This semester, I’ve been collaborating with a librarian from Gorgas Information Services and an instructor in the English Department to create a composition course built around some of our most interesting digital collections. We’re pretty excited about it!
The instructor is currently teaching a preliminary version of the course, a freshman composition section interested in local subjects and incorporating some primary source materials. For the future course, she decided to depend entirely on primary sources and to get the instruction department more involved, so that her assignments would work clearly toward the library goal of increasing the students’ information literacy.
She chose to restrict the class’s research to special collections materials, particularly certain digital collections in Acumen. That way, it would be accessible online, and the process of identifying useful primary source materials wouldn’t be so daunting. It would also be a free alternative to having a textbook for the course.
The theme is “Go Local”: all the featured digital collections have a connection to Alabama. From letters written by Civil War soldiers to oral histories about Depression-era Birmingham, from a scrapbook chronicling the activities of WWII soldiers in Tuscaloosa to a set of speeches given at UA during the turbulent late 1960s, there are so many interesting avenues of research in our own back yard.
This library-integrated course would introduce students to the wild world of primary source research as a way of increasing their critical thinking skills and preparing them for future research and writing projects. It’s been proposed to the head of First Year Writing as a potential offering for EN 103 (Advanced English Composition) in coming semesters. We’ll keep you posted.