Teaching and Learning Tip #23: Connecting to Community Using the Library’s Special Collections

February 20, 2018

Tip #23: Connecting to Community Using the Library’s Special Collections

Contributed by Carly Marino, Library

On Thursday, March 1st from 3-5pm the Library is celebrating the grand opening of the new Humboldt State University (HSU) Special Collections, a premier research center for the study of Northwestern California. Special Collections is an interdisciplinary laboratory for students to learn how to use primary source material and conduct original research by investigating archival maps, photographs, diaries, and manuscript collections documenting the history of Humboldt County.  Every semester, thousands of HSU students use these collections to explore Humboldt’s communities and their own place within it.

Why encourage students to conduct research in Special Collections?

  • Researching a local topic can help students learn about the community in which they live. Feeling connected to Humboldt County can help fuel a student’s desire to stay at HSU.
  • Students develop information literacy skills and learn how information is found, produced, and evaluated. Students can see the entire research process demonstrated in the collections housed in Special Collections, from data sets and research notes to the editor’s comments and the final published article.  
  • Students can engage in inquiry-based research and formulate research questions  based on their own experiences in the community or based on the primary sources found in Special Collections.
  • By participating in semester-long projects and internships, students can work to digitize material and design digital exhibits. This type of work encourages students to become empowered content creators.

How can you incorporate Special Collections in your course?


Association of College and Research Libraries. (2015). Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.  

Bahde, A., Smedberg, H., Taormina, M., & Yakel, E. (2014). Using primary sources: Hands-on instructional exercises. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Hinchliffe, L., & Prom, C. (2016). Teaching with primary sources. Chicago, IL: Society of American Archivists.  

Looking for other tips? Search the CTL Teaching and Learning Tip Archive