• Rare book revolution in the classroom

    I have two interests, both involve expanding literature classrooms through digital technology.

    First, digitization has opened up rare book research to scholars in an unprecedented way. Rare book archives are online and allow scholars from all fields to deepen their research from their office. This form of scholarly researched needs to be incorporated into the classroom. Students are extremely familiar with navigating the internet, but are unaware of the academic possibilities the web holds. Therefore, I am interested in bringing rare books online into classroom activities in a meaningful way. Currently, I bring in images for students to analyze before we analyze texts. Therefore, I was thinking about having students analyze an image from an illuminated manuscript, but am not sure it will have the same appeal as a modern image. As you can see, I’m still working through this idea but know it holds great possibilities and would like to hear your comments!

    I also believe that this would prove useful to a composition classroom, as you can now view edits of writers such as Hemingway and Whitman online. This could be extremely useful when discussing the revision process or word choice.

    My second idea also involves technology in the literature classroom. Students can be intimidated by literature, however we can present complex analyses in a non-threatening way. For example, students can talk sophisticatedly about movies, images and music but get silent when asked to analyze literature. I could present on the ways I get complex ideas using media, then have students transfer those skills to literature.

    I appreciate any feedback and suggestions- thanks!


  1. Wayne Johnston says:

    I would be very interested in this conversation. While it isn’t directly related to my responsibilities, our library has made it a priority to integrate our special collections and archival material into the curriculum. Initiatives in this ares have been very successful to date.

  2. Shanna O'Berry says:

    Wayne- I would like to hear about the initiatives that have already taken place, I’m glad to hear this is something that’s already getting started. Thanks for your reply.

  3. Aaron Collie says:


    I’d love to participate in this conversation! I am a librarian with an odd appointment that includes both digitization and special collections. Success stories are ammunition for more digitization projects, and where we can leverage our special collections I feel there is a great return on investment.

    -Aaron Collie

  4. I would like to discuss your first suggestion about use of digitized rare books/manuscripts in the classroom – from the point of view of an Archivist/Librarian making selection and description choices for digitization projects that make such resources available.

    Your mention of using literary manuscripts in the composition classroom is also interesting; I work with several literary ms. collections and they present huge challenges in terms of description and access. It would be really helpful to talk with someone willing to explore the need for having such material available electronically.

  5. Rebecca Welzenbach says:

    Very interested in this! I am also really intrigued by the way some rare book libraries and collections are moving into the social media sphere–for example, the Walters Art Museum, which uses Flickr to great effect to share their digitized manuscripts collections (and creative commons licenses on their images, woo hoo!). Makes it easier to use these images in the classroom, and just in….life.


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