Arley D. Cathey Learning Center

The Cathey Learning Center combines the stately reading rooms of the former Harper Library into a renewed space for both individual and collaborative learning. The Main Reading Room is designated for quiet, individual study, while the North Reading Room, with its multiple cubicles and open-seating plan, is ideally suited for group work. The Center also houses the Common Knowledge Café, and a Canon Unified Printing station. The total area of these contiguous spaces approaches 20,000 square feet.

The North Reading Room hosts the College Core Tutor Program and Writing Tutors on Sunday through Thursday evenings, 7–11:00 p.m.

Since opening in Autumn quarter 2009 as the Harper Memorial Library Commons, the space has quickly grown into a dynamic hub of College intellectual and social life. The various environments enable students to transition easily from individual work to formal and informal study groups, attend writing workshops, get help from a tutor, or meet friends and faculty at the Café.  On June 1, 2012, the Harper Commons was rededicated to honor the bequest of College alumnus Arley D. Cathey (PhB'50).

During the autumn, winter, and spring quarters, the Center remains open round-the-clock from Sunday mornings through Friday afternoons; it is also open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Center is open

During the autumn, winter, and spring quarters:
From Sunday 10 a.m. to Friday 6 p.m. (24 hours)
Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

During the winter and spring breaks, and during the summer quarter:
Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Closed all University Holidays except for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Memorial Day.


The Common Knowledge Café

Serving a variety of coffee and tea specialties, the Common Knowledge Café is open from 9 a.m. until midnight Sundays through Thursdays, and until 5 p.m. on Fridays in the East Tower at the main entrance of the Learning Center. The Café stocks a selection of prepared meals from local restaurants for lunch, dinner, and late-night snacks. The space also features a rotating FOTA student art exhibit.

The Al Weisman Corner

Thanks to a generous endowment, the Learning Center subscribes to a broad range of newspapers, magazines, and journals covering fine arts, literature, politics, finance, religion, and culture. Our current subscription list includes over 80 titles. Grab a cup of tea at the Café and relax with the latest issue of Economist, Art in America, Utne Reader, or Gray’s Sporting Journal.

Where are the books?

The former Harper Library housed a collection of roughly 60,000 volumes, which were integrated into the collections of the University of Chicago Library.

Student studying in Cathey Learning Center

One of the world's most beautiful reading rooms

The Cathey Learning Center features regularly in popular lists of the most beautiful libraries and reading rooms in the world. A selection:

"A Day in the Commons" video

In 2010, Andrea Rummel, then a first-year student, created this video documenting 24 hours in the life of the Cathey Learning Center (known as Harper Commons at the time).

Contact us

The main entrance to the Cathey Learning Center on the 3rd floor of the Harper Memorial Building.

General Information: 773.834.7943