Tag Archives: book history

Rare books and archives instruction resources

Today one of my colleagues asked for resources on teaching book history and teaching with rare books in university classrooms. This is one of my favorite things to do (and something our outreach archivist, JoyEllen, and I do very regularly), and her listserv post got me thinking about our approach to instruction.

When the two of us started, we had enjoyable and (hopefully) useful instruction models to work with, but were concerned about two things: First of all, that our sessions seemed to not fully engage students. It was a lot of talking and show and tell, and not that much hands-on experience or critical engagement with concepts. Second, was that we felt like we were coming in and showing students ‘cool stuff’ but not making it relevant to their lives and scholastic careers.
This was particularly an issue for our freshman seminars, where we felt that having two separate tours and talks (one for archives and one for rare books) could feel boring and repetitive, and didn’t give students the opportunity to synthesize an understanding of what primary sources are and why they matter. To address this, we developed a new freshman seminar instruction model that combined the two, and gave students some experience identifying and working with primary sources, while also thinking about when those sources could be used in their own research.

We also developed a second module for other courses, based largely on my background with book arts and book history, and my experience thinking of the book as a technology. One thing that I think is very important when working with rare books is not to simply think of them in terms of their contents, but to also consider their structure, traces of use (marginalia, etc.–also fun fact, ‘traces of use’ is my favorite term on the planet), and what these tell us about the book’s intended vs. actual function. To do this, we talk students through the development of the book as a technology with a focus on how technological innovation can help or hinder information access, and how that access (or lack thereof) might have broader societal implications.
Both instruction session types are highly flexible–we have a basic idea of what we want to cover, but we adjust what materials we bring and some of what we cover based on a particular course (e.g. spending time at the end to talk about book art for a design course, vs. spending time talking about the publishing history of a given author for a literature course). Both types also include a hands-on component: Our materials were purchased with the intent to be used by students, researchers, and community members, so it’s exciting to get them out of the stacks and into people’s hands.

For the most part, I’ve done these kinds of presentations (particularly the second one) from memory, and have not written down much of my process. Today’s Exlibris thread, however, inspired me to write it down and share it with colleagues. To help more folks who are designing instruction sessions, I’ve put what I have in this Dropbox folder. It includes:

  • Two in-depth handouts covering the history of the book. These were made for my instruction sessions with Common Good’s prison education initiative this spring, and are too detailed for most classes, but I find them valuable to pull from to make smaller, more focused handouts as needed.
  • An outline document giving a step-by-step of how we run our classes for 1101 classes (freshman seminars) and for our technology of the book sessions.
  • Two handouts that JoyEllen brought in to our 1101 sessions for students to use in analyzing primary sources.

I hope these are helpful for colleagues–and if you use our materials, I would love to hear how they work for you! I am always evaluating our instructional offerings to make sure we’re teaching the best classes we can, so knowing what works and doesn’t elsewhere is a huge help.
Next up I’ll be making a standardized handout for our book as technology sessions that I can add to as needed: It will be a timeline that maps the specific artifacts we use to larger historical contexts. I’ll add it to the same folder when it’s ready!

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Bringing rare books to a prison classroom

Just like I did for my recent rare book and beer pairing event, I wanted to share a few quick thoughts about the work I’ve been doing with incarcerated scholars in the hopes that it’s helpful for other rare books/museums folks who want to include prisons in their outreach iniatives. I have a million other thoughts about how amazing and challenging it is, but this post is just for quick outreach take-aways.

Why do this?

By now it’s no secret that my goal in life is to bring rare books (and museum artifacts in general) to people who want to learn from them but have never been given the opportunity (serving underserved populations, if you want to use field lingo). When I think about a population that is underserved in pretty much every possible way, I think of people who are incarcerated. Many current and former prisoners can’t vote, have limited access to educational resources in prison, and have trouble finding work or funding for an education once they are released. This is in addition to the fact that few prisons offer meaningful programming that discourages recidivism, even though such programs (like Common Good, or like this rehabilitation work) are effective and badly wanted by prisoners.

Capture

One of the books I used in my presentation. Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems, 1641.

 

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Filed under book arts, community engagement, librarianship, outreach, projects

My 100th Post, and a Big Announcement!

In honor of my 100th post on this blog, I’d like to share the announcement I just made about the topic of my second book! I asked readers to vote on one of two topics (early modern English desserts or gardening practices), and I would work on modernizing the one they chose. Well, readers responded, and they chose…

Gardening!

Thanks to everyone who voted–I’m thrilled to start working on it! You can read the full announcement here.

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Center for the Book Final Project

Today I am finishing up the tangible portion of my Center for the Book final project. I have created a set of photos on Flickr that show the completed pamphlet book and the ductus for the calligraphy I used. I would like to invite anyone who does calligraphy or is interested in calligraphy to use the ductus I created and modify it as you see fit. I created the ductus by examining a number of Elizabethan-era documents and picking out both commonalities in how different letters were constructed and how they were fit together.

I would also like to invite all my readers to attend the UICB Final Project Reception, featuring the work of myself, Lee Marchalonis, Jill Kambs, and Zach Stensen. Musical entertainment will be provided by Peter Balestrieri, and refreshments will be served. The reception is from 4:30-6:30 PM on this Saturday (May 7, 2011) in the Times Club (upstairs at Prairie Lights bookstore.) I look forward to seeing you there, and want to thank everyone for your support and feedback while I’ve been working on this project!

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>Modernizing Markham wraps up

>Last night I created the last recipe for my Modernizing Markham project. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m excited to move onto the next stage. All I have to do now is make the calligraphed pamphlet-y book and upload the POD/e-book version to various sites. I’m still figuring out how best to approach that (with the caveat that I use free services only), so suggestions are welcome. Since I’m at the turning point with my nearly-finished project, I thought I’d take a second and share a few things I’ve learned from blogging outside my discipline.

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>Some Great Sites for Book Artists

>Readers, this has been a wonderful week or so for serendipity in my life. I have stumbled upon a lot of great resources (some recent, some that I’ve rediscovered while transferring my Delicio.us tags to Google) that made me realize my blog posts have been a bit neglectful of the book arts side of my work (and of my book arts friends around the world!) In an attempt to remedy this, let me share with you some of what I’ve been getting excited about in book arts land recently:

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>Some Exciting History-Themed Resources

>While the purpose of this blog is primarily to focus on librarianship, the joys of being an LIS student, and my own research, I feel like there is so much of an overlap between my own work and other fields that sometimes I want to be a little more interdisciplinary! Lately, I’ve been shown a lot of really exciting online resources that might technically fall under ‘history resources,’ but that creative minds could apply to an LIS classroom (and of course, to history classes as well.) So, for both students and instructors, I present a brief list to you:

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