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First day at the Rare Books & Manuscripts Section preconference in Charlottesville, VA. Today was pre-pre-conference workshop day, and I attended “Beyond Show and Tell: Teaching Strategies for Special Collections Professionals”. Presenters were Julie Grob, Digital Projects and Instruction Librarian for Special Collections at U. of Houston, and Matt Ball, Outreach and Student Services Librarian at the undergrad library of UVA.There were about 30 participants from all over the U.S. (including one with the best job title I’ve heard this week: Curator of Puzzles at the Lilly Library at IU).

The goal of the workshop was for us to discuss the increased role of instruction in the special collections librarian’s job, to learn from current pedagogical theories, and to learn from colleagues’ experiences and innovations. We started out with lots of discussion about learning styles, which was OK but nothing I hadn’t heard before. Things improved a lot once we moved on to discussion of trends in higher ed toward inquiry based, active learning. Special collections instruction lends itself extremely well to this, and presenters and participants shared a lot of great ideas and examples of activities for getting students engaged and faculty convinced of the relevance ofour stuff to their curriculum.We ended up with a discussion of the importance of assessment and the need to develop assessment tools geared specifically toward special collections classes.

I was hoping to swap experiences with other special collections librarians who’d been embedded in classes outside the library, but apparently this isn’t as common as one would think (Julie Grob was the only other person who’d had an embedded experience). But I got loads of good ideas for next year’s class presentations and did a lot of bonding with other librarians who spend their time explaining old books to young students.