engaging students with primary sources supports inquiry-based learning,
hands-on exploration of meaning, and inquisitive habits of mind. Rockenbach’s
experiences with advancing the use of special collections in the classroom
highlighted the aggressive outreach to faculty that this requires and the
importance of promoting special collections as teaching space.
Shreeves discussed UIUC’s living-learning project, Ethnography of the
University, which requires students to employ archival research in analyzing
issues in the academic environment they inhabit. Shreeves noted that using
archives and publishing in the institutional repository helps students better
understand the implications of their original research and the modern research
cycle, and that assessments show that students feel more engaged than they do
in other class work. Greene described another successful approach in which
innovative teaching grants from the American Heritage Center are given to
faculty to build undergraduate courses around primary sources.
Alignment is not limited to fostering curricular engagement. The value of
special collections can be greatly enhanced by engaging the learning concerns
of broader communities. Special collections can
provide intense personal connections for some users.
Ian Wilson and Fred Heath reminded the audience
that a broader constituency can play a key role in
generating support for an institution’s mission,
whether that constituency is a group of genealogists
or human rights advocates. Josh Greenberg gave the
example of the unexpected turnout of hundreds of
New Yorkers to the New York Public Library’s
Design by the Book debut video-screening party to
learn about book arts. Clough spoke of reaching
over 4,000 people through the Smithsonian’s
offering of free, educational, collection-oriented
webinars. If the core mission of the research library
is to advance knowledge, special collections play a
critical role in advancing inquiry at a most basic level.
As special collections increasingly move to the center of the research library,
activities and resources that increase their accessibility must be mainstreamed.
Assets, skills, and talents across the institution can be leveraged to expose
distinctive collections alongside other information resources. Speakers noted
RLI 267
13
Moving Special Collections Forward in an Age of Discovery: Themes from the ARL-CNI Forum
(
C O N T I N U E D
)
DECEMBER 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
Listen to Ian Wilson describe how special
collections offer leadership opportunities
in the e-world. [4 min.]
http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/rli-267-wilson.mp3
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