SPEC Kit 317: Special Collections Engagement · 13
Curricular Engagement
Engaging university students in using special collec-
tions is also an important activity all of the academic
library respondents pursue this avenue of outreach.
Slightly more is being done to engage undergraduate
students than graduate students through curricu-
lum, and 80% of respondents have undertaken at least
some of the following activities: worked with faculty
to develop courses or assignments that use special
collections materials, consulted with students one-on-
one as they use collections for coursework, conducted
in-person instruction for classes in special collections
spaces, and/or consulted with students in groups as
they use collections for coursework. Departments are
reaching out through in-person instruction in regular
classrooms, creating course-related Web pages/subject
guides/LibGuides of special collections materials,
and working with students to create physical exhibits
using special collections materials. Staff members are
attempting to engage students in innovative ways,
such as developing instructional videos about collec-
tion use, offering research fellowships and internships,
and reaching out to students at the pre-college level.
Special collections departments tend not to have
a designated staff person responsible for outreach
through curricular engagement. They rely instead on
their staff members who have expertise in the area of
interest, or who have already established a relation-
ship with an academic department, faculty member,
or student. When special collections are decentral-
ized, the responsibility typically rests with those who
work most closely with the materials of interest. Staff
members often collaborate on this work, and a wide
variety of positions are involved in this activity. This
is a case where goals may exceed staff capacity, since
many of the comments emphasize that special col-
lections would like to be able to focus more time and
effort on curricular engagement.
As with collections and departmental structures,
variety is evident in the types of spaces designated for
faculty and/or student collaborations. Almost 70% of
the responding institutions have collaborative space
within library buildings, and just 7% maintain space
beyond the library. For many, this collaboration occurs
in dedicated classrooms, conference rooms, donor
rooms, or group study areas near special collections,
while others meet in seminar rooms, lecture halls, and
spaces that are shared with other library departments.
Art museums, learning centers, and research centers
are among the collaborative areas that are used out-
side of the library.
In promoting curricular use of collections to both
students and faculty, respondents cite one-on-one
contact as both the most used and the most success-
ful method. The library Web site is the second most
used tool for promoting curricular collections to both
faculty and students, but less than a third of respon-
dents classify it as a successful method. Listserv/
group e-mails are perceived as being more successful
in reaching faculty than students. Respondents have
tried posters, flyers, bookmarks, direct mail (either
electronic or paper), blogs, and campus newsletters.
Those few who have used social networking for this
purpose do not find it successful in reaching faculty.
Open-ended responses to “Other methods” elic-
ited several creative and enthusiastic comments. One
institution has been able to tap into course enhance-
ment grants directed towards faculty to help them
implement new instructional techniques. “[Course
enhancement grants] encourage and reward faculty
for partnering with librarians. Curators of special
collections have been successful in using the grants to
incorporate special collections.” Another respondent
describes promoting their collections to faculty by
building relationships with graduate students. “We
are particularly successful with graduate students
teaching their first course. They are grateful for the
help to fill the syllabus and we believe we are train-
ing them to see the value of special collections as they
move into their own faculty position.” One depart-
ment has recently created an Outreach Coordinator
position, and they are “hoping to see more use of Web
2.0 to promote to students.” Another respondent gives
two monetary awards ($750 each) in recognition of
excellence in undergraduate research projects “that
make original and extensive use of the University
Library’s collections.”
Special collections are tracking curricular engage-
ment through a variety of use counts: 88% keep track
of how many classes use materials during the year,
55% track the number of students using materials
(outside of an instruction session), and others track
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