Libraries receive NEH CARES Cultural Organizations program grant

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June 22, 2020

NEH sealThe College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University Libraries have received funding for two projects from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) CARES Cultural Organizations program.

The award of $116,979 will develop online course modules on humanities topics, and also build a portal to the Libraries Special Collections through Nov. 22. It will enhance the Libraries’ ability to support humanities teaching and research at CSB/SJU through the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students being away from campus and learning online have encountered barriers – physical, technological and more – to accessing the Libraries’ resources. Both projects will expand that access, either by creating content that supports learning objectives in information literacy, or breaking down barriers to Special Collections that are used by students, faculty and researchers that are now inaccessible to everyone.

Library staff – who would otherwise be candidates for furlough – will build course modules on humanities topics of importance in CSB/SJU curriculum, such as comparative religions, data ethics and visual cultures of Asia. The modules, created within CSB/SJU’s Canvas Learning Management System and web-based research guides, will address information literacy and subject-specific content and be replicable for use in other institutions.

The modules will include readings or multimedia content introducing the topic, exercises to develop students’ information literacy skills and an assignment that asks students to apply those skills within a particular subject system. 

Regardless of where the teaching occurs, the modules will prompt students to learn tools of humanistic thinking and apply those tools to problems and circumstances readily apparent in their daily lives.

The project to develop online course modules is already underway and will conclude Aug. 15.

The pandemic has made accessing the Libraries’ Special Collections – ranging from artists’ books, liturgical art, sacred music, rare books, institutional archives and other collections – almost entirely impossible (the current system assumes the user will come to the Library and consult physical items).

An improved web presence for Special Collections will serve not only CSB/SJU students and faculty but will make those resources more readily discoverable by researchers including scholars and monastic, tribal and community members.

The project to build a Special Collections portal is also underway, and will conclude Nov. 15.

NEH received 2,333 eligible applications and funded 317 (approximately 14%). The program provides emergency relief to institutions working in the humanities that have been affected by COVID-19 and funds projects that support at-risk humanities positions and projects.