RLI 283 16
Integrating Special Collections into the Composition
Classroom: A Case Study of Collaborative Digital Curriculum
Matthew Vetter, Assistant Director of Composition and Graduate Teaching Associate, English
Department, Ohio University
Sara Harrington, Head of Arts and Archives, Ohio University Libraries
I research.1 As the encyclopedia becomes a given in student research processes, librarians and teachersWikipedia for course-relatedWikipedian 2010, 73% of college students reported using the online encyclopediaare increasingly recognizing the importance of teaching students about this source.
also offers a number of opportunities for librarians and academics interested in digital curriculum
development. The following case study describes a collaborative project to embedWikipedia and special
collections into the student experience. The project was designed by authors Matt Vetter, PhD candidate
and teaching associate in English, and Sara Harrington, head of arts and archives, at Ohio University.
New to her position, Harrington wanted to collaborate with a teaching faculty member in a way in which
“the boundaries separating the disciplines begin to blur, and the partners are in the space of collaboration
or of listening together in this special way. The partners find a language and common goals.”2 The project
was executed with significant contribution from Bill Kimok, Judith Connick, and Doug McCabe, staff at
Ohio University Libraries’ Robert E. and Jean R. Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections.
In Line with Strategic Directions
From the Ohio University Libraries’ strategic perspective, the project modeled a programmatic
direction for the use of special collections that addressed a number of goals. First, the project supported
the integration of special collections and archival materials, alongside “regular” library collections,
into departmental and course curricula. Because the project entailed direct partnership between the
libraries and the composition program, it also promoted interdisciplinary collaboration and aligned
with initiatives to “embed” librarians into the work of university departments and programs. Engaging
directly with Wikipedia further allowed the utilization of digital technologies for mainstreaming activities.
Mainstreaming special collections in the undergraduate classroom is increasingly part of information
literacy efforts.3 Knowledge creation by students is also an information literacy priority.
Organizational change within the Ohio University Libraries was foundational for the project. Enhanced
collaboration with faculty and colleagues and fostering new uses for special collections were imperatives
outlined for Harrington’s position by the library administration based on current strategic directions.
Additionally, the libraries used the balanced scorecard methodology to produce a living strategic
document that guides the daily work of the organization. Building on the Ohio University Libraries’
mission, vision, and values, the organization defined strategies and measures to assess work done
towards achieving the mission of the libraries. The measure most pertinent to this project is the “number
of classes where students are interacting with the Libraries’ unique materials to produce a publicly visible
product.” This project thus served as a model for the libraries in both the nature of the collaboration and
the product. Harrington hopes in the future to partner with subject librarians and faculty members to
produce similar products using special collections materials.
RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC 2013