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Hendrix Introduces New Learning Commons

Learning CommonsCONWAY, Ark. (September 16, 2015) – Hendrix College students can now access peer tutoring services more easily, thanks to the new Learning Commons introduced this fall by the Bailey Library and the Office of Academic Success staff.

“We have been talking to each other for a long time,” said Bailey Library Director Britt Murphy. “Our two departments are on the same page about supporting students and their success, so we’ve had an ongoing and open conversation for a long time about ways we can work together.”

Bailey Library and Academic Success staff have previously worked together to create a dedicated space for proctoring tests, Murphy said.

The current Bailey Library was built in 1994, but since library resources have gone increasingly digital, fewer students regularly use it now, Murphy said.

Having students physically visit the library and interact with library faculty and staff will also positively affect retention and graduation rates, she added.

“There are several studies that demonstrate how libraries help colleges retain students because they help teach research and study skills,” Murphy said. “But we can’t help them in the ways we’d like to if they don’t come. That’s why we have to find ways to collaborate and help students.”

When Dr. Terri Bonebright became Hendrix Provost, she immediately noticed that many academic buildings were open 24 hours, seven days a week, for students to study. She began looking for an alternative to get student support services into a more centralized space with tutoring services and staff that could help with research projects.

"I am excited about having a one-stop shop that provides a space where students can work with tutors as well as work together on projects,” Bonebright said. “This will assist in continuing the tradition of having the library be the heart of the intellectual life of the campus outside the classroom."

With space available and staff in place, as well as being the home of the campus Writing Center, Bailey was a natural fit for a common learning space.

The southwest corner on the first floor of Bailey Library was previously used for students to read microform materials, but that space was not regularly utilized.

Two staff offices were moved to the second floor, and the microform and video lab resources were moved into those first floor offices, freeing up space for the new Learning Commons. The library was also able to repurpose existing furniture to accommodate the new program. In addition to the former microform space, the Learning Commons will utilize space in the Bailey Library bibliography lab and the 24-hour study space.

Charnley Conway, assistant director of the Office of Academic Success, has wanted a central location for tutoring since he came to Hendrix in 2007.

“I am very excited about the change,” Conway said. “Our upperclassmen tutors are excited too because they can use Bailey Library to study between tutoring sessions.”

Last year, peer tutoring had more than 1,000 contacts, Conway said.

“That’s a lot of tutoring,” he said.

This year, the Learning Commons will include 15 tutors covering cell biology, ESOL, foreign languages, organic chemistry, and physics. The Math Help Center and Writing Center are also housed in Bailey Library.

The Learning Commons will be open 6 – 10 p.m., Sunday – Thursday. Peer tutoring services are available at no charge and on a walk-in basis as needed or if recommended to a student by a faculty member. Students are required to “sign in” with a card reader, which will enable the Academic Success office to track the Learning Commons’ usage for reporting purposes.

The new program will be evaluated and may evolve depending on student response. In the future, Murphy hopes the College can integrate technology into the space in a better way, possibly having a maker space or a tablet cart for students to check out devices. Upgrades in technology may require rewiring the space to give students more places to plug in and charge devices. Increasing the strength of the wireless network may also be needed in the future.

The Learning Commons follows a popular trend in repurposing libraries into general public learning spaces, Murphy said. For example, Bailey has hosted art exhibits, board game nights, book club meetings, book sales, and poetry slams, she said. This fall, Bailey will host a student photography exhibit that documents an Odyssey project, which studied the campus cat colony. Murphy hopes that Bailey can also expand the role of art on campus and utilize exterior space for outdoor sculpture.

About Hendrix College

Hendrix College is a private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas. Founded in 1876 and affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884, Hendrix is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think about Colleges and is nationally recognized in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings for academic quality, community, innovation, and value. For more information, visit