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Improving Art History Education: Library and Faculty Partnerships in Instructional Technology Development. (Communications)

Article excerpt

This article discusses the provenance of a partnership between the Digital Projects Department (DPD) at Northern Illinois University (NIU) Libraries and NIU's Art History Department that seeks to improve art education at NIU. Academic librarians and other library personnel have unique skills, which along With providing traditional library services, should be utilized to meet instructional and educational challenges. Since DPD has a history of providing access to multimedia content via the Internet, it seemed natural to partner with the art history department to create a tool for accessing slides of artwork via the Web.

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In an age when students and faculty underutilize library services, librarians need to better market their skills in order to remain relevant on today's campuses. Many articles routinely cite the need for library-faculty collaboration in the pursuit of this goal, but these calls generally describe programs of traditional library instruction and information literacy. (1) While these are important objectives, today's librarian can offer much more. Academic librarians in particular have a technical skill set that can be use not only for providing access to materials, but also for developing tools for instructors to be used in the classroom. (2) As an example, the Digital Projects department (DPD) at Northern Illinois University (NIU) Libraries is currently working with the Art History department to offer image slides via the Web that can be searched and integrated into classes. This paper reviews how this library-faculty collaboration emerged, and how all parties are working together to make this a reality.

DPD Experience

The DPD at Northern Illinois University Libraries (NIUL) has produced a series of multimedia Web sites dedicated to Illinois history. (3) The sites provide searchable databases of primary documents and images, historians' video and textual evaluations of important events, interactive maps that show demographic and voting information for the United States and Illinois from the years 1820-1860, and lesson plans that integrate these materials for use in the classroom. The success of the DPD comes from its collaboration with other departments on campus and with other institutions throughout the state of Illinois.

DPD staff works with partner institutions to provide the technology and primary sources that make up the Web sites. The database and search scripts come from a partnership with the University of Chicago. Other partner institutions provide content, including the Newberry Library, the Illinois State Archives, and Illinois State University.

In addition to working with other institutions, DPD has worked with departments on campus to develop digital resources that incorporate their unique skills and knowledge, the Communication department, with its experience in film production, assisted DPD in creating original video and sound files. The Faculty Development Office trained project staff in Adobe Premiere and Real Producer to offer these files on project Web sites. The response of these departments showed that the university community is a supportive, collaborative environment.

Within the library, many people and departments contributed to make projects successful. The systems department offered technical support. Much of the material came from Rare Books and Special Collections. Art librarian Charles Larry created graphics and assisted in the design and layout of the Web site. The diverse skill set and material resources found within the library illustrated how all library departments can contribute to the success of the whole. The experience suggested that this type of technological collaboration with the rest of the university might be successful as well.

Problem and Possible Options

The opportunity for testing the hypothesis came about when a new art history professor told the art librarian about an e-reserves collection of images at her former institution, and how she would like to see that offered at NIU. …