Archive and Special Collections

Lesser-known uses of the Archive: An Academic Librarian’s view

Academic Librarian Laurence Morris, guest blogs about his experiences concerning the University's Archive and Special Collections.

Historical picture of student doing PE

As an Academic Librarian at Leeds Beckett Library, a key part of my role is to help students develop their information literacy – their ability to work independently, finding, evaluating and utilising information. The Archive is a useful resource from this perspective, and not just for its inherent worth as a historical collection. It is also a means of highlighting to even highly educated individuals that for all of us, whatever stage of our education we are at, unknowns remain. For example, working with second and third year students, I often play this film clip from the Archive. It is of a Carnegie Gymnastics session from the 1930s.

The clip illustrates the point that for most people, there will always be further interesting resources available to them from their Library – aspects of their collection that they have not yet encountered. And, of course, once this point is demonstrated, it is then easier to discuss the other lesser-known tools and services which patrons might be interested in.

One of the joys of such conversations is that you never know where they might lead, or to what use staff and students might put the information in their Library. In the last six months alone, I have heard tentative plans to recreate the old film clips with present-day students, being asked where best to find historical information on Beckett by a 1950s-vintage Carnegie student, and helped to arrange fact-finding visits to the Archive for staff from disciplines as diverse as Creative Media Technology and Tourism. The conversations continue, generating new connections – and perhaps even future Archive material.

Finally, as this guest post is a personal perspective, a personal reflection to close with:

In 2013, I joined Leeds Met Library (as it then was) as an Information Services Librarian, working on cataloguing and the university’s new (now superseded) online reading list system. I remember working on Archive materials as cataloguing training and mentioning to Keith Rowntree that I hoped to have an excuse to assist with the collection again in the future – six years on, it is good to have had the chance!

Laurence Morris

Academic Skills Tutor / Library And Student Services
Academic Skills Development Manager / Library And Student Services

Laurence Morris is an Academic Skills Tutor with Leeds Beckett Library and an Associate of Leeds Beckett Centre for Learning and Teaching.

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