Medicine Buddha statue

Thinking about Object-based Teaching and Learning

By Rachel M. Straughn-Navarro, PhD / The Medicine Buddha is an artwork that makes viewers move around it to look at it from different angles or rub their fingers together as they imagine the texture of the conical curls on his head. With younger viewers, he often makes them sit on the ground, squirming in attempt to cross their legs with the soles of their feet towards the ceiling or craning their necks to see how his eyes are ever so slightly open, looking down as if seeing something beyond the physical world. His size, at three and a half feet tall, sparks awe and amazement while his elongated earlobes, the bump at the top of his head, and other features less well-known in our western culture incite wonder and curiosity.

Space and Place in Special Collections Instruction

By Juli McLoone / The physical attributes of a classroom can seem invisible, merely the background against which the action takes place. However, just as the layout of a website affects its usability, so too does the arrangement of physical space affect people’s experience. Given how central materiality is to special collections, it is all the more important to reflect on how our instruction spaces can enhance our lesson plans.

Plug-and-Play Instruction Modules

By Cynthia Bachhuber / Those of us who teach with primary sources may feel like we operate in a very specialized arena. Our class sessions seem necessarily unique to each group with little that transfers from one to another. The class on mid-20th century Chicana activism simply can’t use the materials and lesson plan developed for the class on economic history in the early American colonies…except maybe it can.

Learning to teach: Impacts of instruction internships on early career librarians

By Rachel Makarowski / Imagine this: you are a professional, full-time librarian for the first time. It is your second day at work, and you’ve just been asked if you’d like to teach a Latin American studies class that was scheduled that day. The facsimiles of Christopher Columbus’ diary and the Aztec codices depicting the start of the conquest of Mexico have been pulled, the research done.

The “Hidden” Incentives of Teaching with Special Collections

By Michael Taylor / Several years ago, I began educating myself about stocks and investing. The guidebooks advised me to consider not only a stock’s valuation, but also its record of paying a strong dividend—money that shareholders get simply for owning a stock, even during economic downturns. Dividends accrue and, in time, make up a significant portion of overall returns. Remembering to take them into account is crucial to evaluating one’s success as an investor.

Practical How-To Guide: Communicating and Collaborating with Faculty Instructors

By Melissa Barton / The majority of instruction sessions organized or led by librarians and archivists involve hosting either individual or multi-session visits from a longer credit course, whether graduate, undergraduate, or K-12 students. This How-To Guide provides advice and practical steps for librarians and archivists in collaborating with the instructors of those courses — referred to here as “faculty” but often graduate student instructors, high school teachers, and instructional leaders in other roles.

Getting Started Teaching with Document Cameras and Original Primary Sources

By Heather Smedberg / For those who teach with and about original primary sources, document cameras can be a powerful addition to your toolkit and can help you bring active learning techniques to your instruction even when a hands-on experience is not feasible. Document cameras are mounted cameras that take real-time images and/or video of an object for display on a screen, making it easier for students to see closely what you are referring to on a page. You can zoom in on details or show interesting 3D elements of books or artifacts, without having to create a slideshow of photos in advance. This live approach creates a more engaging experience. Document cameras can make a lecture hall feel smaller and used in online classes can bridge vast physical distances between students and collections. Even when a hands-on component is possible, you can use them to scaffold in useful content or skills to help students succeed during a subsequent in-class exercise or assignment. Students can also use your document camera to present their findings or lead a discussion with original materials. Document cameras often have built-in capability of capturing images or recording audio and video of your demonstration session, which can come in handy if you want to post a recording of your presentation whether for post-class assessment or to create online learning objects.

In Praise of a Community-centered Approach in the Garden and the Archives

By Leah Richardson / Gardening is a labor of love, but labor nonetheless. There is a seemingly endless amount of tending and care that goes into making something grow, and there is not a guarantee that this work will result in something beautiful or nourishing. I find gardening metaphors useful when thinking about most activities, especially librarianship. This is an essay about building a special collections instruction program within a larger research library and how I think about this in much the same way I think about gardening: as a collective, cultural, and experimental activity.

Teaching as Practice

By Maureen E. Maryanski /
Only recently have I begun to think about my work as the Education and Outreach Librarian at the Lilly Library as a teaching practice. Teaching with special collections has been an integral part of my career trajectory and identity since I became a professional librarian seven years ago. At that point, I could not have predicted that this would be the case. My intertwining investments in the classes, instructors, and students that I work with and my own development as a teacher have continued to grow since then. As I look back, examining the sequence of events and interactions that have brought me where I am, that phrase teaching practice continues to bubble to the surface. It encapsulates the approach and attitude I seek to bring into every classroom.