Library Learning Commons Executive Summary

Learning Commons Vision

In The Making of a College, the Harold F. Johnson Library at Hampshire was envisioned to be the “educative aorta of the College.” Creating a Learning Commons is in keeping with this vision of a library that serves as the intellectual, cultural and social hub of the college community. With the impending construction of the Portal, and the relocation of the bookstore, we are re-imagining the library as a Learning Commons designed to respond more actively, directly, and with greater impact, to the Hampshire curriculum. The Learning Commons will foster community, creativity and curiosity, supporting Hampshire’s student-driven, project-focused work and faculty’s intellectual lives. While much of the Learning Commons project will focus on renovating the ground floor, there are exciting implications for reprogramming spaces throughout the building’s five floors and the adjacent Airport Lounge. The realization of the Library Learning Commons will make visible our institutional commitment to advancing the “experiment” developed by Hampshire’s founders to meet the challenges of liberal education in the 21st century.

Academic Values:

  • Create and share individual and collective knowledge
  • Facilitate discovery and use of technology and academic resources
  • Foster community, curiosity, and creativity
  • Advance interdisciplinary, collaborative exploration
  • Support student-driven, project-focused inquiry

Design Principles:

  • Open, flexible floor plan
  • Reservable group study space
  • Quiet study space
  • Technology-rich

Learning Commons Key Activities

The key activities to be supported in the Learning Commons include quiet study, group study, social connection, resource exploration and creation. A particular gap addressed by the way the learning space will be configured will be to include designing flexible workshop, training and advising spaces to be used by Hampshire’s robust academic programs seeking visibility and greater integration and access.

Critical Elements of the Library Learning Commons

Cafe: An informal meeting space that increases opportunities for faculty and students to come together in a central, social space — fostering community and connection — and brings the larger campus into contact with resources in the library that are essential to academic work.

Makerspace Media Lab and Technology Sandbox: Building on existing maker space activities in the Advanced Media lab, the Technology Sandbox will be a space dedicated to IT/Library and school experimentation with technologies in support of teaching and learning. A major focus of the Technology Sandbox is a broad array of tools that support “making” at Hampshire, taking advantage of the library’s central location, hours and ability to promote cross-campus creativity and productivity in a highly visible setting that is complementary to creativity suites across campus. The Lab/Sandbox will provide low-barrier access and fostering cross-disciplinary use of technological tools.[1] These tools will be supported, maintained, and replaced as technology needs evolve. Transferring responsibility to the Learning Commons to support 3D printing, for example, will shift the burden of maintenance to the library staff.

Beyond maker tools, the Technology Sandbox can be a platform for resources like gaming stations, virtual labs, etc. Curricular strengths in gaming, animation and the developing entrepreneurial center will benefit from this campus space dedicated to experimenting and testing out technology in a centralized and highly visible location. Envisioned to be like the Technology Sandbox at North Carolina State University, our entire academic program will be able to both see technology in play and learn how it informs our program, leading to an interactive adoption of technology throughout the Hampshire curriculum and relating programmatically to spaces/resources currently found in the five schools.

Academic Hub: Partnering with the Academic Program, the “hub” will bring together the complementary and critical resources of librarian research workshops and consultations, writing support, qualitative and quantitative research support[2], the transformative speaking program, and portfolio academic tutoring (PARC Mentor Program) to create a rigorous, supportive and comprehensive learning environment for all Hampshire students.

Multimedia Gallery: The Multimedia Gallery will provide exhibition, screening and performance space. The gallery will evolve as a cutting edge media and analog environment supporting a robust exhibition program. The gallery is a critical part of the visual arts and sound art program and is an experimenting work space giving rise to programs like the Institute for Curatorial Practice. This renovation will allow for adoption of basic gallery standards (security, temperature and humidity control.)

Learning Commons Impact

The Learning Commons will transform student and faculty experience at Hampshire. It will connect students with resources, bring attention to programs, and support student work throughout the divisional system, alleviating burdens on faculty, staff and even students by providing spaces and services that are directly aligned with Hampshire’s experimenting curriculum. The Learning Commons will also strengthen spaces that support creativity and collaboration, both of which are essential in a successful interdisciplinary and small community. The Commons has the potential to provide visual evidence of what is unique about the College, and that distinctiveness will give Hampshire a competitive edge within the Five Colleges and amongst its peer institutions. Enhancing maker space resources offered within the library will be a beacon to prospective students seeking the Hampshire curriculum to support their creativity and productivity. This growing trend in academic libraries is one that Hampshire can take a lead on within the Five College community. Furthermore, recruitment[3] and retention[4]are directly

supported by this project. The repurposing and reconfiguring of spaces and resources within the existing library will make important strides in addressing the social and academic isolation that students and faculty cite as key challenges to their experience at Hampshire.

Next Steps

This Executive Summary both condenses and prioritizes the primary points of the Library Learning Commons Proposal submitted by the Library Learning Commons Ad Hoc Steering Committee to President Jonathan Lash on January 31, 2014. The proposal was a culmination of three months of preliminary planning led by the ad hoc steering committee, taking guidance from the consultancy of Brightspot Strategy and broadly soliciting input from campus stakeholders, including students, faculty, academic support staff, student life staff, and more.

This Executive Summary also serves as a blueprint for moving forward with the Learning Commons project. We recommend concluding the work of the ad hoc steering committee, and creating small subgroups to: 1) prototype “low hanging fruit” ideas including way finding signage, flexible seating options, and expanded hours; and 2) develop a proposal to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop the Academic Hub concept, program, and service model.

We look forward to next steps!

Notes and References


I Adding to audio and visual editing stations and recording studios, the sandbox will include 3D maker bot  printers, Formlabs f1- High quality stereo-lithographic printer, MakerBot, Large Format 3D Printer, Circuit Board Maker (OtherMill), Electronics supplies, Sensor/actuator library.

[2] Quantitative and Qualitative research support is not currently in place, and needs development.

[3] According to the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers (2006), libraries are an important consideration when students select a university or college and, as a result, academic libraries can help institutional admissions boost enrollment (Simmel 2007, 88). Specifically, the library ranked second in terms of facilities important in the selection decision process; only facilities for students’ majors ranked higher. Libraries were ranked ahead of technology facilities, the student union center, and even recreational facilities (Michigan Academic Library Council 2007, 2).

[4] The link between retention, or “student persistence,” and library use is comprehensively documented in a literature review drawing on sources dating back to [the] 1960s. This study found a statistically significant correlation between library use and persistence: almost 75% of first year students that used the library returned to their second year; just over half that never used the library persisted into their second year (Mezick 2007, 562).

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