The News @ Western Libraries ---> Library Wide
Posted on: Thursday, June 5, 2014 - 11:40am
Professor Katie Vulić has been bringing her medieval literature classes to Western Libraries Special Collections ever since she first began teaching at Western. For the first several years, Vulić taught students exclusively from copies of original works; Special Collections owns a number of facsimile reproductions of medieval manuscripts that helped her students gain an understanding of the original context and culture of their class texts.
At the same time that she was using these facsimile materials, Vulić was also very interested in finding an opportunity to introduce original materials into her courses so that her students could engage directly with original manuscripts and learn from them firsthand about medieval literary culture.
“One of the goals in using original manuscripts is for students to recognize how hugely different their reading practices are between reading mass-produced, cheap, clean texts versus hard-to-produce medieval luxury goods, the kind where every letter written is its own work of art,” explained Vulić. "Additionally, with the facsimile materials, I could say ‘Here is what is known, here is what has already been discovered.’ With the original materials, I can do that too, but then I can also come back and ask, ‘What can we learn from these materials that is not yet known? What are the differences between medieval reading practices and our own?’”
Last year, Vulić was able to pose these questions to some of her graduate students after she made arrangements to borrow some original manuscript fragments and incunables (early printed books) from Washington State University’s Special Collections for her class to use. These materials were kept in Western Libraries Special Collections, and her graduate students were then able to spend a number of hours over a two-week period working directly with the borrowed materials.
“I had them go the whole nine yards with the manuscript fragments: transcribe passages, prepare a thorough description of their features, and check the existing databases in order to identify what they were. Students did say it was a lot of work but they also really enjoyed it and said I should keep the project going,” stated Vulić.
Though all of the medieval items loaned from Washington State were just individual leaves of parchment separated from their full original manuscripts, students can learn a lot from scraps and fragments. “If a book was taken apart like that, it was often because it was considered commonplace, outdated, or not valuable. Old manuscripts could be used for scrap, or for reinforcing the binding of other more current books. What that means is most of the scraps we can afford and that we see tend to be in Latin and church-related, but one advantage of that is they also tend to be searchable,” explained Vulić.
While some of the manuscript fragments have cataloged information as part of their records, other fragments have very little documented information accompanying them. However, for the fragments that are not searchable, there is still a lot that can be discovered.
“It’s hard to make a huge discovery in just one day, but sometimes we could use context clues to figure things out. And students come away with a real appreciation for the unique methods, challenges and experiences of this profession. They also gain firsthand experience with archival practices and discovering something ‘new’ in an archive, sometimes even contributing quite a lot to existing knowledge. Students are surprised by how hard these materials are to read, but they seem to have a lot of fun with it, as if they are working out puzzles. It’s an opportunity that undergraduates don’t usually have—a chance for them to see and interact with materials that are usually kept behind glass.”
This experience with her graduate students made her think of piloting a similar project in her undergraduate classes, and one year later, Dean of Western Libraries Mark Greenberg helped facilitate another loan of original materials from a rare book dealer with whom he has worked in the past.
Vulić has since used these original manuscript fragments this past quarter in two of her undergraduate classes. She synthesized the highlights of what her graduate class did over a two week period into two days, and Vulić thinks her classes have enjoyed the experience. She noted that access to these materials gives students an enhanced sense of the culture, can correct misinformation from movies, video games, and popular culture, and can help students become more grounded in the time period from which the pieces were produced, while simultaneously creating opportunities for interaction with the original materials about which there might not be a lot of known information.
Vulić explained that while she wished Western Libraries would someday have its own collection of original manuscripts, she also wanted her colleagues to know about the resources available to them that Western Libraries can help provide. She stated that she is always surprised when she meets someone who teaches at Western who has not visited Special Collections.
“It would be lovely if more of our colleagues would take advantage of these resources. I have found it to be fantastic working with library staff. They are always so willing to work with me and to meet my teaching needs. They have always been the best partners in just the best possible ways. I cannot say enough good things about them. For faculty thinking about setting up a new class and using some of these resources, it may take a little work to get things going, but it will be worth it in the long run, and you will always get the support you need from the library!”
Posted on: Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 9:25am
Learning Commons New Tagline: Connect, Communicate, Create
In February 2014, Western Washington University’s Learning Commons announced a tagline contest in which Western students, faculty, and staff were asked to help create a memorable and positive phrase that captured the Learning Commons mission. The Learning Commons brings together resources and programs to advance teaching and learning, online and across the physical space of Western Libraries. As added incentive and as a show of appreciation, it was also established that the winner of the contest would be awarded a $100 gift card to the A.S. Bookstore.
After reviewing over 60 submissions, the winning tagline of: “Connect, Communicate, Create” was selected. The Learning Commons partners agreed that each of the three key words in that phrase successfully captured the Learning Commons’ essence. Unbeknownst to the Learning Commons partners when they chose the winning entry, creator of the tagline, student Kathryn Jensen, also happens to be employed as a Writing Center Assistant.
As Learning Commons Director Carmen Werder stated, “I was delighted to find out that Kathryn is one of our very own student staff in her role as a Writing Center Assistant – no wonder she really gets the Learning Commons. We are very grateful to her for helping us find a phrase that captures the Learning Commons dream.”
Jensen explained how she came up with the tagline after she began thinking about the mission of the Learning Commons during a discussion in her first-year intern seminar at the Writing Center.
“We had been talking about how to establish it as a place students know they can go for all kinds of peer collaboration from working on group projects to writing assistance to math/science tutoring. I realized that the idea of 'connecting' with others was sort of the core of the Learning Commons, and created a tagline that emphasized that,” said Jensen.
Werder, who also directs the Teaching Learning Academy (TLA), and Writing Instruction Support (WIS), mentioned how the word “communicate” represents another significant component of the tagline.
“We also want everyone to think of the Learning Commons as a place to communicate in genuinely human ways – not only to gain information, but to engage in spirited dialogue about topics that matter most,” stated Werder. For example, “Conversations in Common,” a program that began during winter quarter 2014, is one way the Learning Commons offers the Western community opportunities for both making connections and communicating ideas.
Such programs and activities hosted in the Learning Commons naturally lead to the third component of the tagline, which is the word “create.” Werder noted how she and other Learning Commons partners were “especially thrilled” to see how the winning tagline emphasized “the Learning Commons as a place to create new knowledge, and to create it together.”
In addition to Jensen’s winning submission, Carly Roberts, who is also President of Western’s Associated Students (AS), submitted a tagline suggestion that grabbed the attention of the Learning Commons partners. Learning Commons Program Coordinator Shevell Thibou stated that all of the partners were pleased with Roberts’ emphasis on the Learning Commons as a physical gathering space.
“We also liked how the phrase ‘gather here’ was both an explanation and an invitation, welcoming everyone into this collaborative space available for connecting, communicating, and creating knowledge,” explained Thibou. Because of this emphasis, the Learning Commons partners expressed their appreciation to Roberts for her valuable contribution, acknowledging that the tagline and other future marketing materials will also incorporate the part of Roberts’ submission that includes the phrase “Gather Here.” The Learning Commons partners would also like to thank everyone else who participated in the tagline naming contest for offering their submissions.
Posted on: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 10:14am
Many students and grads spend ample time in Western Libraries, unaware that it is home to a Rare Book Collection with some rather eclectic treasures lingering on the uppermost floor. Rare Books are housed in a climate-controlled storage facility on the 6th floor of the Wilson Library, adjacent to a well-lit, comfortable reading and research room.
Western Libraries seeks to increase both size and awareness of the collection, and has recently formed an advisory group comprised of faculty from the library and several other departments. This group will guide future purchases and acquisitions, assist in identifying donors, and perhaps most importantly, help integrate the collection into the University’s curriculum. The collection’s scope includes art books, regional letterpress and small press, 19th century women’s literature and children’s literature.
Recent acquisitions include an edition of Jorge Luis Borges Book of Sand with woodcuts by local artist Tom Wood. The uniqueness and multidimensionality (book as text, book as object, book as art) of works like this make them rich in teaching and research opportunities. The Rare Book Collection also boasts a luxurious facsimile of Ellesmere’s Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, original journals of Vancouver, Cook and Lewis and Clark, and numerous rare works of art and literature.
Western Washington is home to several nationally renowned letterpresses that produce books of exceptional quality. Presses like Copper Canyon, Co-op, Brooding Heron, Grey Spider, Wood Works, Egress Studio Press and others are creating books that by their choice of paper, type, binding, size, and content are themselves works of art. Western’s evolving rare book criteria have been enhanced to include vigorous collection of such items. These are often extremely small print runs that go out of stock quickly, and are often poorly preserved. Preserving these books and making them available for instruction are two of the primary goals.
Rare books located in the general circulating shelves are being discovered and relocated into the Rare Book Collection where handling and climate can be regulated. Anyone who would like to help grow this collection either through gifts that include books that fit our collecting criteria, or through monetary donations may contact Paul Piper at 360-650-3097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on: Friday, February 14, 2014 - 2:34pm
Topic(s): Exhibits - Art or Displays
In case you haven't yet seen it, we want to share with you the news about a special exhibit featuring photographs that span over 70 years of history for the community and Western Washington University. Western Libraries Heritage Resources, Librarian Sylvia Tag, and the Libraries' Art Exhibit Team, Leslie Hall and Michelle Becker, have worked together to create this unique exhibit that features a variety of photographs depicting children, teenagers, and educators both inside classrooms and outside in the natural environment. We hope these photos help you connect to the lively world of those who came before us!
This exhibit is located on the 4th floor of Wilson Library, in the alcove area outside the Reading Room. Photographs were selected from all three Heritage Resources programs: University Archives and Records Center, Special Collections, and the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies. Heritage Resources works to document the culture and history of Western, the local community and Pacific Northwest region, and to promote public and scholarly access to holdings.
Photograph titles have been supplied by the Art Exhibit team, with the exception of some original titles supplied by the photographer or the collector. If you are interested in more information about a particular photo on display, or would like to learn more about duplication policies and fee schedules, please note the ID reference code and the name of the collection, listed in the descriptive text, and contact the designated Heritage Resources program.