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Harvard College Library

Research, Teaching, and Learning Outreach

Research, Teaching, and Learning Outreach


With the reorganization of Widener and Lamont public services and the Science Libraries came an opportunity to consider reshaping HCL's research, teaching, and learning efforts library-wide into a coherent, integrated set of services and programs that support students, faculty, and researchers and maximize the Library's contribution to scholarship and learning. Long-term planning was partnered with the more practical challenge of continuing our outreach while the new units, Services for Academic Programs and Reference Services and Learning Technologies, coalesced and the Science Libraries acclimated themselves in the new structure.

Library staff members from across HCL provided research support for undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and researchers from across Harvard and beyond. They reached out to faculty to offer assistance with class assignments and course web sites and made themselves available to work with students on specific research projects. Anecdotal information from faculty indicates that students in classes who received instruction from librarians used more sophisticated research techniques. Going forward, planning is under way to establish assessment tools to obtain hard data.

During Harvard's first J-Term held in January 2010, librarians representing all HCL libraries, in collaboration with librarians from across Harvard, held more than a dozen workshops and hands-on classes for GSAS and Divinity School students. They included: Harvard Map Collection Orientation, Introduction to Bibliography, Manuscript to Print (creation of medieval manuscripts), Basic Geographic Analysis, Working with Digital Historic Maps, Printing Workshop (hand-operated press), EndNote Workshop for the Sciences, Binding Workshop, Printing Shakespeare, RefWorks Basics, Bibliography in the Modern Era, Religion Through the Ages: Treasures in Harvard-Yenching Library, and Religion Through the Ages: Treasures in Houghton Library.

Even experienced researchers can be daunted by the multitude of digital resources available through the Harvard libraries, where holdings include thousands of e-journals, online databases, mapping tools, and image collections. This year the Library was invited to take part in the Digital Humanities Fair and the Digital Social Sciences Fair, for which HCL librarians organized a series of presentations to acquaint faculty with the latest digital tools at their disposal. With colleagues from across Harvard libraries and related units, they demonstrated digital discovery tools such as the mobile applications for searching the library catalog, the recently launched annotated bibliography of music resources, the Harvard Geospatial Library, CQ Press Electronic Library, OCP projects, library research guides, and online tutorials. The fairs also afforded library staff the chance to highlight the ways in which digital resources are used in the classroom. Displays featured digital materials created to support a General Education course, information about the libraries' ability to digitize materials for classroom use, and library support and instruction for multimedia projects for academic work.

In Houghton Library, 186 classes employing primary materials were taught in the Seminar Room, reaching 979 undergraduate and 486 graduate students. Of those classes, 66 were taught by Houghton staff members. The recently refurbished Seminar Room was also made available spring term for Extension School classes.

New and expanded approaches to research, teaching, and learning outreach have created a need for new kinds of spaces to accommodate group study, small classes, and work with multimedia equipment. The Library opened two spaces in Lamont Library this year: the Collaborative Learning Space (CLS) and the Multimedia Lab.

Every aspect of the CLS—from the technology to the movable tables, chairs, and whiteboards—is designed to foster collaboration. Located in Room B-30 in Lamont, the space brings a new level of flexibility to library instruction and includes features unavailable in other HCL classrooms. Technology is integral to the room. It is outfitted with two built-in projectors and screens that give instructors the freedom to display two images simultaneously—a librarian teaching a class on how to create a bibliography might show a course web site on one screen, while the other might be used to demonstrate how to access related library materials and use programs like RefWorks or EndNote. The projectors are connected to computers equipped with a wireless keyboard and mouse, giving instructors the freedom to teach from anywhere in the room and engage students with a more hands-on style.

The room is also outfitted with ten laptops for classroom use, a DVD player and VCR, a document camera that can be used to project everything from handwritten materials to three-dimensional objects, and a wireless control system that can be used to remotely operate all the various systems.

A feature anticipated to be popular with students doing group projects is TeamSpot, a software application that allows users to view, edit, and annotate documents, presentations, and web pages as a group, and even record which person made which changes. The software runs on a computer outfitted with a 46-inch plasma display, eliminating the need for students to huddle around a single laptop. It is located in a corner of the room with its own work table and soft seating.

The room's most important features for collaboration, however, may be its most low tech. Rolling teardrop-shaped worktables and chairs on wheels allow for endless variations, so they can be configured to suit multiple needs, and movable whiteboards allow users to brainstorm as well as create physical separations for small groups.

Designed to engage students and to allow librarians to experiment with different teaching methods, the Collaborative Learning Space is also a place where librarians can come together to collaborate on identifying best practices and to work in groups in collaboration with HCL's academic partners.

The Multimedia Lab, located on Level A in Lamont, was created in response to the growing demand to include audio, video, and visual media in course presentations and class assignments. The lab features Mac and Windows equipment for creating, editing, and publishing a wide variety of multimedia projects. Operated jointly by HCL and the FAS Academic Technology Group, the lab serves students as well as faculty. The lab, which is open 24/5 and offers staff assistance, has been filled near to or at capacity every evening during the semester. The majority of students, both undergraduate and graduate, have been utilizing the lab for course projects, class assignments, or academic research. Usage has ranged from individual work, as when an undergraduate student edited a video documentary of her teaching experience at a school in a small village in China (as reporting and documentation for a Harvard grant), to group work, as when students from the Graduate School of Education worked on a special course project. The lab was also used by several Harvard Shorts Film Fest entrants this year.

The relocation of the Fine Arts Library created new spaces for research, teaching, and learning: a supervised reading room for special collections and comfortable seating for readers in the current periodicals section in Littauer, and, in Sackler, collaborative space for public multimedia workstations and ample workspace for faculty, students, and researchers to consult with staff and view image collections.