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Preparing for Class Visits

Page history last edited by Shaun Hayes 10 years ago

Home > Archivist/Librarian Section > Preparing for Class Visits


If You Decide to Try Class Visits                                                         


The following can help you decide if your repository can safely and effectively accommodate class visits.  If you decide to try class visits, you will have to proactively reach out to teachers participating in NHD. 


Ideal outreach consists of teacher workshops sponsored by NHD.  Workshops cover NHD rules, teaching methods for primary sources, and research methods using primary sources.  You can also develop an NHD web page or wiki with information for teachers about class visits (see example from Minnesota Historical Society Library). In addition, archivists/librarians must emphasize some "vital" pieces of information to NHD teachers before class visits.


Information to Communicate to Teachers FIRST

  • Students must complete secondary research on their topics before coming to an archives or library as a class. It is recommended that you contact teachers to let them know what secondary or primary sources you have online so students can look at those before arriving.  Also let them know if you have secondary research materials on site.
  • Archives will not have information on every student's topic.
    • Teachers can bring the subset of students who will find resources at the archives.
    • Teachers can ask students to choose a topic that does have resources at the archives.
    • Archivists/librarians can help students do research with books, databases, and other resources.


Preparing for Class Visits

  • Develop and put online a History Topic list (see Highlighting Your Collections).
  • Make finding aids available online, preferably with a search function that novice researchers can understand.
  • Develop a cadre of reference staff, volunteers, and interns to help during class visits. These can include retirees, undergraduate interns, NHD staff, and class chaperons.  Train volunteers to bring any unresolved questions to the archivist/librarian.
  • Decide how many students your repository can handle at one time.
  • Communicate specific rules to the teachers--such as, they must stay with the class and/or bring chaperones.
  • Find out if you can go into the classroom ahead of time and do an overview of how to use an archives before the class visit.


Pre-registering Classes

  • Complete pre-registration before the class comes (example of a pre-registration form).
  • Register students by their first and last names with the address of the school, rather than their home address. 
  • Limit the number of students that can come in one visit. This will depend on your staffing and space availabilities.
  • Consider requiring a certain number of chaperons per so many students. 


 Retrieving Materials Before Class Arrives

  •  It can be too time consuming to try to retrieve materials on the day of the visit.  Here are two possibilities for pre-selection:
    • Have students identify materials from the catalog or online finding aids and fill out call slips.  Limit the number of items each student can request to reflect the amount of time they have for research.  Too much can be overwhelming.  Have the teacher fax the call slips before the class visit. It is ideal to get the information on what students want to look at one week (or more) prior to the class's arrival. 
    • OR, have the teacher fax a list of topics students are interested in and have reference staff select and retrieve holdings before the class visit.  (This method is more time consuming.)


Day of the Class Visit

  • Begin with a 10-15 minute introduction to using archival sources.
    • Discuss care and handling of materials
    • Box and folder order
    • Rules
    • Copying services or digital camera usage (request the teacher have at least one camera available for students to use)
    • Consider creating a 2-minute pre-test to start the introduction
  • Have staff, volunteers, teachers, and interns circulate among tables to offer help.
  • Help students that cannot find primary sources to use databases, microfilm, etc.
  • Ask students to fill out a short assessment/comment form before they leave. A good active learning method is to ask them to identify what was the most important thing they learned.


After the Class Visit

  • Check the materials used and re-arrange if necessary before reshelving.
  • Give students a name and email address for any subsequent reference questions.


Calculating and Saving Staff Time

Consider how much time it will take your staff for:

  • Outreach to teacherssystematizing forms saves time.          
  • Pre-registering studentssome repositories register the class, but not each student.
  • Retrieving materials from call slips. 
  • Selecting materials for the list of student topics.
  • Photocopyingencourage teachers to bring a camera to decrease the amount of photocopying (if your archives allows use of digital cameras).
  • Staffing the class visitplan on one staff member assigned to the class, another reference staff member to help with the class, and maintain regular staffing at the reference desk, if possible.
  • Assess and rearrange materials before reshelving.

Society of American Archivists Reference, Access and Outreach Section's National History Day Committee| Credits

The Society of American Archivists does not assume responsibility for the opinions and views published on this auxiliary site.


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