“Let me tell you what I learned”: Primary Course Literacy and Student Employment in Archives and Special Collections

“Let me tell you what I learned”: Primary Course Literacy and Student Employment in Archives and Special Collections by Erin Passehl-Stoddart

In academic libraries, information literacy traditionally focuses on instruction sessions and classes, activities in library learning spaces, and interactions with librarians. Often overlooked but equally as important to augmenting the student experience is employment in academic libraries and its relationship to the development of information and other literacies. This is particularly true concerning the contribution of special collections and archives, as most scholarship associated with primary source literacy focuses on instruction. This article begins to fill this gap by reporting the results of a series of qualitative interviews with student employees who worked directly with special collections and archives. More specifically, this article reports on interviews conducted with students who provided self-perceptions on how the SAA-ACRL/RBMS Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy integrated with their work in an academic library. Students evaluated their experiences and connected most strongly to the learning outcome around historical empathy, curiosity about the past, and appreciation for historical materials. Archivists need to engage students more often about their work experiences and use this information to communicate the impact archivists have on student learning. This article offers insights into expanding how the archives profession values and connects students to primary source literacy skills through employment experiences and into ways to integrate primary source literacy standards into archives and library evaluation and assessment.

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