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Henderson relishes role libraries play in creating lifelong learners

MONMOUTH, Ill. – A college library’s services might have evolved a lot since Sarah Henderson started work in one, but she said the focus of Monmouth College’s Hewes Library has remained constant.

“College libraries serve a lot of different purposes,” said Henderson, who was recently named Monmouth library director. “They support the academic mission of the college, support faculty and staff, and play an important role in teaching students how to use materials and become lifelong learners. Fifteen years from now, the students might not still be writing term papers but they might, for example, have a relative who is ill, and they need to find sources that talk about the illness and how to treat it and live with it.”

Henderson oversees the three-level Hewes Library building that also includes conference and meeting rooms, as well as a coffee shop. Built in 1970 and renovated in 2003, the building holds more than 350,000 books, periodicals, government documents and videos, and it has access to millions of more volumes through inter-library loan programs.

The Hewes Library also includes special collections, which include the college archives, the Special Collections Room, a gallery for the Shields Collection of Art and Antiquities, and the Len G. Everett Galleries, which hosts student and traveling art exhibits. Established in 1860, Hewes Library’s federal depository is the oldest continuous depository in Illinois.

Henderson and her staff plan to begin to conduct short- and long-range planning, and she said students will be at the center of those discussions.

“The needs of faculty and staff will certainly be addressed, but as an institution, our ultimate priority must be what will make the library most useful and comfortable to the student,” said Henderson. “I don’t intend to make any radical changes right away. I want to learn the patterns and the rhythms of the academic year, and I want to see what the students and faculty like and what they don’t like. My door is always open for people to tell me what they think, what they’d like to see.”

Henderson’s new position is a kind of homecoming. She was the Hewes Library’s access services manager from 2003-06, not long after completion of the building’s $7 million renovation.

“It’s a beautiful building, but the contents are even more important,” she said. “It’s a beautiful, well-rounded collection, and the commitment level of the staff is wonderful. They have excitement and passion, and their level of commitment and dedication to the students is very impressive.”

A graduate of Central (Iowa) College, Henderson earned a master of library and information science degree from Dominican (Ill.) University. Her library experience began in Indiana, where she worked in reference services at the University of Evansville and the University of Southern Indiana. She spent the last 12 years at Minot State (N.D.) University

“I loved Monmouth College when I was here before,” said Henderson, who succeeded her former Monmouth boss, 20-year director Rick Sayre. “It’s a very supportive community, and the staff is phenomenal. The liberal arts are in my blood. Who wouldn’t want to come here?”