2022 Fall DLC: Feeling Democracy: Connecting students with civics using primary sources and government documents

  • Duration: 49 minutes
  • Date Recorded: October 17, 2022


  • Allan Van Hoye, Government Information and Civics Literacy Librarian, University of Colorado Boulder, Norlin Library


Government information can be tedious, but it is vital to a thriving democracy. The session will show practical ways to connect students with government sources. Students often struggle with civic inquiry because of access barriers, lack of familiarity, and difficulty deciphering content. This often prevents the exploration of more complex ways of interacting with the government. By exposing students to documents that create a personal connection to government and history, we can foster students' curiosity to help make the interaction less daunting.

Using affective, experiential learning techniques and grounded in critical pedagogy the presentation will start with the foundational concepts of these class sessions. We will then explore a couple of case studies from the teaching sessions of CU Boulder’s Rare and Distinct Collections at CU Libraries. Using the lessons from these case studies and other research, there will be a discussion of how this might look in practice. By providing a personal connection to the documents we have we can encourage students to look deeper into civics issues. By giving the students exposure to the documents in person and giving them time to explore them, we can help break down barriers to civic inquiry.

The goal of this poster is to provide a practical template for choosing and using government sources in the classroom and to begin a dialogue about libraries and other institutions can collaborate on civic inquiry.

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