With colleagues throughout the Yale University Library, and across the university, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library staff have been working to assist Yale faculty and students in the extraordinary efforts to transition rapidly to online teaching and learning for academic continuity through the remainder of the spring semester.
Every subject area or field of study has its own particular issues to address in order to optimize online learning. Teaching with special collections – normally a very hands-on and on-site endeavor – poses its own particular challenges and opportunities in the pivot to digital-only instruction in the present moment of public health challenge.
The 2020 spring semester has five Beinecke Library intensive courses – those with all or most of their sessions planned to be held in the classrooms in the library’s building at 121 Wall Street. There are scores of other classes that had scheduled one or a few sessions to engage with primary source materials in person.
Such courses are a distinctive part of teaching and learning at Yale. As the university’s 2019 Self-Study Report to the New England Commission of Higher Education noted, “When it comes to collections — from the university library to the galleries and museums —Yale stands alone among global research universities. More than 1,000 class sessions every academic year are taught inside our museums and libraries, with primary sources and art collections in hand. These advantages make a Yale education qualitatively different from any other.” The Beinecke Library itself hosts more than 500 class sessions in a typical year.
The following offers some insights from the first two weeks of the effort to take courses using library special collections “out of the archives, onto Zoom.”
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