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Herbal magic: from tiny acorn to mighty oak – a case study in collaboration, outreach and information literacy development - Aimee Cook, Gillian Johnston & Moira Bent


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Presented at LILAC 2014 at Sheffield Hallam University

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Herbal magic: from tiny acorn to mighty oak – a case study in collaboration, outreach and information literacy development - Aimee Cook, Gillian Johnston & Moira Bent

  1. 1. Herbal Magic: from tiny acorn to mighty oak: a case study in collaboration, outreach and information literacy development. University Library Aimee Cook Gillian Johnston Robinson Library, Newcastle University
  2. 2. Herbal Magic
  3. 3. Newcastle University Library’s Special Collections • There are over 100 special collections in the Robinson Library. • Our Special Collections are kept apart from the other collections in the library because they are seen as special. • They might be see as special for many reasons – perhaps they are rare, old, or came from someone important. • It’s not just books that you will find in our Special Collections. • We have all sorts of things including photographs, maps, cartoons, recordings and objects too, including a suffragettes’ banner and a pair of socks that allegedly belonged to a murderer!
  4. 4. Herbals in our Special Collections • Herbals are books containing the names and descriptions of herbs and plants. • Herbals tell us what is good about each herb or plant and how they can be used for healing or medicine. • We have several herbals in our special collections……….
  5. 5. Grete Herball (1526) •The most famous of the early printed herbals and the first English illustrated herbal.
  6. 6. William Turner’s Herbal (1568) •William Turner (1508-1568) is known as “The Father of English Botany”. (Botany is the science of plants)
  7. 7. Rembert Dodoens’ A niewe herball (1578) •First published in 1554. •Dodoens was a doctor and was interested in the medical uses of plants.
  8. 8. Elizabeth Blackwell. A Curious Herbal (1739) •One of the first herbals by a woman. •Contains colour pictures, drawn by Blackwell.
  9. 9. Current Research into herbs at Newcastle University • Studying how herbs may be used to treat Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. • Studying traditional herbal medicines to see how they might improve memory. • Studying how herbs might be used to treat diabetes. • Studying how herbs might act as anti-aging agents.
  10. 10. Herbal Bath Bombs • It is well known that certain herbs and plants such as Lavender have relaxing properties. • In aromatherapy fragrant essential oils extracted from plants are used to alter a person’s mood. • This why many bubble baths, shower gels and bath bombs contain herb and plant extracts.
  11. 11. University Library Tiny Acorn - Genesis of the Project Outreach in Institutional Objectives: “As a world-class civic university, our engagement with civil society is integral to ensuring that our academic and professional activities have genuine economic, social and cultural benefits... Our students and graduates play an important role, for example through placements and volunteering.” Outreach in Library Objectives: “Engaging with the wider community” Current Library Outreach Activities: Education Outreach offering to local schools
  12. 12. University Library To Mighty Oak – Organic Growth
  13. 13. University Library Facets - Education outreach • Learnt about rare & archival material • Learnt about science & research Packaged at a level that was accessible for the age group/Packaged into a fun activity involving a bit of science, history and research. • Teachers– extra-curricular links • A chance to experience the University environment – meet a scientist, interact with students…. The Herbal Magic workshops at the BSF were rated by 7 teachers who all graded it excellent and it was one of the most universally popular workshops: “Fantastic workshop delivered right at the children’s level, bonus making something to take home.” “Really interesting. Some really useful ideas that we will use in school.” ”Once the children began making bath bombs the session came alive and was a big hit.”
  14. 14. University Library “I really enjoyed making the bath bomb as it was interesting to see the different reactions… a chemical reaction can make the bowl go cold” “I have enjoyed making bath bombs because it was fun and messy” “(I learnt) the uses for herbs in modern and historic day. Ancient Egyptians had herbs we still use today, rosemary was a love charm in the middle ages” “The teachers were dead clever at using chemicals for fun.” “people are still searching for information about herbals”
  15. 15. University Library Facets – Student Learning in Context • PG assessed piece of work, incorporating both archival materials & current research (Formed the basis of teaching aids in the outreach classes) • Embedding IL into teaching (authority, attribution, picture copyright, referencing) • Provides real context for learning – real applications for work • Highlighted & reinforced a skills gap and the need for academic skills teaching (Lead to the fast-tracking of a 10 credit bearing module on Effective Communication Skills for PG Research for science communication and writing for a lay audience) • Volunteering & employability – important aspect of HEI learning Samantha Small, Biology undergraduate & volunteer at the BSF workshops: “I really enjoyed taking part in the workshops. It was a great opportunity for someone like me, considering going into teaching, to experience doing science with children and dealing with the complex often strange questions brought up by them! It's definitely something I would do again.” Linh Kieu Nguyen, MSc in Medicinal Plants and Functional Foods student & volunteer at the Big Bang Fair: “I had a wonderful time when I volunteered at the Herbal Magic workshops. I loved being involved in the activities with children, especially helping them make the bath bombs. I learned more about the skills of teaching children. I hope the project will be continued.” Talking Head
  16. 16. University Library Facets - Academics staff, research & teaching: Mutually beneficial • Allowed the library to make links between our collections and current research • For AFRD - Able to use the skills of our Education Officers to create collaboration and impact • Academic involvement lent credibility and authority • Allowed a more holistic approach to teaching & learning Talking Head
  17. 17. University Library Facets - Library Liaison & learning • Connections between teaching/research and our collections – great exposure for Special Collections • Challenged some of our assumptions on our own IL teaching • Raised the library’s profile – internally as teachers in our own right within the university and externally with our outreach offering • Cohesive focal point - a chance for the entire library staff to get behind an outreach project • Scope for outreach with members of the public – library guide web pages and physical Exhibition. This has lead to possible further links arising Talking Head
  18. 18. University Library Continuation of project Continues to grow and evolve - organic nature: • Repeated workshop at National Science & Engineering Week Fair and Night at the Museum • Further involvement in assessment & IL teaching in academic department • Further collaborations and partnerships proposed – Hexham group, potential links with the Dilston Physic Garden and Alnwick Poisons Garden. • Other departments interested in collaborating with the library on teaching initiatives –reapply a similar model…. A sustainable, regenerating approach to engagement
  19. 19. University Library Mistakes and Lessons Learnt Not all smooth sailing! • First classes poorly planned • Standard of students’ work samples • Planning aspects…
  20. 20. University Library Advice & Recommendations Recipe for success – takeaway messages : • Exploit your USPs – strength in Special Collections, IL teaching • Fun! Make it sellable • Cross-faculty/inter-disciplinary appeal – a multi-team collaboration • An organic approach works best - grab all further opportunities to expand and develop • Multi-faceted and holistic nature is what made the project unique and grabbed attention – “what’s in it for me” factor • Look for sustainable models - HM has now provided us with a model that we hope to adapt with other departments
  21. 21. University Library What have you learnt…? 1) What was William Turner otherwise known as? 2) Why did Elizabeth Blackwell produce her herbal? 3) Give one example of current research into herbs that is going on at Newcastle University