Grant will prepare future North Carolina librarians and archivists to teach with primary sources

September 1, 2021

A $320,777 grant to the University Libraries at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will help prepare the state’s future librarians and archivists to teach with primary source materials.

The award comes from the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. It will fund the Primary Sources Teaching Fellowship Program, based at the Wilson Special Collections Library.

Teaching with unfiltered historical materials can be incredibly challenging, said Emily Kader, rare book research librarian at the Wilson Special Collections Library, and the grant’s principal investigator.

“Special collections are full of documents that can be difficult to teach,” said Kader. “Primary sources can document violence and painful histories, or they can use unfamiliar language and formats. We’ve gained a great deal of experience here at Carolina introducing students to these materials. Now we’re eager to share those insights with librarians and archivists in training so that they feel equipped to teach with these materials in a sensitive and critical way.”

The grant will provide stipends to three cohorts of fellows—eight each in the summers of 2022, 2023 and 2024. They will come from the state’s five master’s degree programs in information and library science at Appalachian State University, North Carolina Central University, East Carolina University, UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro. Students from groups underrepresented in the library and archival profession will be especially encouraged to apply.

Fellows will take part in a structured online learning experience led by UNC-Chapel Hill librarians and archivists and a roster of guest speakers. Fellows will then spend three days in Chapel Hill for an onsite workshop where they can create and receive feedback on lesson plans built around materials from Wilson Library. Kader is also seeking to arrange internships at institutions near each participant.

To ensure that the program meets its stated goals and to review student applications, Kader and her colleagues will assemble an advisory board. Members will come from each of the five partner programs and from the Teaching with Primary Sources Collective. The collective’s website ( will eventually host the program’s syllabus and related instructional videos.

While the program will train librarians and archivists, the ultimate goal is to support learners in all settings—K-12, higher education and the community at large—in using primary sources.

“When you empower students to understand history through primary source objects, you empower them to know their world more fully,” said Kader. “It’s not just about difficult objects. It’s about rich histories that we need to have students be able to interpret and understand so that they can walk through the doors and write histories of their own.”

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