I've been working on a syllabus for a special topics seminar on special collections, my first class for my first semester at UNCG. Despite starting my career in the midst of a global pandemic, I am extremely excited to get going, and putting this syllabus together has really energized me.
I really enjoyed my experiences teaching as a doctoral student, where I had the opportunity to work with both undergrads and grad students. UNCG's pretty equal focus on research and teaching was one of the things that really drew me to applying for and ultimately accepting the position there. As I start my career, I hope to put lots of energy into both of those aspects of my work, and in part, I hope to achieve that balance by making connections between my research and my teaching.
With this seminar in particular, but really with all of my classes, I'm striving to create a classroom environment where we are producing knowledge -- asking questions, engaging in critical reflection and dialogue, envisioning new strategies and tactics for information institutions to work with their communities and constituents. There are many questions in the area of special collections that are pressing and demand further research -- how to balance new kinds of digital collections against the stalwarts of rare books and manuscripts, the relationship between special collections and archives in academic libraries, and big concerns over the sustainability of current 'best practices' in the face of the present pandemic and the pervasive climate chaos. I've already had some thoughts on how all of this might enter into my research, but I'm far more interested to hear what my students have to say. I've intentionally structured the class around a semester-long student research project, and I'm looking forward to supporting my students to add their voices to the broader professional conversation.
As excited as I am for the semester to start, I'm also reflecting on some of the things that I had been looking forward to that will be dramatically altered as a result of Covid-19. While I'm looking forward to the opportunity to interact with students in the phsyical classroom space in future sememsters, I'm glad that UNCG has a robust and well-supported infrastructure for online teaching, and especially in the LIS department, this is not ad hoc or add-on responsibility for faculty to pivot to online. Another thing I will be missing out on is getting to know my colleagues by not having day-to-day interactions around campus. However, I've already had colleagues reach out to welcome me via email and colleagues help me set up my online courses, as well as lots of help from library staff in accessing resources. All of that has been very appreciated and has reassured me that I'm in the right place.