New Space to Shape the Future of Library Special Collections Research

“Going to the Library and handling these rare materials is completely different from any research I’ve done in the past,” said Ryan, a class of 2020 history major. His classmate, Chloe, agreed: “This class has completely changed the way I do research for all of my classes.” These newly minted UCLA alumni were referring to professor Muriel McClendon’s History 191 course, which they took as undergraduates last year. 

What set the experience apart for these students? Class sessions in Library Special Collections, working directly with librarians, and access to archival and print materials from the 17th and 18th centuries.

When it opens next year, a new Distinctive Collections Teaching Space in the Charles E. Young Research Library will expand capacity for students, including undergraduates like Ryan and Chloe, to work with the Library’s rarest and most unique holdings, including archival materials and international collections. And they’ll receive instruction from librarians and archivists who are experts on the collections.

“In 18 months, Library Special Collections led 141 instruction sessions for more than 3,300 students, the majority of whom were undergraduates,” said Athena Jackson, director of Library Special Collections. “Working with learning spaces designed for 15-person graduate seminars, we realized we had an opportunity—and a responsibility—to give more students access. The new classroom will accommodate up to 60 students, quadrupling our capacity.”

The purpose-built space has been designed with environmental and security features that protect rare and fragile materials while providing an engaging educational experience for learners. Mobile seating encourages active, hands-on, and collaborative work in a flipped classroom setting, and flexible, leading-edge technologies will enable asynchronous and hybrid learning experiences. 

"There is a sense of magic that happens in Library Special Collections when my students engage with primary source materials created at the time an event occurred in history," said McClendon. "Having increased opportunities for UCLA students to examine rare materials, cared for and presented by our expert librarians, offers invaluable opportunities for them to explore and arrive at their own conclusions."    

We invite you to learn more about the Library’s vision for this space. Please contact Stephanie Kimura at 310.206.8551 for more information.