Better Teaching with Rare Materials

Current Faculty: Michaela Ullmann and Robert Montoya

Description: College and university faculty and library collections departments all over the U.S. have, over the past years, introduced new approaches to primary sources and archival literacy instruction. Special Collections librarians and archivists have moved away from the “Show & Tell” towards instructional designs that use active-learning elements as well as digital scholarship tools that reach beyond the mere learning outcome of knowing that Special Collections exists. In partnership with teaching faculty, Special Collections librarians and archivists now play an active role in designing pedagogy featuring in-class activities that teach students archival literacy, critical thinking skills, and paleography, among other skills for the 21st century student.

This course is designed to foster conversation and collaboration between academic library and archive professionals and university faculty in order to better align our instructional efforts and articulate common goals. Using case study projects, participants will gain a sense of how rare book and archives repositories have partnered with faculty in innovative ways. Guest faculty speakers will broaden our conversations, focusing on how librarians can best support their instructional efforts. We will ask class participants to bring along instructional exemplars from their home institutions to workshop in a group setting, or if you are not yet in the profession, to imagine a project that would involve faculty collaboration in some substantive way.

This course is designed to be collaborative in nature and a venue for generating new ideas and to imagine solutions to often-encountered problems in public services and instructional outreach.

  • Components of the syllabus for the course include:
  • Infrastructure & General Management for a successful instruction program
  • Introduction to Special Collections pedagogy
  • Establishing meaningful collaboration with librarians, archivists, and teaching faculty
  • Introduction to Curriculum Mapping and syllabus planning
  • Instructional tools (LibGuides, flipped classroom, quizzes, hands-on activities, video capture)
  • Digital scholarship tools (Omeka, GIS mapping, others)
  • Professional instructional and literacy best practices and standards (including RBMS and ALA)
  • Student workers’ roles
  • Assessing learning outcomes
  • Field trips (UCLA Biomedical Library, USC Libraries, Occidental College)
  • Guest lectures
  • Panel of teaching faculty and their perspectives

We will discuss digital assets, platforms, and examples of projects using online collections, as well as ways of working with physical items in the classroom yet creating assignments or exhibits that use photography or scanning to transport these materials into the digital world. Traditional in-person methods of outreach will also be discussed. Participants will be introduced to a variety of digital initiatives using rare books and/or archives and will learn which tools they can easily use for their own teaching.

Field trips to institutions in the LA area will allow us to explore their collections and how they are used for teaching. A panel or similar discussion format comprised of librarians, archivists, and teaching faculty will talk about their approaches for teaching with primary sources.

Learning outcomes:

  • Participants will understand the basics to establish a well-functioning instruction program for primary sources literacy;
  • Participants will leave the course with an understanding and the tools to transform their
  • instructional approach while creating less work for themselves;
  • Participants will gain a better understanding of the partnership between teaching faculty and Special Collections librarian or archivist and the roles each plays in it;
  • Participants will leave the workshop with an understanding of digital initiatives that use primary source materials and will be familiar with selected basic tools they can use to teach primary sources literacy in the digital arena;
  • Participants will workshop individual projects to implement at their home institutions.

Requirements: In their personal statement, applicants should describe how the knowledge gained from this class will be used institutionally or professionally, and describe a project that can be workshopped during the week. As part of this project, please identify archives and/or rare books from any UCLA library that might be beneficial to this project. Instructors will ask you to submit a short professional bio and a lengthier description of your project before the start of the course which will be distributed to all participants beforehand.

Years Taught: 2016, 2018