AMHERST, Mass.) Student usage of academic services nearly doubled after Hampshire College centralized the services into Harold F. Johnson Library, in a large, newly renovated space starting this past September 2017. The concept behind the new Knowledge Commons was funded by a $1.2 million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant awarded to the library in December 2015.
The following areas, previously available in dispersed locations around campus, are now offering services in the new central library space:
- Writing Center Help (supervised by the Writing Program)
- Transformative Speaking
- Library Research and Media
- Quantitative Resource Center
- Instructional Technology
- Art Gallery student-exhibition support
- Center for Teaching and Learning
- Holistic Learning
In summer 2017, the library appointed eight alumni fellows to help staff these resources. National Science Foundation data ranks Hampshire as the #6 college/university in the nation by the percentage of alumni who advance to earn a research doctorate in Librarianship and Communication: 6th/872, or top 0.7%. NSF's Survey of Earned Doctorates, most recently published in 2017, tracks the number of research doctorates earned by each college's alumni from 2005 to 2014.
Hampshire began experimenting with centralizing academic services in the library in 2013, when the Writing Center Help program started to hold hours there. Student writing consultations have since doubled.
This fall, seven more academic programs and services joined the Writing Center in the library, in the new Knowledge Commons, providing consultations both by appointment and during drop-in hours. Over the course of the fall semester, together they held 1,086 sessions with students.
The following chart shows the increase in consultations logged by five of the program areas:
|Academic Services: Student Consultations||Fall 2017|
|Library Research Instruction||38||21|
In addition to the Writing Center's "help-at-night" services, highly utilized by students was assistance from Transformative Speaking and from Holistic Learning.
Transformative Speaking met with 200 students through the academic year 201617; in fall 2017, from its new library location, the program met with almost twice that number in just one semester alone. The program develops skills for persuasive public speaking, civic discourse, and interpersonal communication
Holistic Learning hosted 32 sessions in 201617; that number quadrupled in fall 2017. The program develops skills in time management, organization, planning, and goal setting.
In the same period, Library Research sessions almost doubled.
Throughout the fall term, the Knowledge Commons also hosted a range of workshops, on a variety of topics, such as time management, project management, and group support for completing academic work during finals. Seventeen programs drew almost 200 students to participate.
Hampshire College is among the most innovative institutions of higher learning in the United States. Instead of offering majors, it challenges students to design their own programs of study and to recruit a faculty committee to advise them. The college uses narrative evaluations instead of grades, and has been described as a graduate-school model of undergraduate education. Hampshire was founded by its partners in the Five College Consortium Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and UMass Amherst to depart from a traditional liberal arts education.
A Renovated First-Floor Space
Renovations to the first-floor library space were completed for the start of this academic year. The Knowledge Commons contains:
- A classroom that seats 20, for courses and workshops
- Three private-consultation rooms
- One group-consultation room
- Movable furniture
- Lounge seating
- Television screens and a QRC computer station
The hub supports the full trajectory of student work conceptualizing, questioning, researching, creating, and producing. For many students, it promises to transform their academic work from a largely solitary endeavor into one that is more visible and collaborative.
The goals of the Knowledge Commons are to:
- Revitalize a campus center and centralize academic resources
- Provide tools for student success
- Bring together academic programs, services, and technologies
- Create student-centered spaces, resources, and services
- Facilitate collaboration among students, faculty, and staff
Housing the facility in the library was inspired in part by Hampshire's founders' vision developed some 50 years ago for the library to be the heart of the college and to contain the resources and tools for both knowledge consumption and knowledge creation.
The new team of alumni fellows, some full time and others part time, have joined writing fellows, under the auspices of the Writing Program, and Transformative Speaking Program peer mentors. The new fellows are coordinated and supported by Alana Kumbier, associate librarian for the Knowledge Commons and the humanities. In summer 2017, the alumni fellows underwent more than a month of training and planning in advance of the opening of the space. They are developing, in their consultation practice, a holistic approach to academic support that responds to students' intellectual and social needs. At Hampshire, where students curate their education, the goals of the Knowledge Commons are for students to have more agency in accessing resources and to help them thrive.
During the initial planning for the facility, a 15-member steering committee, chaired by Library Director Jennifer Gunter King and consisting of faculty, staff, and students, developed a comprehensive inventory of the academic-support services across campus.
After conducting extensive research, analysis, interviews, and focus groups, the committee identified the following priorities:
- Bring the services together to reside alongside the research librarians and instructional-technology resources
- Create workspaces that are open, collaborative, flexible, and rich in technological tools
- Strengthen and expand "maker-space" labs
- Enhance Hampshire's peer-mentoring program by strengthening training, extending it across the curriculum, and significantly expanding student involvement
To plan for the launch of the Knowledge Commons, library staff and fellows also:
- Produced a slate of resource documentation, both online and in print
- Made significant advances to media-technology services by adding new and updated capabilities for 3-D printing and scanning, for example; 3-D-motion capture and design; media production; and animation
- Planned for improved marketing of services to students
For more information, please visit the Knowledge Commons website, https://www.hampshire.edu/library/knowledge-commons.