Friday, December 4, 2015

Reference Tops the Charts

by Frank Boles

It was one busy month in the Clarke Historical Library during November. 426 people visited – by far the busiest month in a decade and astounding when one recalls that in the entire year of 2005-06, 929 people visited the Library.

Much of this increased use has to do with changes in the way history courses are taught. In particular, the Common Core State Educational Standards Initiative has changed the way teachers are expected to teach, and thus changed the way schools like CMU teach future teachers. Common Core calls on teachers to impart not just information, but learning skills to their students, what supporters call “deeper learning skills.” This, in turn has led to an emphasis on learning more than just “facts.” More and more teachers will be asked to develop in their students the ability to understand and interpret facts – to learn how to think about information.

Student working with primary source material in the Clarke

One way to do this is by using primary source material, the kind of things found in a library such as the Clarke. Learning how to assess documents, discussing how documents might be interpreted, and then developing a conclusion are critical skills both in history and in general in the twenty-first century. Future teachers learn how to do this in places like the Clarke Historical Library. This need to learn a new way to teach has created a new demand for the resources we have always held important.

It keeps the Library staff busy and the Library increasingly relevant to the mission of CMU as well as the broader social issues America faces.