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Harvard College Library-Report of Nancy M. Cline

Teaching and Outreach

Teaching and Outreach


The new Associate Librarian for Research, Teaching, and Learning arrived at a time when academic institutions have been rethinking the way they can best help their users access and utilize library resources, which includes not only the collections but also services and spaces. Since her arrival, she led the Library in challenging traditional, defined roles and assumptions about the delivery of research services with new thinking that puts librarians, services, and materials where the users are most likely to use them—in classrooms, on course web sites, on the internet, and in places where students gather.

User assessment became an important tool for the Library to gain insight into usage patterns, study habits, and various learning styles in order to improve services and ensure they are relevant. Several HCL units have spent time and attention learning more about what students expect from libraries and staff. This year Cabot Science Library launched the first phase of an environmental scan with an onsite, voluntary survey of undergraduates to assess the use of space, services, and collections within the library. In response to what Cabot staff learned, two more group study rooms were created, additional spaces were designated as quiet areas, and additional electrical outlets for laptops were installed. A collaborative learning space is being developed in Lamont; Houghton has installed new teaching technology in its heavily scheduled seminar room; and other libraries are adjusting some of their spaces or their approach to services.

As library resources have amassed and technologies become more complex, HCL librarians have been drawn more and more into the realm of teaching—becoming active participants in the classroom, working with faculty to develop individualized curriculums, and creating research guides. They are reaching out proactively to academic departments, committees, and institutes, and as a result are discovering opportunities to connect with a wider range of students. At the heart of the Library’s outreach efforts is the Library Liaison program that in the past two years has fostered collaboration with faculty in creative efforts to integrate the Library’s resources into teaching and research. Library Liaisons—librarians who establish ongoing relationships with FAS departments or programs—teach classes, provide general reference services to faculty and students, and help instructors identify e-resources to link to course web pages, giving students direct access to online readings for courses. HCL liaisons work across libraries, across disciplines, and across the University to spread the word about the Library’s collections and services.

This year Research Services librarians collaborated with the FAS Instructional Computing Group, the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, the Writing Program, the Bureau of Study Counsel, the Media Production Center, and Museum Educators to assist faculty members as they plan their courses for the new General Education curriculum. With an emphasis on using active learning in the classroom, this group has promoted the incorporation of skills such as assessing information needs, indentifying and evaluating sources in a variety of media, and understanding the ethical and social issues around information technology and communication.

An example of the enhanced collaboration among faculty, FAS ICG, and HCL librarians was the work with Steven Greenblatt on the course “A Silk Road Course: Travel and Transformation on the High Seas: An Imaginary Journey in the Early 17th Century.” Widener Research Services librarians contributed to the course while it was in development, guiding a number of Presidential Information Technology Fellows in their research of library collections as they built an extraordinary course web site. While the students worked on the site, the librarians created a transdisciplinary research guide for the course, to connect students (and teaching fellows) directly to authoritative reference sources and rich full-text and image-based library resources in the many disciplines touched upon during the semester. The same librarians supported the course throughout the semester, as liaisons, and were invited by Professor Greenblatt to attend lectures and to participate in other course-related activities. They related that experience of being “embedded” in a course as wide-ranging and multidisciplinary as this gave them a new understanding of how students are learning. They could see first-hand the opportunities and challenges students confronted as they did their coursework and will be able to apply this knowledge to other library teaching.

Working closely with Harvard and other local faculty, Houghton Library hosted 137 seminars this year, up 30% from the previous year. This increase was due in large part to certain classes being held weekly at Houghton, including Professor Robert Darnton’s freshman seminar, “Book History,” which made use not only of the collections, but also involved Houghton staff members, who lectured on topics from medieval manuscripts to Shakespeare’s early editions and conducted a hands-on workshop in printing with our 19th-century letter press. The breadth of Houghton’s collections lent themselves to a wide array of courses, and this year a sampling included: Professor Robin Kelsey on 19th-century photography, Professor Barbara Hillers on Irish manuscripts, Professor Betsey Robinson on ancient and Renaissance architecture, Professor Mary Gaylord on Cervantes and the Spanish Golden Age, Professor Leland de la Durantaye on Nabokov and the Modernists, and Professor Wolfhart Heinrich on Arabic manuscripts.

At Tozzer Library group instruction increased from the previous year in ways that underscore the increasing diversity of the academic environment. Class instruction was offered in human evolutionary biology, a junior tutorial in history of art and architecture concerned with Mesoamerican codices, and an expository writing class on race in the Americas.

The head of Widener’s Middle Eastern Division, in collaboration with one of Widener’s Research Services librarians, gave a presentation to master’s students in the Center for Middle Eastern Studies on hidden collections—material for which there is insufficient or lack of description to be discoverable by users—as a possible resource for theses. These teams have taught a number of classes related to Middle Eastern resources, developed new guides for classes, and updated existing research guides.

Improved research guides and learning tools have been another outcome of collaborative efforts among librarians, faculty, and technology groups. Poetry@Harvard, a multimedia web resource first released in the spring, was developed in response to the desire expressed by faculty for a portal that would take a multidisciplinary approach to the teaching and practice of poetry at Harvard. The Science Libraries, including HCL’s Cabot and Tozzer libraries, Countway Library of Medicine, and various FAS departmental libraries, have created the new Science Libraries@Harvard iSite to provide guidance to students and others who work across multiple libraries. This year Loeb Music Library staff have been collaborating with faculty and students to produce a web archive on Leonard Bernstein.

At Loeb Music Library staff produced online research guides to serve a wide range of courses including Ingrid Monson’s series of jazz courses and for courses completely new to Harvard such as Professor Sindhu Revuluri’s “Global Pop” course. At the invitation of Widener colleagues, Loeb Music added sections on music to more general research guides for Romance languages, African-American studies, Middle Eastern studies, Native American studies, folklore and mythology, and poetry. The involvement of the Loeb Music Research Services librarian in classes, including “Global Pop,” the sophomore tutorial in music, and “Introduction to Ethnomusicology,” spawned individual requests for assistance with student projects and short how-to sessions on the use of various tools, like RefWorks, and Homework Tips geared to helping students navigate online resources for Core courses.

Students are increasingly integrating media into their course assignments. They look to the libraries for assistance in not only how to find various media formats in HOLLIS and the other catalogs, but also how to incorporate these resources into their assignments and research projects. Lamont Library’s Morse Music and Media, which has an extensive multimedia collection, provides computer workstations that support most formats and that also offer some specialized editing capabilities. Plans are underway to launch a pilot program at Lamont that will provide users with a basic level of support with multimedia projects.

The number of reference questions received at Widener Library remains over 40,000, nearly identical to last year’s tally. But there has been a shift in the way questions are received, with more coming via the web—and fewer “cold calls” in person at reference or information desks. This shift is a logical outgrowth of researchers’ increased recognition of and willingness to contact liaison librarians directly and the availability of options that support virtual reference. “Ask Us Live,” an instant messaging (IM) chat function for research services was launched this year, giving library users access to research librarians online and in real time. It joins the “Ask a Librarian,” lib-ref, and other online reference services.