Extended and experimenting: library learning commons service strategy and sustainability

Publication Date13 June 2016
AuthorJennifer Gunter King
SubjectLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,HR in libraries
Extended and experimenting:
library learning commons service
strategy and sustainability
Jennifer Gunter King
Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to share a compelling example of a librarys willingness to
develop and design itself as an open-ended process.
Design/methodology/approach The case study provides a historical review of the librarys
founding design, and an overview of the process and approach to redesign. The study contextualizes
the library within current academic library research and literature.
Findings This paper explores the research, engagement and planning process behind the librarys
exploration of new models and service configurations. The project was an engaged, inclusive,
transparent, library-led process. The commons reestablishes the library as the nerve centerof
the campus.
Originality/value The paper offers an update to a 1969 report, and later book by Robert Taylor on
the Harold F. Johnson Library at Hampshire College, designed as a prototype of an academic library.
This paper will be of value to academic librarians, administrators, and historians.
Keywords Integration, Experiment, Learning commons, Service design,
Twenty-first century library design, Knowledge commons
Paper type Case study
Hampshire College, an experiment in undergraduate residential education that
prepares students for a changing world, often forecasts changes in higher education.
Established in 1970, the institution that many referred to as the new schoolbravely
and boldly modeled a form of education that is not delivered through the traditional
structure of the course and textbook, but is experience-based, learner- centered, and
inquiry-driven. Effectively dethroning the course as the sole vehicle for learning,
Hampshire requires every undergraduate student to turn their ideas into action by
imagining their own questions, and then doing the hard work of answering those
questions. Designed by faculty from the other schools in the Five College Consortium
(Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of
Massachusetts, Amherst) Hampshires experiential and interdisciplinary curriculum
has led the way for other institutions to explore innovative and interdisciplinary
pedagogical practices.
The Harold F. Johnson Library has also pushed boundaries. In a 1969 report,
The Extended and Experimenting College Library: Conurations and Functions of the
Academic Library in Transition,Hampshire Librarian Robert Taylor reported to
the US Office of Education that a library can no longer be a sophisticated warehouse
storing and dispensing knowledge to students who happen to come through the door.
Instead, the library must be the center for the creation, use, and distribution of
knowledge in a variety of media, communications-oriented rather than book oriented.
Hampshires library was designed to be a prototype for the academic library of the
future, combining a modest and carefully curated print collection with collaborative
Library Management
Vol. 37 No. 4/5, 2016
pp. 265-274
©Emerald Group Publis hing Limited
DOI 10.1108/LM-04-2016-0028
Received 18 April 2016
Revised 18 April 2016
Accepted 19 April 2016
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