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Burns Library Instruction


Classes and Workshops

Basic Session Outline

Each Burns Library class is an opportunity for interaction and discovery customized to meet the needs of students. Although there is a lot of flexibility in each session, we do develop class plans for each class that usually include: 

  • Overall Timeline
  • Defined roles and expectations for instructor(s) and students
  • Overview of what special collections are/aren’t, and how Burns Library fits into both the BC Libraries and the larger world of special collections
  • Defined goals/outcomes
    • What skills are you asking them to build/flex?
  • Prearranged content / materials
    • What questions do students need to ask/ answer to interrogate, evaluate, and analyze this content?
  • Active Learning activities
    • designed to meet defined goals
  • Discussion / Presentations / Contextualization
  • Assessment / Feedback
    • After the session (Burns)
    • Throughout the semester / after the assignment

We ask that you make sure that your students understand why they need to participate in the library session and how the skills will make your students better researchers and critical thinkers. It is also important to set the intention that the students are responsible for learning; the librarians mediate their access and answer general format questions, but have not been in class, and cannot tie knowledge together.

Faculty Experiences



Professor Rob Savage's Making History Public class held every session in Burns Library. You don’t have to be that committed - there are many different ways you can integrate special collections materials into your classes, some of which are outlined below.

Class Formats

While we tailor instruction to your specific class, there are a variety of ways to integrate Burns material into your class. It’s also helpful to have scheduled a library skills session with your subject liaison, to ensure your students have a comprehension of basic research skills and communication to build from.

  • Single class session, no assignment
    • Designed to introduce students to working with and handling historical items in original formats, as well as analyzing and contextualizing them within the framework of the course.
  • Single class session, with assignment
    • Designed to give a deeper understanding of special collections materials and research methods and challenges, with an assignment that requires them to return to Burns Library to practice what they have learned in controlled circumstances.
  • Multiple class sessions, no assignments
    • Designed for scaffolding from an introductory session into in-depth or broader analysis opportunities. This style requires lots of time identifying content, and works best if the students produce knowledge (quiz, handout, exhibit) as a way to guide them through the process.
  • Multiple class sessions, singular or multiple assignments
    • Designed to offer students a deeper engagement and scaleable understanding of special collections holdings, multiple opportunities to use and interpret primary and secondary sources, and the means to undertake original archival research and learn about primary research methodology through first-hand experience
  • Online Classes
    • We, too, are adapting to new realities and teaching modalities. Although we will always advocate for the importance of original formats, we are still available to help you design engaging and meaningful synchronous and/or asynchronous online class activities and assignments that make use of digitized and born-digital collections.
  • Out of Classroom Experience (OCE)
    • Burns Library Staff can support Out of Classroom Experiences within the hard limits of library staffing, spaces, and materials. OCE objectives, activities, and assignments must be thoroughly planned ahead of time. Please contact Burns Library staff about designing an OCE that involves engaging with Burns Library’s unique materials in a meaningful way.