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Wilson Library welcomes second cohort of primary sources teaching fellows

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The Wilson Special Collections Library on Thursday, June 8, 2023.

Wilson Special Collections Library is hosting the second cohort of the Primary Sources Teaching Fellowship in June.

The program funds up to eight fellows per year from the five Master's in Library Science programs in the UNC System. The main goal of the fellowship is to bring library science students together to think about how to teach with primary sources.

Emily Kader, fellowship director and interim Rare Books Collection curator, said primary sources are objects created at a moment in time that can reveal something about that moment in history. 

Kader gave examples of primary sources, such as a 19th-century letter written about a particular event, a 16th-century book published during a writer's lifetime or even a tweet.

"What can that tell us about writing and publishing at that moment in history?” she said.

Kader wrote the grant proposal for the fellowship in collaboration with Vice Provost for University Libraries María Estorino and Head of Research and Instructional Services Jason Tomberlin. The fellowship received funding through 2024.

“I think we recognized broadly, in the field of librarianship — both a demand for that kind of teaching and the need broadly for people both students at universities but beyond — people needing primary source literacy skills so they could read the world around them,” Kader said.

Because the fellows have various backgrounds and future goals, Kader said she wanted to think about different career paths in spaces like academic, K-12 and public libraries.

The first five weeks of the six-week fellowship follow an online curriculum on topics like teaching primary source literacy, creating critical learners and caring for colleagues in teaching. 

In the sixth week, the fellows come together at Wilson Library for a three-day, hands-on teaching lesson with primary source objects, including the rare books and audiovisual materials held there. 

Last year, fellows had two days to design a lesson plan around materials chosen from the Wilson Archives and presented their lessons on the third day. 

Sophie Hollis is a recent graduate of the UNC School of Information and Library Science who participated in the first cohort of the fellowship last year.

Her lesson illustrated news bias in historical papers representing different communities by comparing a white-owned newspaper and a Black-owned newspaper from Raleigh covering the same story.

She said her classmates' presentations included a lesson on the history of flight for elementary school students, based on the Wright brothers, and historical recipes using old cookbooks.

She said that one of the most useful long-term benefits of the fellowship was seeing everyone’s various methods and approaches to teaching. 

“I think that's really important, especially with teaching history and teaching with primary sources, you’re going to teach all kinds of students with all kinds of interests and backgrounds, and I think having lots of different modes of teaching and ideas about what’s right is really beneficial,” Hollis said. “Having diverse perspectives for diverse classrooms is really the takeaway.”

After the six-week program concludes, the fellows are placed in internships.

Hollis is doing her internship with the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, working with digital primary sources. She said she is interested in teaching at the university level with special collections. 

Hannah Helmey is a current library science student at UNC concentrating in archive and records management. She participated in the fellowship to hone her skills as an instructor who could help people access accurate information.

“I think that’s more important than ever, and there’s a lot of skill-building that goes into being good at that,” she said.

@dailytarheel |

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