Go to:
Discussion
Online Doc
File
Poll
Event
Meeting Request
Suggestion
Megan Mulder's picture

Introduce yourself

Welcome to the Special Collections Teaching Strategies discussion group! Please introduce yourself. What has been your experience in using special collections materials in teaching? What ideas or questions do you have?

Ralph Scott's picture

Hi! I'm Ralph Scott and I work at Special Collections / East Carolina University

I find that classes sometimes vary even with the same teaching instructor. Some are very good and seem interested in our materials, others less so.

Robert Nelsen's picture

Hello,

My name is Arvid Nelsen and I am an archivist and curator at the University of Minnesota. We use both archival and print materials to teach history undergraduate students about working with original research materials. I also used rare book collections at UCSD to teach basic history of the book to a few undergraduate classes.

Joel Kovarsky's picture

My name is Joel Kovarsky. I work part-time in special collections at the Univ. of Virginia, and specialize in early cartographic materials. I use special collections in teaching a portion of a Rare Book School course at UVa, and also a lifelong learning History of Cartography course for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the Univ. of Virginia. I've published a couple of articles re: teaching with special collections materials (in my case, early maps).

M. Catherine Coker's picture

My name is Cait Coker and I work at Cushing Memorial Library & Archives at Texas A&M. I run the Reading Room and tag-team with colleagues on instruction and tours of our collections.

I've found there are basically two types of instruction session with special collections. The first type is what I call the "talk & gawk" where a class comes in to see items related to Topic. They ooh and ahh, but it's really sort of a "visiting the library because it's good for you" sort of thing (or the more cynical "the teacher wants us to teach for an hour so they don't have to" kind of deal). Then once they are out the door you never see them again, unless the same teacher brings another session of the class the next semester or year. Then there is the other kind, which is where the teacher actually gives an assignment for the students to use material in our collections for a report, so the instruction is focused on actually using materials, how to use finding aids, request material, etc. And then you'll see the students coming in again, doing their work.

Anyone else notice certain trends like this? Thoughts?

Megan Mulder's picture

I do both of these types of instruction sessions here at Wake Forest too. And I've also had classes that I thought were one-time visits, but then the prof gives an assignment using special collections materials later in the semester, sometimes without telling me. We ran into this situation just last week. I was out on vacation, and students from a history class showed up asking to see the books that I'd pulled for a class session a month ago. Of course the books had long since been reshelved, and the list existed only in a zotero document on my computer. My poor assistant had to try to figure out what they needed. Lesson learned: print out book lists for each semester's classes and put them in an easily accessible place.

Megan Mulder
Special Collections Librarian
Z. Smith Reynolds Library
Wake Forest University
mulder@wfu.edu

Ralph Scott's picture

Making a list and leaving it at the service desk is a good idea. I am teaching a session today where the Special Collections visit is not even on the syllabus, but I assume the students will turn up soon. For one class using the same book (Albers - Interaction of color) in the past we asked students to sign up for specific time slots, however this semester not having a sign up protocol worked out just fine. The Albers class teacher does not seem to want a special instruction class, so the students just show up and ask for the book. We have also tried a sort of bulk instruction with freshman composition classes. If students get to pick their own topic they often come looking for "Elvis" manuscripts, etc. We find that having a handlist of topics freshman can use for research at the service desk helps the lost.

Sarah Horowitz's picture

I'm Sarah Horowitz, Special Collections librarian at Augustana College.  Augustana is an undergraduate liberal arts institution.  I've worked with a wide variety of classes, from first year general education classes (usually working with materials related to college history) to senior seminars.  We encourage professors who bring classes to Special Collections to do so for an assignment, even if that is only a one minute presentation on something for their next class or a short reflective essay on their experience in Special Collections.  If there is no assignment, I try to get students beyond the "ooh, ahh!" factor by giving them a book or item(s) from a manuscript collection and asking them to come up with something interesting about the item or a question about it to share with the class.

Laurence Creider's picture

I'm Special Collections Librarian in the Archives and Special Collections Dept. at New Mexico State University Library.  Our Special Collections are mostly of items relating to the history and culture of the Southwest, primarily New Mexico.  We have some early books, and a large number of 19th century materials, but relatively in the fine press area.  I do the occasional instruction session for history classes and work in something about A&SpC in those, but many history classes also do specific sessions in our archives.  Next fall, I plan on teaching a course on the history of the book for the first time, and I am looking for discussion and suggestions on that topic.  This will also be the first time I have taught a course, so there are a whole set of anxieties in that area as well as course-specific issues.

  What use are people making of scans of Special Collections materials in their classes?  It seems to me that they might be useful when the class gets over 10 or 12 people.

 

Joel Kovarsky's picture

I have used TIF files to create print reproductions of early maps (from special collections) for a class of up to 14 people. These were scans of several variants (states) of a single map. Each student got a "packet" so they could look at each of the variants. Another way to potentially use scans would be as online adjuncts. If you have some sort of class collaboration software--such as Collab or Blackboard--you can load scanned files onto the online site (maybe using a jpeg so the files are not so large), and students can look at them at their leisure. I hope this is clear; if not, let me know (jsk4q@virginia.edu).

David Pavelich's picture

Hi gang -

I'm David Pavelich, Reference and Instruction Librarian at the University of Chicago's Special Collections Research Center. I'm also the curator of the modern poetry collections. We have a very active instruction program - last fiscal year we hosted 85 classes and many more tours, workshops, and special events. Right now I'm thinking about the use of special collections for creative - as opposed to academic - classes such as creative writing, studio art, etc. In any case, I'm happy for such a forum.

David Pavelich

University of Chicago Library

Julie Grob (non-member)'s picture

It's nice to see so many familiar folks posting here! I met many of you when I taught RBMS' first ever workshop on instruction for special collections librarians last summer in Charlottesville. In my day job, I'm the Digital Projects & Instruction Librarian for Special Collections at the University of Houston Libraries.

This semester we've had a record 20 classes come through Special Collections. Typically over half of them are from the English Department, but I also work with History, Art History, Art, and Music. I have helped a faculty member in English develop an 18th century course for undergraduates which involves multiple class visits to special collections. I'm hoping to develop a similar course with another faculty member.

Our instruction program is in a period of transition right now as I find that it is outgrowing my ability to do it all on my own! I'm incorporating more department staff in other roles, team teaching with subject librarians, and planning to shift to letting some trustworthy faculty teach from our materials without staff present.

I have lots of ideas for instruction initiatives but not enough hours in the day!

Jeffrey Makala's picture

Hi, I'm Jeffrey Makala and I work at the University of South Carolina doing instruction, exhibitions, and curatorial work in Rare Books and Special Collections. I see about 25 classes a semester, and our department hosts about 60 classes a year. Mostly in the humanities, but also in our Ed. and library schools, and I've been working a lot recently with studio art faculty to frame our collections as study collections in printmaking, illustration processes, graphic design, and the book arts as well.

I'm glad to see such an interest in special collections pedagogy, and I also should think we should let the leadership of ACRL's Instruction Section know about this forum - they have at least one teaching practices/pedagogy committee that should have a good deal of interest/overlap with the interests of this group. Is anyone a member of IS as well out here?

 

Megan Mulder's picture

Hi Jeffrey--

The ACRL rep who reviewed our interest group petition actually suggested that it would be more appropriate for us to form under the IS umbrella (or as a discussion group within RBMS). But those of us forming the group sort of felt that special collections instruction is a different enough animal from general library instruction that the Instruction Section wouldn't be a good fit. However, if anyone is an IS member and has a different take, we'd like to hear it!

Megan

 

Megan Mulder
Special Collections Librarian
Z. Smith Reynolds Library
Wake Forest University
mulder@wfu.edu

Julie Grob (non-member)'s picture

Hi Jeffrey,

I am a member of the ACRL Instruction Section and also coincidentally close friends with the current IS chair. She is aware that we have developed the Special Collections Teaching Strategies community, and welcomes any steps to promote it to IS. In fact she forwarded me a call for proposals for instruction discussions for ALA Annual that I'll post separately.

Julie

Jeffrey Makala's picture

Hi Julie, thanks, this is good to know. And to Megan, in your above comments, for this background information.

I like the idea of this group potentially being an umbrella for RBMS, WESS, IS, ARTS, etc. section members to discuss common areas of interest in how we go about special collections instruction in all its guises. I also keep up with a group in ALSC that works with special collections of children's literature, so there is potential interest here from several communities across ALA.

I know a major focus of IS's work is with Information Literacy, and I, for one, embrace a more...holistic...idea of Information Literacy as something that can include teaching critical skills related to understanding 15th and 19th century technologies (i.e. handpress printing and other aspects of book history) as much as it is concerned with 20th and 21st century electronic technologies!

 

 

Kathryn DeGraff's picture

I'm the Department Head of Special Collections and Archives at DePaul University in Chicago, IL.  I've been doing instruction sessions here for over 20 years, and have seen the early "talk and gawk" (I like that, Cait) grow into sessions where faculty who have started out just on the"gee whiz" factor become users of collections for class assignments.   It takes a lot of work to reach that point, at least it has here, but well worth the effort.  I'd be very interested in seeing what others do to assess the effectiveness of instruction sessions on every level, and in knowing how others help faculty develop exercises and projects for their students.

I've already gotten one great tip from the list - I've just started a "class handouts" file at the patron desk.

Thanks to Julie and Megan for getting this off the ground.

 

 

 

Dara Flinn's picture

Hi!

I'm Dara Flinn, and I'm a grad student at the University of North Texas, with a focus on archives and special collections. I know Julie Grob through a special project I did for her at the University of Houston; currently I'm working on a presentation for TLA on the use of special collections to develop presentations for interdisciplinary studies that began as an assignment for a class taught by Pat Bozeman at U of H. I'm also volunteering at Rice University's Woodson Research Center, doing digitization and other projects for their collections. I'm excited to be a part of this group, and I expect to learn a lot!  

Anne Bahde's picture

Hello, everybody, I'm Anne Bahde. I am Special Collections and University Archives Librarian at San Diego State University, and I'm really excited to see this group get off the ground! Our department conducts typical show-and-tells for many departments, and we also work with faculty in a few core departments (History, English, Women's Studies, and Journalism/Media Studies) to develop in-class, out-of-class, and extra-credit assignments that use our materials to teach critical thinking skills and research skills to (mostly) undergrads. I can't wait to talk about ideas, problem-solving, and progress in special collections instruction with all of you! 

Julie Grob (non-member)'s picture

Hi Anne,

I would be interested to know how you promote the out-of-class and extra-credit assignments to your faculty. I find that our faculty tend to have the model of the classroom visit in their minds, and it is hard to get them to think about having students work with Special Collections materials outside of class.

Glad to see you here!

Julie

Anne Bahde's picture

Hi Julie!

I'm going to pop this question out into a new discussion so others can see it in a more organized way. Or rather, I'm going to TRY...I'm still getting the hang of ALA Connect! Let's see if it works.

Nice to see you too, what an absolutely wonderful resource this is!

Best,

Anne

Heather Smedberg's picture

I'm Heather - I am the Reference & Instruction Coordinator at UC San Diego Special Collections and this is my first year in the position. So far I've had a variety of types of instruction sessions from some passive, some practical, both solo and co-teaching with subject specialists librarians or with faculty instructors. Like many of you, I am interested in developing facutly relationships and building more assignment-based visits, etc. I have many questions and even some thoughts, so I am very much looking forward to hearing and sharing ideas with all of you.

Heather Smedberg

UC San Diego | hsmedberg@ucsd.edu

 

Mattie Taormina (non-member)'s picture

Hi I'm Mattie and I attended the great workshop on instruction at RBMS last year (2009). Maybe I met some of you there? Many thanks to Julie Grob for doing such a great job.

Our rare books curator does most of the graduate level classes but I handle mostly the freshman and sophmores. I personally do about 30 classes a year, serving almost 425 students.

Megan Mulder's picture

Hi Mattie! Great to hear from you. I'd be interested to know what you're doing for freshman and sophomore classes. I personally find these classes more challenging in some ways than the upper-level ones, which tend to be more subject specific.

 

Megan Mulder
Special Collections Librarian
Z. Smith Reynolds Library
Wake Forest University
mulder@wfu.edu

Mattie Taormina (non-member)'s picture

Hi Megan,

If you would be willing to describe why you find the freshman and sophmores challenging I'd be happy to respond directly to that, but  we mostly get Freshman and Sophmores in a class called "PWR" which is a mandatory writing class they have to take. It is not mandated that the class come to Spec but they have to come to the library proper and some of the instructors bring them here. The classes I do contain an intro to archival literacy and I always try and get a nice mix of rare books, manuscripts, and university archival materials.  The topics for the classe vary on what they are studying so it is always a chance for me to learn (which I love!).

One thing about Freshman here though is that I encounter what I like to call the "freshman freeze": where they are so new and maybe shy (?) that they don't respond or emote so you don't know if they are interested in the materials or just playing it cool. This can be very tough!

Mat

Juli McLoone's picture

Hi, my name is Juli McLoone and I'm the rare books librarian at the University of Texas at San Antonio.  I'm hoping to expand our instruction program this coming year and encourage more professors to integrate special collections materials into their syllabi.  One of the challenges we face is that our reading room is fairly small (maximum seating 12) and there is no separate classroom near Special Collections, which makes it difficult to do more than "show-and-tell" for larger classes.

Juli McLoone
Rare Books Librarian
University of Texas at San Antonio
210-458-5988

Lynne Thomas's picture

Hi, I'm Lynne Thomas, the Head of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University. Our instruction runs to about ~25 classes per year, from home-schooled grade schoolers through graduate students in a bunch of subject areas.

Heather Smedberg's picture

Hi Juli and everyone,

I too feel limited by what we can do for classes larger than a dozen or so. And sooo many of the undergraduate classes on appropriate topics are larger than that. Like, 80+ or 120+ students. Even upperdivision undergrad classes tend to be 50+ The intimate seminar class is rare that I've seen at least. So I run into this problem often.

There are other rooms in the library that accomodate the 20 or 30 something classes, but these rooms are hot commodities, and really don't have adequte space for working with SC materials anyway. Even still there are a good chunck of classes that are still too large for this size room.

I have carried materials to the classrooms on campus, used a document camera, and tried to set up space to interact with the materials, but these rooms are set up lecture style in an enormous auditorium and not at all conducive to the kind of intimate work with the collections we all strive for the students to do. Plus in one class (evening) they were eating dinner. Like, full on meals in class in one situtation, so that definitely changed my "handling the materials" approach!

Our SC seminar room, our only classroom space within Special Collections, is set up for meetings and there is no projector or computer of any kind at this point. And the table is not conducive to small groups, although pairs can work okay, and the investigate your book and share it with the class model will work, but only if the class is small enough, which has yet to be the case for me.

To get around the projector issue for one grad seminar, I asked the students to bring their own laptops to the SC seminar room for the  catalogs, finding aids, , bib instruction portion of the show. This was wierd because there was no projector so I had to walk around and repeat myself a lot, but with only 7 students (and I facutly member who learned a lot, too!) it kinda worked. Kinda. A few of  these grad students (and the faculty instructor!) had not yet configured their computers to get on the library's wireless network and so we had additional problems with that. GAH!

So in my setting there is usually *some* room available, even if none of these rooms really lets me do *all* of what we hope to do including, 1) introduce SC space, materials, procedures, etc. 2) allow the students to work with the materials in ways that engage their critical thinking and inspire creativity 3) teach the tools and methods for finding and accessing these materials in our own library and elswhere in the world.

So in choosing a space I have to think about tradeoffs - what is most important for this particular class. Or more realistically, what if anything can I pull off for this class. Sure, we'd like #1, but maybe that's just not going to work, and maybe #3 will just have to be on an after-class consultation basis and all we can really get to is #2 in this situation - and hopefully we can make that happen!  Or maybe #2 will have to come in an out of class assignment and the #1 (if we're lucky) and an orientation and #3 is all I can achieve for some classes.

I'm trying, but it's hard at times. Any brilliant ideas out there, brilliant people?!

Heather

p.s. we are getting a projector in our seminar room, so at least for the small grad seminar classes we can do what we need to do. Yay!

Juli McLoone's picture

It's not a perfect solution to the space problem, but I thought I'd share something we're doing this week with 45 sophmores.

The instructor scheduled two 50 minute class sessions in the library (Mon. and Wed.) and we arranged to co-teach with the interdisciplinary studies bibliographer.  The bibliographer took half the class to the library's computer lab to cover catalog and database searching, while we took the other half to another library classroom with tables, but no computer workstations. 

The instructor really wanted the students to have hands-on experience with archival materials, but even at 23 , the group was too large for our reading room, and our current policy is that manuscript collections do not leave the department.  To get around this, we made five packets of color photocopies of materials from our Rosita Fernandez collection.  After giving a general introduction to using primary sources, we asked the students to work in small groups to browse through the packets and fill out the 6 c's worksheet for one of the items, using the other items and an accompanying article to provide contextual information.

This was possible, of course, only because the instructor was willing to schedule two library days, but I think the divide-and-conquer strategy might be one we'll pursue again in the future.  With a smaller class of 20-25 students, splitting the class would give us a small enough group to allow hands-on time in the reading room with the collections themselves.  

 

Juli McLoone
Rare Books Librarian
University of Texas at San Antonio
210-458-5988

Juli McLoone's picture

It's not a perfect solution to the space problem, but I thought I'd share something we're doing this week with 45 sophmores.

The instructor scheduled two 50 minute class sessions in the library (Mon. and Wed.) and we arranged to co-teach with the interdisciplinary studies bibliographer.  The bibliographer took half the class to the library's computer lab to cover catalog and database searching, while we took the other half to another library classroom with tables, but no computer workstations. 

The instructor really wanted the students to have hands-on experience with archival materials, but even at 23 , the group was too large for our reading room, and our current policy is that manuscript collections do not leave the department.  To get around this, we made five packets of color photocopies of materials from our Rosita Fernandez collection.  After giving a general introduction to using primary sources, we asked the students to work in small groups to browse through the packets and fill out the 6 c's worksheet for one of the items, using the other items and an accompanying article to provide contextual information.

This was possible, of course, only because the instructor was willing to schedule two library days, but I think the divide-and-conquer strategy might be one we'll pursue again in the future.  With a smaller class of 20-25 students, splitting the class would give us a small enough group to allow hands-on time in the reading room with the collections themselves.  

 

Juli McLoone
Rare Books Librarian
University of Texas at San Antonio
210-458-5988

Elizabeth Chase A.'s picture

Hello - My name is Liz Chase and I am Coordinator for Research Services at Emory University's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. I started teaching instruction sessions while working for MARBL as a grad student, and am now in charge of managing and developing our instruction program as part of my job as Coordinator.

I'm interested in hearing about how librarians and archivists have worked to integrate themselves into classrooms and to work as peers with faculty members in designing syllabi and assignments.

Thanks!

Matthew Reynolds (non-member)'s picture

Hi all,

My name is Matt Reynolds.  I'm the Public Services Librarian for the North Carolina Collection at East Carolina University (and a colleague of Ralph Scott.  For five years I have coordinated my department's instructional efforts and have found it to be by far the most enjoyable part of my job.  Most of the BI sessions have come as part of a project with second semester English composition students, but I've led sessions for courses focusing on anything from Ecology to Criminal Justice, to Labor History and beyond!

Chellammal Vaidyanathan's picture

Hi! My name is Chella Vaidyanathan. I work as the History Librarian and Curator of post-1800 Historical Collections at Johns Hopkins University. Recently, I came across this discussion group and I am interested in learning about how rare books/ special collections classes are being assessed at other institutions.

Janet Brewer's picture

Hi Everyone,

I'm Janet Brewer, Library Director at Anderson (IN) University.  We are responsible for both the Anderson University & Church of God Archives and the Elizabeth & James York Rare Books and Special Collections.  There are several folks that work specifically with processing, management, and reference for both areas and I oversee that work.  The Rare Books and Special Collections unit is fairly new and I am the point person for trying to incorporate its use across campus and beyond.  I am particularly concentrating on the on-campus part and networking/teaching strategies.

Amanda Lewis's picture

Hi everyone!

I'm Amanda Lewis, I work as a monograph cataloging associate for the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. I work primarily as a copy cataloger with some original cataloging and I additionally assist as a student worker supervisor for our library's learning commons every other weekend. I've had my MLS from the University of Missouri-Columbia (Dec. 2013) and am interested in learning more in the cataloging field, special collections/ rare books, as well as public libraries with a focus on teen and adult programming. I love it all!