personalized learning experience, even while teaching large numbers of students,” said John Booske, a UW-Madison professor of electrical and computer engineering, in a statement.

Officials hope the spaces will be utilized more than they were before.

At Wendt, the space formerly contained “low-utilization” books and a group study area, said Suzanne Smith, coordinator of the learning centers. At College Library, the space had silent-study carrels, which only got heavy traffic before final exams.