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Ambassadors of the Book

December 8, 2012

AmbassadorsReally proud to have a chapter in Ambassadors of the Book: Competences and Training for Heritage Librarians (De Gruyter, 2012).  Edited by Raphaële Mouren, it is based on conference papers from the IFLA Rare Books and Manuscripts Section Midterm in February.

Here’s my abstract:

Experiential Learning in Historical Bibliography

Summary: This paper explores the impact of practical experience on the learning of Historical Bibliography among students on UCL’s MA in Library & Information Studies (MA LIS) and MA in Archives and Records Management. It finds that practical activities not only equip students for the practical elements of rare books librarianship but also aid in the higher order learning required to understand the History of the Book and the book as object.

Background: Having been taught for a number of years by guest lecturers, the module in Historical Bibliography was brought back in-house in 2009-10, with the stipulation that a higher proportion of teaching time be spent in practical activities. In 2009-10 collation and cataloguing practice were reintroduced and the practical assessed work which constitutes 30% of the overall mark was changed from a ‘pop quiz’ to the production of a quasi-facsimile. This ensured a constructive alignment between the cataloguing undertaken in classwork and the assessment – quasi-facsimile being not as detailed as a full cataloguing record, but detailed enough to test observation and accuracy skills, and also indicating students’ ability to understand the quasi-facsimile format used most frequently in enumerative bibliographies and other reference books for rare books cataloguing. Student satisfaction criteria were met, and comments were received from employers in the rare books sector that graduates from the 2009-10 programme met their expectations.

Purpose of research: Having put a successful teaching programme in place, in 2010-11 the focus of the module coordinator has been on understanding the learning undertaken by students as part of the further enhancement of the module for 2011-12: as Dewey and later educationalists have argued, there can be a considerable gap between an educator’s teaching aims and the students’ learning experience. Further, from 2011-12 the module will be open to students on UCL’s new MA in Digital Humanities (MA DH). Whereas current and former students aim to work in libraries and archives, students on the MA DH have a wider range of career aspirations. A consideration of the relevance of the practicals for overall student learning seemed timely.

Methodology: Paper-based survey of 31 (100%) course participants at the end of the module in December 2010, online survey in April 2011 which 16 students (51.61%) and interviews with 7 students (22.58%) in Summer 2011 . Findings: Although, predictably, students reported across the board that practicals aided their understanding of and proficiency in practical rare books curatorial and documentation practices, they also reported an increased understanding of theoretical concepts and displayed the higher order learning Bloom described in his taxonomy of learning.

Conclusions: Practical activities such as book handling, bibliographic description and collation, as well as being key competencies in their own right, aid the learning of History of the Book.

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