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Special Collections

Research question: (How) do the library’s special collections specifically support and promote teaching, learning, and research?

Project Teams

Project Descriptions

Pilot Project: University of Pittsburgh and UC Irvine and Practice Brief: Johns Hopkins University

University of Pittsburgh and UC Irvine

This Library Impact Pilot Project addresses the question how the libraries’ special collections support teaching, learning, and research. Three institutions in this area will focus on gaining the understanding of how their specific programs impact student learning outcomes. One institution examines the use of archival special collections in one department.

All three institutions will develop student learning outcomes based on the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section/Society of American Archives Guidelines and Association of College and Research Libraries Framework. We propose a Logic Model framework to identify three types of outcomes: initial (attainment of new skills and knowledge), intermediate (behavioral change), and long term (change in status).

  1. The University of California, Irvine (UCI) will use their Humanities Core program, a year- long undergraduate freshman course that gives students an introduction to the development of scholarly research through the use of primary and secondary source resources, to determine if UCI Special Collections primary source workshops are effective in allowing students to achieve the outcomes specified in the initial stage. UCI will use entrance and exit surveys as assessment tools.
  2. Studying the Archival Scholars Research Awards (ASRA), an undergraduate scholarship award, as well as their Primary Source Integration into Classroom Learning session, the University of Pittsburgh will strive to assess the initial and intermediate learning outcomes for these two specific programs.
  3. Johns Hopkins’ Practice Brief will use their Freshman Fellows program to develop outcomes and assessment for the long-term stage through semi-structured interviews with the first cohort of Fellows who are now seniors as well as the curators who mentored the Fellows. Johns Hopkins will also develop a rubric based on the Guidelines and Framework to assess Freshman Fellows and other undergraduate research programs moving forward.
Johns Hopkins University

Freshmen Fellows is a signature opportunity offered by the Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University to introduce students to primary source research. Established four years ago, the program exposes students to primary source collections early in their college career by pairing four Fellows with four curators on individual research projects. The first group of Fellows are now seniors, so we felt this was an opportune time to assess the impact the program had on their time at Hopkins.

For the assessment, we will conduct semi-structured interviews, with questions developed in conjunction with our User Experience Analyst, with the four students and four curators who participated in the first year of the program. The interviews will help us understand how the fellowship affected their academic path, and also, in the case of the mentors, how their experience may have affected how they teach novice researchers how to use primary source material.

We will also take this opportunity to develop a rubric to assess the Fellows’ actual work product—paper, presentation, exhibit (on-line or physical)—using as sources both the RBMS Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy and the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy.

Pilot Project: Western University

Western Archives and Special Collections is a functional unit of Western Libraries, Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. The Archives and Special Collections Team is committed to acquiring, preserving, and providing access to select special collections and archives, including rare and unique materials in all media formats, in order to support the teaching and research missions of the University.

This Library Impact Pilot Project will examine the use of archival special collections by Western University’s History Department at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as by faculty and post-doctoral researchers. Our objectives are to understand the impact of our archival holdings and services on Western University’s History Department, understand why we serve certain members of the History Department and not others, and identify opportunities to serve non-users of the archives.

A mixed-methods approach will be used to gather data, using focus groups, citation analysis, and an online survey. We may gather other quantitative and qualitative data from additional sources. Focus groups of undergraduate students, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and faculty from the History Department will be asked questions about the impact of archival holdings and services on their research. Data gathered in the focus groups will help inform the survey questions disseminated to the wider History Department. This methodology will be replicable at other institutions and for other target populations.