Tag Archives: technology

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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Filed under academia, outreach

Staying Informed, One Listserv at a Time

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything besides funding updates (grad school will do that to you!) but I have been wanting to post something on listservs for a while. I’m of the opinion that listservs are a stellar way to stay informed about the field, learn about funding and conferences, and more. In fact, several of the publications I’ve been involved in were ones I learned about through listservs. This is especially great for students and new professionals, who are still feeling out their place in the field and want to learn from others. They are also great for anyone who wants to keep up to date on funding opportunities and calls for papers (two of my big focuses right now!)
Below is my “list of lists”–websites that you can go to and sign up for listservs that interest you. Since my focus is in LIS, Social Sciences, and the Humanities, that’s where I have focused my attention–if you know of a similar site I haven’t included, feel free to add it!

ALA Mailing List Service: All the listservs run through the American Library Association. I am an ALA member, but it looks like non-members can sign up too. Just follow the instructions when you hit ‘subscribe.’ After you complete the steps the first time, your e-mail address will be subscribed to other lists with one click.

H-Net Discussion Networks: H-Net (Humanities and Social Sciences online) is an awesome resource. They have calls for participation, conference alerts, and a heaping helping of listservs spanning just about every interest. By adding yourself to the lists you are most interested in, you’ll get updates from H-Net (which is very extensive and daunting to browse through) that are relevant to your chosen topics.

Conference Alerts: Most people I know haven’t heard of this one, which makes me feel like I am sharing some great secret with them. This site is incredible–it lists conferences from all over the world and across disciplines. You can search by country or topic. You can also sign up for e-mail alerts that you can customize to include whatever topics you want and whatever countries you want (I have mine set to tell me about conferences in all countries.) Then you’ll get occasional e-mails with a list of upcoming conferences that meet your criteria. I like to browse the list not only to find what conferences I might attend, but also to see if any of my current projects might fit into a call for papers.

WikiCFP: A resource for calls for papers in science and technology. You can sign up for an account, and create your own list of topics you want CFPs for. They also alert followers to new CFPs on Twitter (@WikiCFP.)

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>The Library of Tomorrow…Yesterday!

I ran across this rather lengthy quote while adding to my chapter on libraries from 1914-1916, and was so pleased by it I couldn’t wait to share it with you! It’s from the 1914 annual report, written by Iowa City Public Library’s librarian, Helen McRaith. Unfortunately my Internet was down yesterday (and most of today), so I had to contain my excitement until now:

“The modern idea of the function of a library is this—to study the literary needs of its own community and then to endeavor to meet these needs to the fullest extent, even if tradition must be violated in so doing.
The old-fashioned library was a cloistral place appealing only to the scholar, who moved silently among dust-covered tomes. The modern library possesses a different atmosphere and one more akin to that of a business office; most of the readers have the appearance of seeking information which will be of assistance in their daily problems rather than abstract knowledge.
There is a similar change in the appearance and attitude of the librarians. Formerly they seemed to look on the library as an end in itself and as a collection of interesting curiosities, they were willing to let it remain a stagnant literary pool. Now they must be alert specialists, keen to keep a stream of vital, useful knowledge flowing from the library to all parts of the community.” (Iowa City Public Library 1914 annual report, pg 1).
This reminds me so much of some of the current discussion circulating around the changing field of librarianship, even though it was written almost 100 years ago. Her writing has the same tone of excitement that I feel in my own blog and in reading the posts of other LIS bloggers, about the library as a place of expanding opportunities and of librarians as being people who are redefining the field rather than just participating in it.
There are a couple places in particular where her writing sounds like it could have been lifted out of a modern blog (and then had the language antiquated a bit, of course): there is so much concern right now about justifying the value of libraries, and a lot of that justification comes through pointing out that the library is used for practical purposes, as McRaith says, “…seeking information which will be of assistance in their daily problems rather than abstract knowledge.”

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>Prezi and My Research

>I’ve been a little late to jump on the Prezi bandwagon, but after just having made my first one, I’m very impressed with the result. For those who haven’t used it, Prezi is a way to create presentations that is more dynamic than using a PowerPoint slideshow. I found it much easier to use, and because it zooms in and moves around, it would be more likely to keep an audience’s attention.

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