Getting to know Norlin Library
Getting to know Norlin Library

For 60 years, Norlin Library has served as the destination for University of Colorado students looking for a quiet place to study, do research or just relax and get away from the rat race.

However, as the recent renovations to Norlin come to an end and the library gears up for another school year, a number of new facilities and services await students.

“Exciting things are happening at Norlin,” said Jennie Gerke, electronic government information librarian. “New areas are opening up.”

These new areas include the Learning Commons on the east side of the first floor, which opened this past summer. The Commons includes “all new furniture” and a café, Gerke said.

The café is a branch of the Laughing Goat Coffee House, a locally owned and operated shop on Pearl Street in Boulder.

According to Jennifer Knievel, faculty director of research and instruction at Norlin, the café will serve more than just coffee, offering a menu including “pie, sandwiches, soup and tea.” Norlin’s Laughing Goat is scheduled to be open with almost the same hours as the Learning Commons, Knievel said.

“We intend to have the Learning Commons open 24 (hours a day), five (days a week),” she said.

The Learning Commons also is the site of a new partnership between Norlin and CU’s Information Technology Services. In addition to the computer lab facilities on the first floor, the Commons will hold a desk where students can check out laptops with their university-issued BuffOne Cards, Knievel said.

“We have 120 laptops students can check out,” she said. “They are all Macs, but they can boot into a Mac or Windows operating system.”

Some of the other new amenities available at the Learning Commons include “work stations designed for multiple people” and “group study rooms” which can be reserved, Knievel said.

Another new study area for students resulting from renovations is a “big, airy space” on the second floor of Norlin called the Research Commons, Gerke said.

“The Research Commons has tables that can roll together and apart, letting students study in groups or by themselves,” said Knievel. “It has comfortable seating.”


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Which of the new locations makes for better studying depends on what students want in a work space, said Gerke.

“I think the first floor is probably noisier and better for groups,” she said, “while the second floor is a quieter study space.”

Along with the building in which it is housed, Norlin offers a number of research functions online, meaning students can access library materials remotely with their computers.

“The biggest resource is Chinook (the computer-based CU library system), available on the University Libraries home page (,” said Gerke. “It has all the books and collections in the library.”

Chinook allows students many options when searching online, facilitating research involving books, articles and other resources. When searching, Chinook can bring up results yielding relevant titles, authors, call numbers, availability status and physical location in Norlin; it offers assistance in both the real world and the digital, said Gerke.

“A lot of students don’t realize that if you click on the location listed in Chinook, it brings up a map of where the (work) is located,” she said. “It can be hard to find things in Norlin, especially if you don’t know where to go.”