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A purpose-built Distinctive Collections Classroom opened in the Charles E. Young Research Library during fall quarter, dramatically increasing undergraduate students’ access and exposure to rare and unique Library materials. The new space is dedicated to teaching with books, manuscripts, audio visual and ephemera from UCLA Library Special Collections(opens in a new tab), International and Area Studies(opens in a new tab), and the Richard C. Rudolph East Asian Library(opens in a new tab). A lead gift toward construction and furnishings of the Distinctive Collections classroom was provided by The Ahmanson Foundation.

While embedding special collections materials and primary sources into the curriculum has long been central to the Library’s mission – Library Special Collections already hosts over 125 classes each year – traditional library and classroom design have often limited student engagement with rare books and archival collections. Special Collections librarians estimate the new classroom will allow them to reach 3,000 additional students in the first year, and 4,000 in subsequent years.

“The new classroom will give us the space we’ve long needed to accommodate an active and robust instructional program that reaches thousands of students every year across most of the disciplines taught at UCLA,” said Jennifer Osorio, director of Library Special Collections.

The classroom accommodates up to 64 students, and has conservation quality, adjustable height tables to ensure the safety of materials and to facilitate hands-on activities and the display of larger materials, such as maps, as well as three-dimensional items. In the next phase of construction, the room will become divisible into two separate classrooms, each with the ability to accommodate 32 students.

Osorio said the classroom is designed with glass walls so passers-by will see classes in action. “We hope this will reduce the intimidation factor of working with rare and unique materials – our collections are for everyone,” she said.

During the opening of the Distinctive Collections Classroom, Associate Professor of History Muriel McClendon, who helped design one of UCLA’s first classes modeled on active learning methods that allow students to interact directly with primary sources, said the space will bring history to life for students.

"The experience of seeing and feeling and touching primary sources like parchment, or leather book binding from several centuries ago, can be life changing," she said. "The history of the world is here at UCLA Library and having access to these materials means students can really feel history reaching out to them from across the centuries."