2014: Meeting Where Students Are: Faculty-Library Collaborations and Undergraduate Research

Friday, 10 January, 5:15–6:30 p.m., Ohio, Sheraton Chicago

These four abstracts are from the panelists for “Meeting Where Students Are: Faculty-Library Collaborations and Undergraduate Research.” Session organizers and panelists invite readers to post comments below discussing the strategies mentioned here or to share descriptions of strategies that have worked for librarian/faculty pairs at their institution.

1. “A Moment in Time: An Exercise in Archival Research and Writing for Undergraduates.”

Anne Ellen Geller, Ph.D. (English, St. John’s University) & Blythe E. Roveland-Brenton, Ph.D. (University Libraries, St. John’s University).

Download the assignment handout here.

If we hope to encourage undergraduates to explore and write about the rich resources within archives and to collaborate with archivists and faculty, we need to devise hands-on activities using tangible artifacts that lead to meaningful, visible outcomes for all involved. We believe an institutional archive can be used effectively to spark intellectual discovery, help students learn how possible it is to make a visceral connection with primary documents, and understand how important it is to contribute our understandings to others.

This collaborative lesson, designed by a University Archivist and an English scholar for an advanced nonfiction course could be used in any discipline. After a session by the archivist on the fundamentals of archival work, students choose an item from the collection that embodies a “moment in time.” Examples include a photograph, letters, 19th century student compositions, the front page of a campus newspaper, a glee club performance, and a strike placard. Each student formulates a research question and carries out an investigation that interprets and imparts to today’s audience a deeper insight into a past event — in its multiple social, historical, and/or cultural contexts. A series of writing assignments help students move from description to analysis and interpretation, leading to individually written and revised library blog posts that set each artifact in “A Moment in Time.” This exercise enables undergraduate writers to gain skills and comfort they need to work with collections of their choosing in other archives and to think about challenges that may arise, including the fragility of materials, copyright, and ethical issues.

The presenters will describe the sequence of research and writing, show examples of library blog posts, and offer students’ reflections on the experience.

2. “The Digital Database: A Sustainable Model of Student, Staff, and Faculty Collaboration.”

Susanna Boylston, Collection Development Librarian, Davidson College Library.

Since 1999, several generations of Davidson College students have built an online, open-access bibliographic database, an Index of Modernist Magazinesas part of a collaborative research seminar. Working closely with their professor, a librarian, and an instructional technologist, students in the seminar identify modernist little magazines to research and add to the database. In the process, they learn how to conduct primary research, organize bibliographic data, and use new digital media to share their findings. The student-authored Index now includes 60 magazines and has become a valuable research tool used by professors, graduate students, and undergraduates in the U. S., Canada, and Great Britain. It demonstrates how faculty, librarians, and instructional technologists can collaborate to create and support undergraduate digital research projects; it is also a model of sustainability (the project is ongoing and ever-expanding), scope (it is manageable for students while also requiring significant research), and impact (it allows students to contribute to an on-going field of inquiry). Finally, the Index attests to the value and importance of bibliographic research in an era of proliferating digital information and archives.

3. “Design(ati)ng the Audience: The Undergraduate, Material Texts, and the Virtual Sphere.”

Laura McGrane, Koshland Director, Hurford Center for the Arts & Humanities/Associate Professor of English (Haverford); Jen Rajchel, Associate Director, Trico Digital Humanities Initiative (Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore).

This presentation focuses on the relationship between classrooms and public conversation; small course assignments and creative library and gallery projects.  A series of exercises built around five active frameworks—witness, mark, sculpt, code, grasp—offers design models for students building new media theses and exhibition projects in library and arts contexts.  Using multimedia formats, faculty members, students, staff, artists, and librarians can build a creative maker-capacity into technologies, reimagining assignments that too often position the undergraduate as a mere user.

We focus on curricular experiments built around Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy: coding, cutting and curating. Our pedagogy and projects extend the boundaries of the classroom, invite students to rethink audience and output, and redefine our coursework in an interdisciplinary and historical context. In an upper-division English course, our undergraduates work with Tristram Shandy alongside two exhibitions, the multimedia “Who Kill’d Sarah Stout?” based in Haverford’s Quaker Collections; and Elemental, an exhibit of sculptor Brian Dettmer’s altered books.

Across these spaces, the course interrogates key questions about design interfaces: what role do context and audience play in the representation of information? and how do our acts of remediation make more transparent the biases of infrastructure and design?   Aligning questions relevant to literary courses, libraries, and exhibits, we consider how collaborative multimedia projects expose both the networks of texts found in traditional humanist scholarship and the networked potential of undergraduate participation in the virtual media sphere.

4. “Collaborate for Independence: Harvesting Diverse Expertise to Teach Undergraduate Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences.”

Susette Newberry, Ph. D., Assistant Director, Art Librarian, Cornell University

Cornell’s Undergraduate Research Institute is a collaboratively-designed seminar for undergraduate researchers engaged in independent research in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. A joint initiative of the University Library and the Office of the Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Education, the course was designed through a larger partnership that also comprised writing instructors, museum educators, scholarship program administrators, and faculty mentors.

While undergraduates in STEM disciplines easily connect to research opportunities through laboratory assistantships, humanities and social sciences students have fewer well-defined options. The central goal of the Undergraduate Research Institute is to prepare students to contribute to meaningful research assistantships and projects and to take advantage of locally- and externally-funded grant and fellowship opportunities.

The course teaches students to develop sophisticated research strategies, articulate research questions, manage information, and communicate as scholars. Overseen and managed by a librarian, it is also taught by guest presenters, many of whom are librarians who have taken the ACRL Information Literacy Instruction Immersion course.[1] Ten faculty members act as mentors, serving as points of contact for students as they move from this course to research experiences in their fields of interest. The outcomes-based curriculum encourages use of the university’s unique resources; participants gain exposure to a range of materials and formats—archival photographs, artwork, manuscripts, social media, ethnographic studies, geospatial information, and statistical sources—in the process of learning and applying advanced research and information management techniques. Students present their research to the assembled group of instructors and mentors as their final project.

The Undergraduate Research Institute has brought together pedagogical expertise and perspectives from a range of professionals—faculty, curators, librarians, and administrators—to provide a rich, interdisciplinary learning experience. Through a discussion of the goals, strategies and assessed outcomes of this course, this paper hopes to present a new collaborative teaching model.

[1] The ACRL Institute for Information Literacy developed a special version of their immersion program for Cornell instruction librarians, which they presented in Ithaca in May 2012.

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