Grant will help establish the college library as central to campus learning
Hampshire College’s leaders are invoking the spirit of experimentation that founded the College as they launch a far-reaching initiative to establish the college library as the hub of campus learning and a model for higher education. And a major foundation has endorsed the plan by awarding the College a $1.2 million grant to fund it.
Hampshire has earned the grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in response to the College’s proposal, titled Learning Commons 3.0, for the reinvention of the Harold F. Johnson Library.
Hampshire’s project team will use the funds to develop service models and to modernize and transform the library into an integrated hub of content, tools, and services in support of the College’s curriculum.
The plan promises to result in a prototype that benefits libraries throughout the Five Colleges and beyond, creating a model for 21st-century academic and technological requirements.
“Our efforts will provide our consortium colleges and the broader higher ed community with an example and a process for the continued transformation of the role of the library in education,” said Library Director Jennifer King.
The initiative is the result of more than two years of planning by a 15-member steering committee comprising faculty, students, and staff and chaired by King, an effort funded by a 2014 Mellon grant of $65,000. Using a thorough process centered on extensive interviews of a range of constituents, the committee identified priorities for its learning-commons proposal:
• Academic support services will be brought together alongside the research librarians and their instructional technology;
• Workspaces will be created to be open, collaborative, flexible, and technology-rich;
• Maker-space labs will be strengthened; and
• Hampshire’s current peer-mentoring process will be enhanced with a strong training component and extended across the curriculum, broadening the library’s capacity and expanding student involvement in delivery of services.
Unfolding over four years and involving several stages, the plan will strengthen many existing services and resources, and help guarantee a prominent future for a reimagined facility.
Next page: How the library will offer services in coordination with other departments
“I think it’s the most exciting new initiative on campus,” said committee member Laura Wenk, dean of Curriculum and Assessment, associate professor of cognition and education, and codirector of the Center for Teaching and Learning. “The new structure will support the whole work arc of student projects. Conceptualizing, collaborating, publishing, and sharing work—all of that should happen in this new space. This will make student work more visible as they work more and share more in the library, and make connections with other students, faculty, and staff there. It will no doubt affect how students feel about their college experience.”
The Harold F. Johnson Library will offer services in coordination with Information Technology, the Creativity Center, and the following academic support programs: the Writing Center, the Transformative Speaking Program, the Quantitative Resource Center, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Center for Academic Support and Advising. At present these programs serve students independently and from offices across campus.
According to the Steering Committee’s proposal, the library’s transformation promises to measurably increase student satisfaction, success, and retention. King and the other committee members have expressed deep appreciation to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for funding their proposal and validating their vision.
Through its program in Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation assists select colleges, universities, and research institutes in the work of training educators and producing scholarship. A focus of its grant funding is to support initiatives designed to enhance the learning experience of both undergraduate and graduate students in the humanities, and fostering collaborations within and among institutions.
Laura Wenk commends the work of King as the Steering Committee’s chair and of the committee as a whole: “We met with staff at other institutions and they told us they wish they had ways to involve the campus in decisions the way we have, with less bureaucracy and less pressure from the top,” said Wenk. “Our Steering Committee worked with the whole campus to think about how people use the library and the ways in which services could be brought together to meet user needs.
“This project shows what you can accomplish when you conduct the planning in this way,” she said, “listening to and considering the needs of the real users of the space and services.”
Material from a press release was used in this report.
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