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Burns Library Instruction



Through collaboration with faculty and other community members, the Burns Library Instruction program supports intellectual inquiry and scholarship through an active engagement with primary and historical resources, in both original and digital formats. We emphasize active learning techniques that center the student in goal oriented sessions in order to hone the skills needed to find, evaluate, interpret, and use primary source and historical information as well as to enable academic growth. 

We are happy to encourage wider use of Burns Library’s unique materials for teaching and research among students of all levels and across all disciplines. We  work enthusiastically and creatively with faculty to develop customized classes, activities, assignments, and OCEs around syllabus topics, course objectives, and primary source literacy standards. There is no singular, “right” way to bring special collections into the classroom experience, and we are open to all disciplines and many different approaches. 

We work to demystify special collections and demonstrate that not only are these unique materials accessible to all, but that they can be incorporated into classwork in a variety of ways. We teach research skills, not subjects, so don’t assume that we or our collections cannot help your classes, both in person and online!

Read more about some of our past instruction efforts:

Primary Source Literacy

In addition to the Association of College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, ACRL’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Section and the Society of American Archivists jointly created Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy.

The guidelines present core analytical, ethical, and theoretical concepts as well as practicalities for engaging with historical or cultural collections, and break these concepts down into examples of “the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed by researchers to successfully conceptualize, find, analyze, and use primary sources...They do not specify measurable outcomes or benchmarks for instruction, but can be of assistance in articulating specific learning goals that can be assessed.”

We find these guidelines a helpful starting point for discussions about how/what students can learn with primary sources, and how they can be used to create class sessions assignments that reinforce the skills.