A Novel Approach: Teaching Research through Narrative

The Dartmouth College Archives are full of great stories. With a history as long and varied as ours, there is always something interesting to uncover.

Charles "Stubbie" Pearson '42

Charles “Stubbie” Pearson ’42

We tend to get most excited when we find a story with good teaching or research potential. A favorite is the life of Charles “Stubbie” Pearson ’42, a tragic hero in the history of Dartmouth College. He was the 1942 valedictorian, captain of the football and basketball teams, a poet, scholar, and inspirational leader on campus. Along with dozens of his classmates, he joined the Navy upon graduation and became a Navy pilot. In 1944 he was killed in action in the Pacific while dive-bombing an enemy ship.

Several years ago, Special Collections Librarian Jay Satterfield worked with Stephanie Boone in the Writing program to develop a class session where students puzzled out Stubbie’s life history as a way to help them understand the construction of narrative and to highlight the use of primary sources in building research projects.

The exercise grew out of Stephanie’s request to find primary sources that would help her students understand the cultural milieu of World War II, the setting of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, to show them a new way to read the novel, and to show them the use of primary sources in understanding and constructing narratives. Importantly, it demonstrated how finding the story in sources leads to exciting research questions that students do not anticipate.  They begin to see how the gaps in narratives generate some of the most compelling research experiences. In fact, over the six years that we’ve used this exercise, students experience this trip to Special Collections as literally their first experience in using primary sources. Coming face to face with Stubbie’s story allows students to identify with Stubbie and to understand the cultural context of Dartmouth, common ground on which both Stubbie and the students stand.

Importantly, this exercise underscores the value of the collaboration between librarians and professors, one that creates a new kind of space for intellectual enrichment. Out of this particular collaboration, Stephanie and Jay recently wrote up the experience, which has been published in Past or Portal?: Enhancing Undergraduate Learning through Special Collections and Archives (New York: ACRL, 2012).

Introducing the String Binding

Along with processing serial titles for commercial binding, I’ve been working on some in-house treatments for magazines and small pamphlets. Usually, serial titles are sent out to a commercial binder to be bound in hard covers. Occasionally however an in-house treatment is more appropriate. For example, the string binding, adapted by conservator Deborah Howe, is ideal for undersized or short-run serials that are printed as single section issues.

This aspect in particular, whether stapled or pamphlet sewn, is what makes the string binding an easy and fast way to bind multiple issues into a single volume.

The string binding is made of a 20 point board that wraps around the issues, covering the front, spine, and back.

Each issue is secured into the cover with a thick linen thread wrapped tightly around the spine section of the cover and through the center of the magazine.

A separate piece of thread can be used for each issue or a continuous thread can be wrapped through each issue one at a time which saves time in tying knots.

Once all the issues are attached into the 20 point cover a protective piece of book cloth is glued over the spine and strings.

This adds support to the spine and front and back hinges. For volumes that are tall, heavy, or floppy it is best to reinforce the covers with a 40 point board on the inside of each cover.

Written by Elizabeth Rideout.

Library Instructional Assessment at Saint Anselm College and Keene State College

As part of the Spring 2012 professional development programming, Education & Outreach sponsored a talk by Jeff Waller, Head of Reference and Instruction Services at Saint Anselm College’s Geisel Library and Kathy Halverson, Assistant Dean/Head of Public Services at Keene State College’s Mason Library.

Assessing Student Research Papers at Saint Anselm College
The initiative to develop the student research assessment began with a strong information literacy initiative in the library but no program-wide assessment.  Library staff attended a workshop on designing assessment plans for information literacy and developed an idea to evaluate research papers in the freshman and senior years. They debated whether to use a rubric or standardized test, and chose a rubric because they felt this method is more authentic, looking directly at student work.

The College applied for a Davis Educational Foundation grant to assess seven different learning objectives on campus, and included Information Literacy as one of the objectives.  Faculty participated on the 3-year information literacy assessment committee. Faculty participants valued information literacy skills and were good library customers.

The assessment committee started with the ACRL standards and discussed these with the faculty members. They then narrowed the list to 16 learning outcomes that they wanted to measure during the assessment. These outcomes had to be tangible characteristics that evaluators could observe by reading final papers.

The committee members used a 6-point Likert scale to evaluate the papers.  Before launching the full assessment the committee evaluated a small sample of three papers to ensure that scoring was consistent among evaluators. For the full pilot, evaluators obtained research papers from four first-year English classes and four senior classes. Although the pilot of approximately 70 student papers was not a representative sample of the entire college, the committee did look for similarity in length of student papers and scope of the assignment in order to have some consistency among papers in the sample.

Students performed the poorest on evaluating sources, acknowledging viewpoints, understanding bias, recognizing context.  Improvements were weakest in the areas that were weak to begin with and strongest in the areas where they were already strong. Students were good at citing sources correctly and finding relevant information, and weaker at distinguishing viewpoints and evaluating potential validity and bias. Students did improve on every criteria but the amount across each of the 16 objectives varied.

Jeff presented results of the pilot evaluation to a faculty forum. Faculty recognized the patterns evident in the results, which also corroborated the results from the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) exam, which is regularly administered at Saint Anselm. Instructors valued the results of the pilot project but raised questions regarding the evaluation of different forms of research output (for example papers vs. posters).

Faculty participants in the assessment pilot thought that grading a rubric was too time-consuming to repeat often. This Spring there is a change of leadership in the College and the Library, so there may be an opportunity to restart assessment efforts across campus but it will take time. The library is hoping to create a more simplified rubric to evaluate student bibliographies in the meantime.

In a positive turn, some professors have rewritten their assignments to more explicitly address the learning outcomes of information literacy. New adopters of information literacy outcomes have included several large introductory science classes, which had historically been somewhat resistant to information literacy assessment.

Project SAILS at Keene State College
Keene State adopted the SAILS assessment from 2008-2011, after the General Education program was restructured in 2007/2008 and became the Integrated Studies Program (ISP). When Information Literacy was included in the eight intellectual skill outcomes for ISP, the academic departments were charged with assessing ISP outcomes.

Assessment of student learning around information literacy has been done in the past but not in a programmatic manner. Keene State considered various standardized test options, including iSkills, ILT, TRAILS, RRA, and Project SAILS. The goals for assessment were to deliver a pretest to Freshman as formative assessment and deliver the posttest to Juniors as summative assessment in order to identify Information Literacy competency levels and retention rate for undergraduate students. Keene State tested Freshmen in 2008 and again when this same class were Juniors in 2011.  They tested the Freshmen classes in 2009 and 2010 also.

The advantages of the SAILS test are that it is low cost, easy to administer with just 30-50 minute time commitment per student, available in online or paper formats, provides anonymous testing, is endorsed by the Association of Research Libraries, and meets standards for validity and reliability.

However, there were some limitations as well. SAILS is not built to be a pre-test unless administered in the same year, before the test or scoring is changed. Between 2008 to 2011 the test changed significantly. SAILS is designed to compare IL across institutions, not student-to-student within an institution. (Results are organized by ACRL standard and by skill sets.) For accurate comparison purposes, the Keene State Juniors test results should have been joined with others in a consortium that tested Juniors.

Since the test is designed to compare results among different organizations, it does not provide individual data or customized feedback. Students would have liked to know their scores. SAILS now offers a different test that offers individual scores, but institutions have to choose the institutional-comparison test or the individually scored test.  SAILS is not conducive to using with small populations, groups of at least 200 students are required.

SAILS did provide a number of positive outcomes as well. Test results provided a benchmark of student performance in Information Literacy skills and allowed comparison of scores from year to year, giving a snapshot of Information Literacy assessment at the institution. SAILS results may also be used as a tool for guiding conversations with faculty about Information Literacy skills.

Following up on their involvement with Project SAILS, librarians at Keene State plan to perform comprehensive data analysis across the 2008-2011 test results. They will continue to assess student performance by using classroom assessment techniques, and may develop a SAILS-like test for entering Freshmen enrolled in a one of the ISP core courses. Although there are no immediate plans to continue to administer SAILS, they may repeat the test every 5 years to use as a benchmark.

Discussion
At the conclusion of the presentations, librarians from the three institutions traded questions about the culture of assessment at Dartmouth, Keene State, and Saint Anselm.  While the presenters come from institutions where a central mandate for institutional learning goals and assessment have been levied by the administration, the culture at Dartmouth College gives more autonomy to individual departments in this type of decision making.  Both Keene State College and Saint Anselm College have been administering the CLA standardized test and their faculty place value on the results of this and other types of uniform assessment tools, including surveys and rubrics.

The Right Tools for the Job

Like many conservators, tools interest me. They allow my hands to execute very specific actions in a more exacting fashion than they could alone. On the whole, a knife, for example, makes a cleaner cut than the tear made without one. A spatula lifts a thin piece of bookcloth with more accuracy than a fingernail. It’s valuable to keep in mind that occasionally to tear is the better action than to cut—sometimes speed beats accuracy or the feathered edge is more appropriate.

In my conservation work I use a fairly small selection of tools, only venturing outside this basic set when the repairs stray from the usual. My basic hand tools:

Pictured bottom row, left to right: staple remover, awl, microspatula, Casselli knife (larger), Caselli knife (smaller), scissors, bone folder, bone folder (smaller), Teflon folder, needle, tweezers, Olfa cutting knife, glue brush. Top row, left to right: weight, rubber cement pick-up (crepe eraser), and 45-degree right triangle. Not pictured: 12” and 18” rulers, large scissors.

Tools for cutting:

A small pair of scissors that cut all the way to the tip and a sharp, straight-bladed knife are both very useful tools. Sometimes you want a quick rough cut, and scissors are the perfect tool for the efficiency. Other times accurate cutting is essential, and a knife is the best option. Change the blade frequently, as a sharp blade is a safe one.

Tools for sewing:

A staple remover (top) can pry staples apart for removal without causing paper damage. A bookbinding needle, whose eye is no wider than the body of the needle, will allow tighter sewing since the hole the needle makes will not be larger than the needle’s thickness. (The needle size should be in harmony with the thread size.) The awl (bottom) has a shaft of equal width its entire length allowing for piercing holes of a consistent size.

Tools for lifting:

The Casselli #4 spatula (top) is my usual tool for lifting leather or paper when rebacking a book, and it can also be used for spine cleaning. The blade is very thin, as is the blade on the small Caselli #2 (3rd from top), which easily gets into very small spaces. The microspatula (2nd from top) has a thicker blade, but still allows for the insertion of glue or paste in small areas. The tweezers (bottom), with their fine, pointed tip, assist with positioning Japanese paper in repairs and removing excess cloth in corners when making boxes.

Recently, the blog of the Preservation Department at Parks Library of Iowa State University had a detailed post on microspatulas, including photos of them in action.

Tools for scoring, folding, and pressing:

My small Teflon folder (top) has two very useful ends: one pointed and one chiseled. Both ends of the tool allow tight adhesion of book cloth to board when making boxes, especially in the corners. The entire length can help secure a spine on a reback, and the Teflon material does not cause burnishing of the cloth or paper as bone folders can. My larger Teflon folder (not pictured) gets pulled out for larger projects. The two other folders are made of bone, with the middle folder’s blunt tip and wider body being useful for most work, and the lower folder helpful for smaller, more detailed work. The bottom folder’s tip broke some time ago, but a bit of sanding smoothed the rough bone with no detriment to its function. (A word of caution about sanding: Do not sand bone or Teflon without adequate health protection, as the dust can be harmful if inhaled.)

Tools for gluing, measuring, and stabilizing:

Much of the work I do requires applying glue or paste to small areas; hence the small sizes of my glue brush (top) and paste brush (bottom). Both have brush tips about 1/2-inch in width. For box-making or gluing up large areas of paper or cloth, I generally use a foam paint roller for application (not pictured). A small flat weight (a piece of steel covered with book cloth) holds work in place while sewing or drying. A rubber cement pick-up (also called a crepe eraser) will often get a stray bit of glue off of book cloth or paper. The small metal 45-degree right triangle is essential for box-making. It is also convenient for trimming small pieces of material on the bench, without requiring a walk to the board shear.

If tools interest you too, then you may wish to follow Jeff Peachey’s blog. He writes about tools, as well as makes and sells them.

Tools for bookbinding and conservation are available from a variety of vendors, including local hardware, craft, and stationary stores, as well as those businesses catering specifically to the conservation and binding fields. Additionally, the vendor room at the Guild of Book Workers Standards of Excellence Seminar each year provides a great opportunity to see a wide range of tools and supplies, and to support the vendors who keep the specialized items available to practitioners. The vendor room is open to all, not just conference attendees. A list of past vendors can be found on the Standards website. A list of supplies and services for bookbinding and conservation can be found here.

Written by Stephanie Wolff.

Film Assessment, Part 1: Smells Like Vinegar

One of the many activities Preservation Services performs for the library’s collections is condition assessment of films. We have a large number of films in a variety of formats in the collections, and assessing them is important for several reasons:

  1. For use. Sometimes patrons, scholars, or alumni want to view our old films. Of course we would love to support viewing of the films, but they aren’t always in good enough condition to be viewed on a projector.
  2. For reformatting. People often want to use clips from our film footage for other purposes. We also sometimes reformat film as part of the film preservation process, to allow people to easily view the content in a digital format.
  3. For accessioning. When we receive new (or new-to-us) films into the collection, a physical assessment is an important first step in determining how to best store and manage the items.

Why is film condition assessment important? Well, films have some unique physical qualities that make them degrade in characteristic ways, often much faster than books and paper. The National Film Preservation Foundation has an excellent book on film preservation, which can be downloaded as a PDF for free.

To sum up the basic issue, film is made of three parts: the image, which sits on an emulsion layer, which sits on a plastic base, and the type of plastic used for the base determines how it will degrade. Modern film bases are made of stable polyester, but historic film bases were made of either cellulose acetate or, originally, cellulose nitrate. Cellulose nitrate was used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is extremely dangerous because when it degrades it is highly flammable.

Cellulose acetate or “safety film” replaced cellulose nitrate in the mid-20th century and, while not dangerous like nitrate film, it does decay in a way that causes irreparable damage to the film. The chemical process of decay turns the acetate into acetic acid (the acid in vinegar), which causes the film to shrink, warp, and turn brittle. It also emits a characteristic odor of vinegar, which is a sure sign that the film is decaying.

The best way to slow film decay is to store films in good-quality containers in very cold, relatively dry environments. Films can also be digitized, transferred to a stable base, and made accessible using DVDs to prevent decay and damage from use.

In a future post, I’ll talk more about the actual process of condition assessment. Stay tuned!

Written by Helen Bailey.

Multimedia in Library Exhibits

Production photo of Phantom Limb.At Jones Media Center, staff have been lending technological expertise to help curate exhibits in the Library and other locations across campus. These exhibits draw attention to a particular topic while displaying rare items drawn from locations as diverse as the Rauner Special Collections Library, the Hood Museum, and faculty members’ personal collections.

In the Fall, Anthony Helm and Tara Albanese worked with Phantom Limb Company’s Jessica Grindstaff and Erik Sanko to create a media-rich website, in conjunction with the public premiere of Phantom Limb 69ºS at the Hopkins Center for the Arts and an exhibition curated by the Dartmouth College Library.  The show tells the harrowing story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-1916 Antarctica expedition.

Global Health ExhibitIn December, in conjunction with DHMC, the Great Issues in Medicine and Global Health Symposium exhibit was displayed on Berry Main Street. Our intern edited video and built an interactive viewing station for users to explore.  The video included rare archival footage of Dartmouth from Jones Media Center video collections, including the 1975 performance of You Laugh, a protest piece by the first female Dartmouth students. A viewing copy of this production is available for library members to check out.

image of Norman Miller's latest bookThe current exhibit, which will run through July 2012, features the work of Professor Norman Miller. The exhibit is held in conjunction with the publication of Miller’s memoir, Encounters with Witchcraft: Field Notes from Africa. Items on display include African artifacts, photos, and a documentary video.

In June, Digital Media Intern Tara Albanese will showcase her work in multimedia exhibits at the New Media Consortium annual summer conference, hosted this year at MIT.

Quetzalcoatl Premiere

Preservation Week 2012 has come and gone. How did you celebrate? There were a number of great activities all over the country – I hope you were able to participate and deepen your understanding of the need to preserve our cultural heritage today so that it may be passed on to the next generation. If you haven’t had a chance, be sure to review our preservation pointers.

Dartmouth’s major Preservation Week event was a public screening of the film Quetzalcoatl. You may recall from earlier posts (here and here) that funding for the film restoration was provided by a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation. Part of the mission of the NFPF is to promote film exhibition and so projecting the film before an audience was a grant requirement.

Quetzalcoatl was ready for public viewing at about the same time that our colleagues at the Hood Museum of Art were preparing a major exhibit, “Men of Fire: Jose Clemente Orozco and Jackson Pollock”. We decided to schedule the premiere during the “Men of Fire” exhibit (April 7 – June 17) and serendipitously Preservation Week fit right in.

April 25 was the premiere and Mary Coffey, Associate Professor of Art History, provided an introduction to an audience of fifty students and community members. She highlighted these aspects of the film:

  • The director’s use of pan and scan to emphasize parts of the mural.
  • The impact of the musical score by Theodore Newman.
  • What parts of the mural the director included and what was excluded.

What a difference it made to experience Quetzalcoatl on the big screen! After the movie, Professor Coffey took questions from the audience and many commented that the film helped them better understand Orozco’s work. One person stated that although he had studied the mural, he had never before been able to see at eye level the figures of Quetzalcoatl and the Christ in the way the film maker made possible.

If you would like to view the movie, a DVD copy may be checked out from the Jones Media Center. Ask for Jones Media DVD 13348. Or you may see it on Dartmouth’s YouTube channel.

If you are in the Upper Valley, be sure to visit the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College to see the “Men of Fire: Jose Clemente Orozco and Jackson Pollock” exhibit from now until June 17.

Written by Barb Sagraves.

Occom’s Manuscripts: Preserving Dartmouth History

Samson Occom

Though Eleazar Wheelock is well remembered as the founder of Dartmouth College, it’s largely thanks to the efforts of Mohegan Native American minister and intellectual Samson Occom that Wheelock’s dream was made reality. And while Occom’s role in the founding of Dartmouth was undoubtedly crucial, the Occom Circle Project intends to assert his rightful place as an important voice in early American history as well. With the help of Professor Ivy Scheweitzer, Rauner Library, Computing Services, the Digital Production Unit, Preservation Services, and many other departments and individuals, we are nearing the project’s goal.

In 1743, Eleazar Wheelock met a young Mohegan named Samson Occom. Occom had been taught English by missionaries at a young age, and had already converted to Christianity. During the four years they initially spent together, Wheelock found Occom to be an excellent pupil, and he successfully prepared Occom to be ordained as a minister. Occom, for his part, encouraged Wheelock’s goal of educating and enriching the lives of the Native American population. This bore fruit in 1755, when Wheelock founded Moor’s Charity School in Lebanon, Connecticut, which accepted both Native American and British students on charity.

Letter from Samson Occom to Eleazar Wheelock, regarding fundraising plans for Moor’s Charity School

By then Occom had already departed from Wheelock’s instruction to seek his own fortune. In 1749 Occom was offered a position as the schoolmaster for the Montauk Native Americans on Long Island. It was there he met his wife, Mary Fowler, and started a family. In 1759 he was ordained. Occom spent the next several years traveling New England as an itinerant minister, first as a missionary to the Oneida Native Americans and eventually returning to the Mohegan tribe in 1764.

It was here that his path crossed yet again with Eleazar Wheelock; a meeting that would have a profound and lasting effect on the Upper Valley. At this time the Moor’s Charity School was financially troubled. Wheelock had had small success fundraising throughout New England, but it was not enough. What he proposed was a fundraising trip to England, to be undertaken by his most accomplished pupil. Occom agreed. He was joined by the Reverend Nathaniel Whitaker.

The pair left for England in 1766, and after two years they had raised over £12,000, a truly substantial sum at the time. As Francis Lane Childs wrote in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine: “[A]n Indian preaching in the pulpits of English churches was naturally a sensation, and large throngs came to hear him and his colleague. The subscription papers which they carried were filled with all the way from small contributions… to ones of considerable amount from wealthy, pious-minded persons. In fact, they ranged all the way from 5 shillings given by an anonymous widow to two hundred pounds donated by King George III himself. One of the gentlemen who headed the list was William, Second Earl of Dartmouth. Another was a philanthropic and well-to-do merchant of London, John Thornton.”

It is safe to say that without this fundraising on Occom’s part, the founding of Dartmouth would have taken substantially longer, or indeed, may not have been possible at all from Wheelock’s position. In 1769 the school charter was signed by Governor John Wentworth, and true to its roots in the Moor’s Charity School, it declared “that there be a college erected in the province of New Hampshire by the name of Dartmouth College for the education and instruction of youth of the Indian tribes in this land in reading, writing, and all parts of learning which shall appear necessary and expedient for civilizing and Christianizing children of pagans, as well as in all liberal arts and sciences, and also of English youth and others…[It shall not] exclude any person of any religious denomination whatsoever from any of the liberties and privileges or immunities of the said College on account of his or their speculative sentiments on religion.”

In June of 2010 Dartmouth English Professor Ivy Schweitzer was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to establish an online archive of Occom’s writings. Schweitzer’s project began in 2005, when, teaching a first-year seminar, she had difficulty providing access to Occom’s letters for her entire class. The solution of the online archive accomplishes this, as well as making the history of the college (and Occom’s role within it) accessible to a much wider audience. Schweitzer said: “This puts Occom at the center of a larger cultural movement in which you can see how important his work is.”

The letters themselves are currently available in a beta website, with a finished version projected for 2014. The Occom collection presented some interesting challenges; first and foremost there is the lack of an actual collection, with the 500-plus letters and manuscripts culled from other areas of Rauner Library and assembled specifically for this project. It’s up to College Archivist Peter Carini and his team at Rauner Library to make sure the articles are genuine and the information is up to date.

One of the Occom letters, torn along a fold

The letters then arrive at the Preservation Services department, where our Collections Conservator Deborah Howe does everything possible to conserve and keep these documents in optimal condition. Torn documents are mended with Zen Shofu paste, a wheat-based adhesive, as well as Japanese tissue, which is tinted in an acrylic bath to best match the original documents’ hue. In some circumstances a very thin gossamer tissue is used in order to best preserve the fidelity of the text.

The same letter, after conservation treatment

After Preservation Services has repaired the documents they come to the Digital Production Unit, where they are scanned and added to the temporary online database. From there, Project Manager Dawn Dumpert, Professor Schweitzer, and a rotating cast of student workers transcribe and mark up the documents in TEI (Text Encoding Initiative). The document then goes to Cataloging and Metadata, where Text Markup Unit Manager Mina Rakhra’s team creates a cataloging record and applies metadata to the newly-scanned documents. For the finished product, Paul Merchant in the Digital Library Technologies Group is working on the search features, and Susan Lee in Computing Services is working on the design of the website.

This project represents both a major step forward in early-American cultural history, and an example of how well the various library and faculty members can collaborate. It’s safe to say that without the exceptional work of Professor Ivy Schweitzer, Rauner Library, the Digital Production Unit, Cataloging and Metadata Services, the Digital Library Technologies Group, Computing Services, and the Preservation Services department, this project would not have been possible.

Written by Ryland Ianelli.