RLI 283 Integrating Special Collections into the Composition ClassSroom 17 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC 2013 Knowledge Production as Process This project and related curricular efforts also promoted a conceptual notion of libraries and special collections as more open, democratic, and fluid spaces for information creation and dissemination. The article “The Museum: A Temple or the Forum” by Duncan Cameron4 provided a conceptual framework for this project. Cameron sought to open up the museum world to new audiences. The article’s precepts are particularly relevant for libraries today, especially for special collections, with its tradition of hushed halls and closed stacks. Cameron argued that “the forum is a process, the temple a product.” The dialogue libraries increasingly seek with students and faculty is characteristic of a forum in its exchange of ideas and mirrors the increasingly open, democratic process of knowledge creation in the digital age. For the English department, the project accomplished a number of learning outcomes. Writing in Wikipedia allowed students to study the social nature of knowledge production and to engage in writing for a rhetorically active discourse community with “real” publics and committed audiences. Students involved in this project were more motivated, more aware of an increased set of outside audiences for their writing, and more engaged in the research process, findings made apparent through Vetter’s collection of data throughout. Embedded into Curriculum Design The project’s design and implementation reflected both the goals of the libraries and the desired outcomes of the English department and was built directly into the course curriculum of a junior-level, general education composition course, Writing & Rhetoric II. In designing this curriculum, Vetter and Harrington paid particular attention to what roles the curators might play, given the potentially labor-intensive nature of the assignment. From the perspective of the libraries, a significant feature of the assignment was that students would work with special collections materials and with Mahn Center staff. Over the course of five weeks, students in this course engaged in a variety of processes with the ultimate goal of revising or publishing a new article in Wikipedia based on research performed in the Mahn Center. Because a large majority of the materials in the Mahn Center focus on regional and Ohio University–related topics, students were encouraged to formulate articles in these areas. To learn more about special collections and archival materials, students attended a presentation led by Mahn Center staff. This presentation was held in the reading room and served two purposes: to highlight special collections and archival materials, especially those easily adapted to a Wikipedia article, and to become more familiar with the Mahn Center’s procedures. Following the presentation, students also workshopped topic ideas for Wikipedia articles in groups and consulted with the instructor (Vetter) about their ideas. Students continued to brainstorm about topics outside of class and were instructed to study corresponding Wikipedia articles that existed on a given topic and think about how they might be improved. Students were directed especially to look for a “gap” in the article: What important information is missing? What might be added to the article? In some cases, students created new articles on topics that were not represented at all in Wikipedia.
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