The Primary Source Librarian

Dedicated to Excellence in Teaching with Primary Sources

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    The Primary Source Librarian is a friendly professional space where you can find information, advice, and support for teaching with primary sources. Check out the links to primary source collections, discover the best primary source lesson plans, learn what's happening in the world of digitization, explore the links you find in each post, and share your own primary source experiences!

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    A Remarkable Chance Encounter

    Posted By on October 29, 2010

    As my readers may have noticed, I’ve been off the grid and absent from real life for over three weeks now. For two of those weeks I was studying Italian in Montepulciano (Tuscany) and Sorrento. After twelve total weeks of off-and-on study (mostly off) over the past four years, I have nearly reached the advanced level, but lapses of memory and gaps in my understanding are a constant and humbling reminder that learning a language is no easy task! On the plus side, my fledgling knowledge of Italian has enriched my travel experiences in many ways. I could even follow our Rome taxi driver’s enthusiastic endorsement of all things Texan, which in his mind include cowboys, guns, his collection of western films, and his number one hero, Clint Eastwood.

    But this post is not about Italy. It’s about a chance encounter during our four-hour layover in Washington, DC. While sitting in an airport restaurant, we struck up a conversation with a couple from Massachusetts at the table next to ours, and what follows is their remarkable story.

    Peter Salerno and his wife (a former Italian teacher!) had attended a very special burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery the previous day. The remains of Peter’s Uncle John Simonetti, killed by a German sniper’s bullet on June 16, 1944, had been unearthed by a construction crew in the small French town of St. Germain d’Elle in 2009. For sixty-five years, the Simonetti family had waited and wondered. Peter had heard many stories about his uncle – a handsome, athletic young man who had grown up in Queens with seven brothers and sisters. But Peter never expected the most important story to end with a moving ceremony at Arlington, attended by over 100 family members, the mayor and another dignitary from St. Germain d’Elle, and even a handful of veterans now in their 90s who had fought with Simonetti.

    Burial Ceremony for John Simonetti, Arlington National Cemetery, 25 Oct 2010 (U.S. Army photograph)

    The United States Army News Service published an account by J.D. Leipold the day we met the Salernos. You can read the entire article here. Below is an excerpt:

    Staff Sgt. John Simonetti

    “WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 26, 2010) — Just 10 days after the sand and blood of Normandy’s beaches, on the heels of D-Day, 2nd Infantry Division Ranger Staff Sgt. John R. Simonetti lay prone in the hedgerows on the outskirts of the sleepy, deserted town of St. Germain d’Elle, zeroing in with his grenade launcher on a German machine-gun nest.

    “As the New Yorker sighted in on his target, a German sniper hidden in the town’s church bell tower was squinting through his scope’s cross-hairs on the 26-year old. Before the GI could pull off his round, the German squeezed off his.

    “Zzzzip… the bullet tore through Simonetti’s throat, tumbling down, taking out a rib, lodging in his lower abdomen, killing him instantly. On the day Simonetti lost his life — June 16, 1944 – more than a third of the remaining 300 men in his company would go down, and before the war ended, the 2nd Infantry Division would spend 337 days in action in five campaigns and loose [sic] 2,999 Soldiers.

    “The fighting was nothing short of brutal. Back and forth went the momentum, but eventually the American troops prevailed. Following what become known as the Battle of the Hedgerows and the capture of St. Germain d’Elle, the townspeople returned to what was left of their buildings and homes, the little church with the bell tower destroyed, the milk factory leveled.

    “Worse than the destruction of the village was the countless dead American and German Soldiers, lying in grotesque positions where they’d fallen, sometimes next to each other, victims of each other’s weapons.

    “The town folk did what they could to bury the dead of both armies, making markers upon which dog tags hung, identifying who lay beneath the soil. Sometimes they buried the enemies together in the same hole. And, sometimes the markers got moved or the dog tags slipped off or were misplaced.”

    Peter told us that his brother, Fred Salerno, had visited St. Germain d’Elle in 1994 during the 50th anniversary celebration of the D-Day Invasion. He was able to visit a local dairy farmer who described the battle and its aftermath. He also left his business card with the farmer, who eventually gave it to the town’s mayor. The years passed. What evolved is an amazing story of connections that included a “Patriot Guard Riders” member named Bruce Biggs, the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command, Army DNA specialists, Internet research that helped the family ferret out more details of the battle and location, and finally, a telephone call.

    For those of you who would like to learn more about the Simonetti case, several articles give various family perspectives and additional information:

    Bowers, Paul. “For 60 years, family wondered.” The Post and Courier, 6 June 2009.

    Flynn, Jack. “65 years after D-Day, Salerno family of Wilbraham may have found remains of Sgt. John Simonetti, killed by German sniper.” The Republican, 8 June 2009.

    Barrett, Barbara. “A family, a nation honor Uncle John.” Charlotte Observer, 28 Oct. 2010.

    Soldier Missing in Action from World War II Identified ” Military Wall of Honor, Facebook, 21 Oct. 2010.

    Back with the Salernos in the Washington, DC, airport, just as we were finishing our dinner, Peter said, “Would you like to see Uncle John’s dog tags?” My heart pounded as he removed two shiny, slightly bent silver tags from a small plastic bag. Speechless, I held them in my hands.

    If I hadn’t been so moved, maybe I would have remembered to ask for Peter’s card or to pull out my iPhone for a photo.

    Thank you, Peter, for sharing your story. I hope that you and your family will find this post. Then I can properly thank you and ask your permission to use the photos.

    Peter Salerno (Photo by Don Treeger, The Republican)


    I hope you will consider using this story to personalize a Veterans Day lesson in November.

    • What do your students know about the “Missing in Action” designation? (Begin at the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office.)
    • What questions do they have about memorials such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?
    • Why is it important to continue the work of finding and identifying remains?
    • What can students learn about the Battle of the Hedgerows?
    • What can students learn from the Library of Congress Veterans History Project related to soldiers missing in action from all wars?
    • Can you locate a veteran willing to be interviewed by your students about retrieving comrades killed in action? The Veterans History Project has a fine list of guiding questions to use in interviews.
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    Passing Strange: A Story of Primary Sources

    Posted By on September 20, 2010

    I depend a lot upon New York Times book reviews when selecting books to add to my “I wish I had the time to read” pile. Between listening to my growing collection of books on my iPod while working out at the Y and reading about 1/5 of the books I put on hold at the public library, I manage to learn a lot. I try to mix up my “reading” with a little non-fiction, a little fiction, and an occasional iTunesU lecture. I won’t even get into the time I spend following Twitter links and RSS feeds to round out my reading.

    I am constantly struck by just how much primary source research informs my reading choices. In fact, I’m beginning to think that 99% of the most memorable stories would turn to mediocre stories without primary sources. And I don’t just mean stories in books about history.

    My latest recommended book is called Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line, by Martha A. Sandweiss (New York: Penguin Press, 2009). It’s the story of Clarence King – brilliant scientist, first director of the U.S. Geological Survey, surveyor of the West after the Civil War, art collector, bestselling author, sought-after conversationalist, friend of the privileged class, white – and Ada Copeland, his secret African American wife. It’s the fascinating story of a double life known only to Clarence King.

    Clarence King, U.S. Geological Survey, 1879 (Wikimedia Commons)

    New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin praises the author for her skill at reconstructing Ada’s life based on the available paucity of primary sources:

    “Ms. Sandweiss constructs the life of the heretofore unknown young Ada, extrapolating from very scant evidence to create a remarkably solid portrait. Ada came from Georgia, was born pre-Emancipation and traveled to New York City to live as a domestic and children’s nursemaid. In

    other words, she went from one set of strictures to another, and only with Clarence did she achieve some kind of autonomy in a middle-class household.”

    In other words, because Ada Copeland was born a slave in western Georgia, the evidence of her early life is so scarce that the author had to dig more deeply into primary sources than do biographers who normally write only of famous people. Sandweiss had to depend upon general sources about the 1860’s life of an African American in western Georgia, both before and after the Civil War. She is always careful to point out the lack of direct evidence.

    For information about Ada’s later life in Brooklyn, Sandweiss relied heavily on census records, which tell a fascinating racial story in themselves. The rules of recording race changed with nearly every census, so Ada Copeland (Todd) King and her five children by Clarence King (alias James Todd) were variously recorded as black, mulatto, white, and back again to black.

    The author notes that census records on such sites as made it possible for her “to quickly scan the 1880 records to search for the living situations of Georgia-born blacks in the greater New York area.” She adds, “The digitization of census records makes such calculations about the origins of large numbers of people much simpler. Using the databases accessible at, for example, one can describe the makeup of Manhattan’s and Brooklyn’s black and mulatto communities by conducting a search using both race and birthplace as variables.”

    Sandweiss also consulted the Brooklyn Daily Eagle for significant information about Brooklyn and the time period when Ada and Clarence lived there as (often-absent) husband and wife. Here she found valuable stories about neighborhoods, race relations, labor, social groups, politics, and even events in which Ada King and her family were directly named. For example, when Ada King’s children were of school age, they may have been impacted by the legislative decision to eliminate segregated schools in New York City. The relevant facts appear in an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from March 30, 1900:

    From this single article, we learn the following facts about the debate:

    No Exclusion, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 30 Mar 1900

    “Under this bill the city educational authorities will find it impossible to recognize separate schools and will be compelled to permit the colored children to enter any public school.”

    Senator Grady, the leader of the Democratic minority said that “it was merely an attempt to get back the colored vote in New York City which was lost through the failure of the Republicans to keep their promises to the race…”

    Senator Ellsworth, leader of the Republican majority was said to have “made one of the most eloquent addresses of the session on the subject of equal rights to all men. He declared the time had come to live up to the constitutional amendment. He spoke of schools in his district where white and black studied side by side in perfect harmony, solving in that quiet and effective way the great race problem.”

    Normally I do not read end notes in detail, but the many pages of primary source notes in Passing Strange tell a story of an author, her sources, and her determined effort to cover the subject in as complete and responsible a way as possible. I am certain that every school has a handful of students who could benefit from having the end notes pointed out to them.

    It is also possible to duplicate searches starting with some of the end notes. School librarians can find the newspaper article pictured here by searching on March 30, 1900 (page 3) in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle online version. Don’t stop there! Try some original searches within the database. Search by date. Search by keyword. Investigate the left side links to genealogy information and immigration. Explore, enjoy, and make the Brooklyn Daily Eagle your own! Better yet, invite a student to join you.

    Slavery: Textbook vs. Narrative History

    Posted By on September 5, 2010

    Once you have read a handful of narratives from the Library of Congress collection, Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project 1936-1938, you will never again rely wholly on textbooks to teach about slavery. These narratives tell more about the actual slave experience than any American history textbook can convey in a few paragraphs.

    Sarah Graves Narrative

    Take, for example, the extraordinary interview with 87-year-old with former slave Sarah Frances Shaw Graves. In this narrative, we learn that Sarah Graves was born in 1850 in Kentucky, moved to Missouri at 6 months of age, and worked as a slave until her family was freed in 1863. At the time of the 1937 interview, she owned a 120-acre farm in Missouri, and her bachelor son still lived with her. Those are the facts. It is her memories that fill in the story.

    We learn the following details:

    • When Sarah was a baby, her mother laid her “on a pallet near the fence while she plowed the corn or worked in the field.”
    • Her stepfather and mother “tended their own tobacco and grain in the moonlight. This they could sell and have the money.”
    • To get a wool dress, they would “shear the sheep, wash the wool, card it, spin it and weave it.”
    • Field work was hard and backbreaking. “They used oxen to break up the ground for corn, an’ for plowin’ it too. They hoed the corn with a hoe, and cut the stalks with a hoe and shocked ’em. They cut the grain with the cradle and bound it with their hands, and shocked it. They threshed the grain with a hickory stick. Beating it out.”

    In the harshest paragraph of the interview, Sarah Graves describes whippings at the hands of her master:

    “Yes’m. Some masters was good an’ some was bad. My mama’s master whipped his slaves for pastime. My master was not so bad as some was to their slaves. I’ve had many a whippin’, some I deserved an’ some I got for being blamed for doin’ things the master’s children did. My master whipped his slaves with a cat-o-nine tails. He’d say to me, ‘You ain’t had a curryin’ down for some time. Come here!!!’ Then he’d whip me with the cat.”

    And who better to explain the concept of “allotment” than an ex-slave who understood it all too well?

    “You see, there was slave traders in those days, jes’ like you got horse and mule an’ auto traders now. They bought and sold slaves an’ hired ’em out. Yes’m, rented ’em out. Allotted means somethin’ like hired out. But the slave never got no wages. That all went to the master. The man they was allotted to paid the master.”

    “I was never sold. My mama was sold only once, but she was hired out many times. Yes’m when a slave was allotted, som[e]body made a down payment and gave a mortgage for the rest. A chattel mortgage.”

    A down payment!!

    “Times don’t change. Just the merchandise.”

    Sarah Graves’ explanation of allotment personalizes what could otherwise be viewed by students as a dry economics concept.

    Taken together, the memories of ex-slaves in the “Born in Slavery” collection connect students to a far more complete picture of slavery than the usual textbook approach. It is important to keep in mind, however, that all of the ex-slaves interviewed during the late 1930s were still young when they were slaves. How accurate were their memories of slave childhoods nearly eighty years in the past?

    The dilemmas of memory and forgetting are unavoidable whenever teachers use oral histories in primary source teaching. But that’s another post.

    Sarah Graves, Age 87

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    Evaluating Eyewitness Reports

    Posted By on August 21, 2010

    When I give workshops on teaching with primary sources, I always ask participants to define the term primary source and to give examples. Participants always offer “eyewitness reports” as an example. It stands to reason, then, that the ability to analyze eyewitness reports for point of view, accuracy, and context is an essential primary source learning skill.

    EDSITEment LogoI found one of the best lessons I have ever seen on evaluating eyewitness reports on the EDSITEment website from the National Endowment for the Humanities (in partnership with the National Trust for the Humanities and the Verizon Foundation). You won’t believe the fabulous lessons on this site! They’re not all based on primary sources, but whoever said every lesson had to be a primary source lesson?

    Before you get lost in EDSITEment-land, be sure to take a look at the Great Chicago Fire lesson I discovered called Evaluating Eyewitness Reports. (Although this lesson is written for grades 9-12, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it with middle school kids, and I think most of it could be revised for elementary school, too.)

    Here’s the lesson description from the website:

    This lesson offers students experience in drawing historical meaning from eyewitness accounts that present a range of different perspectives. Students begin with a case study including alternative reports of a single event: the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Students compare two newspaper reports on the fire and two memoirs of the fire written many decades later, with an eye on how these accounts complement and compete with one another, and how these sources can be used to draw historical meaning from them. Students then apply the lessons learned in their investigation of the eyewitness accounts of the Chicago fire by considering a unique eyewitness account: the diary kept by a Confederate girl when her Tennessee town was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War.

    The “Guiding Question” of the lesson fits right into best practices for teaching with primary sources: “How can we evaluate eyewitness accounts of historical events and periods, and what historical meanings can be drawn from them?”

    The lesson links to a basic Written Document Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives. A special Student Launchpad includes links to the eyewitness reports and questions about them, so students can work through the assignments online. It has complete assessments, links to state standards, and one great suggestion for applying developing analytic skills to today’s news:

    If you have time you might have students put their new analytic skills to work by having them collect eyewitness reports from present-day newspapers or conduct their own interviews of family members who have witnessed some significant event (for example, an athletic competition, a natural disaster, a public celebration, the coming of some new technology….).

    Even if you have no opportunity to teach this lesson, you will enjoy exploring the extensive website on which it is based: The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory. Carl Smith, Curator of the Online Exhibition, writes about how various acts of memory contribute to our understandings of the Great Chicago Fire.

    Journalists, novelists, poets, artists, politicians, scholars, clergy, businessmen, and private citizens have continuously reworked this epic occasion over the years, simultaneously drawing from and contributing to a massive body of remembrance.

    The same could be said of more current events, such as the Iraq war or the World Trade Center bombing or Hurricane Katrina. Think of the extent to which our collective memory of these events is growing and changing through primary and secondary sources.

    For a little added fun, don’t miss the special media features of The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory. They include a Shockwave interactive 360-degree view of Chicago in 1858, MIDI music files that play fire songs, three-dimensional stereographs of the post-fire city (you’ll need 3-D glasses), and a QuickTime digital video of a 1955 newsreel clip about the fate of the site where the fire started.

    The Great Chicago Fire, an artists rendering

    Chicago in Flames: The Rush for Lives Over Randolph Street Bridge

    Originally published in Harpers Weekly, 1871

    Wikimedia Commons

    Back in the Primary Source Librarian Blog Business

    Posted By on August 9, 2010

    Time passes swiftly when you’re NOT writing a blog. Apparently I needed a longer vacation from blogging than I predicted back in January.

    What have I been doing? Well…

    • Two trips to Europe–Sicily in April and Brittany (northwest France) in June. I continued my Italian studies and brushed up on my once fluent French.
    • Hours and hours of Twitter, where I have built an admirable Professional Learning Network (PLN) of educators. I follow #edchat, #sschat, and #tlchat whenever possible, along with many education-related groups with nings and conferences. I contribute under the name @johnsonmaryj. I cannot recommend Twitter enough as an efficient and effective route to Professional Development. It’s all @nancyw‘s fault, but she was totally correct.
    • A new contract to write eight columns called “Online with Primary Sources” for School Library Monthly. Two down, six to go.
    • Three workshops for Teaching with Primary Sources – Colorado and Teaching with Primary Sources – Western Regional Center. These took place in Denver, Albuquerque, and Austin. Oh, how I love getting my teaching fix through the opportunities that TPS offers me!
    • A new physical trainer along with a renewed commitment to fitness and weight loss.
    • Movies, reading, listening to audio tapes, neighborhood walks, morning coffee, art shows, running errands, trying out new technologies…just the usual stuff of life. How did I EVER do all this when I was working full time?
    • Finally, finally, finally…a newly upgraded WordPress blog, a few additional plug-ins, and a new resolve to get back to blogging on a regular basis. I send my sincere thanks to Todd Wolfe, Student Intern at Teaching with Primary Sources at Metropolitan State College of Denver, for his patient and skillful guidance throughout the upgrade process. It goes without saying that I could not/would not have done it without Todd.

    So with my long absence accounted for, I welcome my readers back to what I hope will be a valuable use of your time. After my next trip — only to Iowa this time — I’ll start passing along ideas and resources for making online primary sources a rewarding part of your bag of tricks! Now if I can just figure out how to insert my own photo into the About the Author page. And make the Share This icons actually go somewhere. And, well, you get the picture. I’m a work in progress.

    Real Work in Progress
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    Primary Source Librarian Takes a Break

    Posted By on January 26, 2010

    I’m putting the Primary Source Librarian on temporary hold while I figure out a bunch of stuff about upgrading, updating, adding plug-ins, changing graphics, etc. Todd from Teaching with Primary Sources-Colorado has been kind enough to volunteer his expert help, but he’s a pretty busy guy. Meanwhile, I’ll try to post primary source links, news, and discoveries on Twitter (@johnsonmaryj).

    Primary Sources as Alternatives to Print Requirements

    Posted By on November 28, 2009

    In his always thought-provoking, shake-up-the-status-quo way, Bud Hunt wrote a post last week suggesting that perhaps primary sources could replace print materials as a requirement in all research assignments. I agree with Bud that “print” sources have largely been replaced by online books, newspapers, magazines, etc., certainly in my own life if not in the classroom. However, I do not believe that a primary source “requirement” will necessarily solve the problem of lack of depth for those student researchers who pick the first hit in a Google search.

    When would I absolutely expect primary sources to be included in research? Almost always. Why? Nearly every line of inquiry–scientific, historical, social, political–needs to establish the kind of historical context evidenced by primary sources. Here are two possible examples:

    Immigration. How have attitudes changed or remained the same throughout American history? Rather than simply researching the current political debate regarding immigration, students build deeper understanding by viewing and analyzing Ellis Island films, anti-Chinese lyrics in sheet music, and even application materials for U. S. citizenship.

    Water Rights. Who deserves to have access to water when the supply is limited? In researching this topic, students can study the Tennessee Valley Authority, legal decisions to divert the Colorado River to California fields, photographs of the Dust Bowl, and other historical decisions that affect today’s water supplies.

    I’m a great believer in incorporating primary sources into nearly every research assignment, but only when it will add depth to the learning. As an end in itself, a primary source requirement seems a mere exercise in filling in the blanks without any connection to real learning. I’m delighted to see more and more emphasis on primary sources in revised content standards, but my fear is that primary sources will become one more item in a long checklist designed to prove that standards have been met.

    Primary source learning becomes significant when students learn how to analyze sources and to pose further questions about their significance. Their questions should drive their research. Sometimes their questions will lead them to still more primary sources. The number does not matter. The way primary sources contribute to understanding does matter.

    Work with primary sources also requires training and practice. As students build confidence in their analytical skills and in their ability to generate meaningful, researchable questions, they will start to incorporate more and more primary sources into their learning. Early questions can be remarkably simple, as in this early Library of Congress “Thinking about Primary Sources” guide or its revised version, the “Primary Source Analysis Tool,” along with this helpful explanation.

    A side benefit of working with primary sources online is that often subject experts have given them a context by adding explanatory text, links, timelines, and other value-added, secondary source material. For example, compare this primary source with this primary source and its supporting material.The supplemental material leads young researchers to ask more questions and to seek more primary and secondary sources to fill in their knowledge gaps.

    One of Bud’s blog comments asked how to locate primary sources online. In my next post, I’ll provide links to my favorite primary source collections as a starting point. There are also links to excellent primary source collections on the right side of this blog.

    I do love Bud’s suggestion that primary sources might solve the problem of print vs. online, even with certain caveats. I’m ready to help educators take the next step by leading them to excellent collections, as well as analysis ideas to make primary sources useful and meaningful in every curricular area.

    Literacy Test

    The Americanese Wall, 1916 Cartoon

    Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

    Primary Source Teaching the Web 2.0 Way, K-12

    Posted By on November 16, 2009

    I just realized that over the past couple of years, I’ve made a handful of veiled references to a book that I was writing, but I’ve never actually posted a photo of the cover or a description of the contents. Guess I’m not a tooter of my own horn. Then there’s the fact that when you finally reach the end of the grueling process of book writing, it’s hard to drum up enough enthusiasm for the marketing piece. Life moves on.

    But I DID write a book! It’s called Primary Source Teaching the Web 2.0 Way, K-12.

    At first, I planned to write a book that featured primary sources by category–text, historic newspapers, photos and other images, maps, sound and movie files, and artifacts and ephemera. While working with that idea, the world of Web 2.0 began to take over my writing and my life. Soon, the book had morphed into a presentation of ideas for teaching with primary sources using the latest online tools.

    I soon discovered that Web 2.0 tools and online primary sources made an excellent match. Primary sources are all about critical thinking, and Web 2.0 tools support the kind of interactivity and feedback that pushes critical thinking far beyond mere presentation of primary source analysis.

    In choosing my audience, I recognized that many fine educators would like to incorporate Web 2.0 ideas into their practice, but they need support and encouragement. In other words, not everyone is an “early adopter” of new technologies. Given the speed of changes in the field, these educators often feel completely overwhelmed. I wanted my book to give them the courage to try Web 2.0 ideas and the content to feed their students’ learning.

    Apparently my book is meeting a need. In the two conferences I’ve attended this fall (Encyclo-Media in Oklahoma City and the national conference of the American Association of School Librarians in Charlotte), the book has sold out each day. I’m sure it’s really difficult for publishers to gauge the necessary number of copies to keep the shelves stocked, but I’m sad that some educators never had a chance to consider buying a copy…especially when they could have gotten a discount for conference attendance.

    So just in case you’d still like a copy, I’ll put all the important information below along with a link to the publisher. More than anything, I welcome your feedback, reactions, complaints, criticism, praise, and whatever else you’d like to say about Primary Source Teaching the Web 2.0 Way, K12.

    Here’s the cover, followed by contact info and the blurb from the back of the book:

    Book Cover

    To Order:


    130 Cremona Drive

    Santa Barbara, CA93117

    Call 1-800-368-6868

    Online: Linworth Publishing, Inc.

    Orders by email: mailto:[email protected]

    Customer Service Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PST

    Primary Source Teaching the Web 2.0 Way K-12 helps teachers, librarians, and technologists apply 21st century strategies at every level and in every content area!


      A comprehensive listing of popular Web 2.0 tools.

      An extensive state-by-state bibliography of primary source collections online.

      A sample permission letter to parents to introduce a 21st century primary source unit.

      In-depth chapters on six different primary source categories.

      Primary source analysis tools for each category.

      Six “Web 2.0 Focus” sections offering how-to-get-started advice and primary source teaching ideas: Blogs, Citizen Journalism, Flickr, Podcasting, VoiceThread, and Digital Storytelling.


    Technology alone does not guarantee a quality learning experience, but now is a perfect time to challenge existing 20th century structures and exploit the transformative potential of tags, comments, interactivity, collaboration, and other powerful features of Web 2.0 in the primary source classroom. This book shows you how!

    She’s baaaaack!

    Posted By on November 13, 2009

    The Primary Source Librarian wishes to apologize for her long absence. She has been rather busy, and she also needed a blogging break. Here’s a quick rundown of her excuses, written by her in a guilty-as-charged, first-person confession:

    • My formatting bar in WordPress disappeared. Didn’t work in Firefox, Safari, or IE, nor in Mac OS or Windows.
    • All I could view in my rough draft posts was html code.
    • I wanted to jazz up this blog with plug-ins, widgets, and social networking links.
    • I still need help with that (see above), but I’ve solved some problems.
    • My husband shattered his heel, needed a full-time nurse (me) during recovery from surgery, and had to learn to walk again.
    • We took a mental health trip to Italy. Husband practiced walking; I studied Italian.
    • Three days after returning, I attended the National School Board Association T + L Conference during a Denver snowstorm.
    • Next I spent five days at the national American Association of School Librarians convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
    • Twitter took over my life.

    I have lots of half-written posts filled with great primary source teaching ideas that I’m eager to share with you…soon. Don’t give up on me!

    Missing Primary Source Librarian The Missing Primary Source Librarian

    Creative Commons License, Flickr Photo by juanluisgx

    An Invasion and a Journey – Via Twitter and Google Reader

    Posted By on September 1, 2009

    As a new user of Twitter, I have been working hard to build a Personal Learning Network (PLN) that will make Twitter worth my time. Early on, I decided to follow some primary source organizations on Twitter, including the Library of Congress and the National Archives. I’ve not been disappointed.

    Today’s Document from the National Archives was a note written by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the wee hours of September 1, 1939–the day that Germany invaded Poland and set off a war that would ravage the European continent.

    Invasion of Poland

    According to the National Archives:

    This item is a pencilled notation written by President Franklin D. Roosevelt while in bed on September 1, 1939 at 3:05 a.m., and records how he received news that Germany had invaded Poland and was bombing Polish cities, thus beginning World War II.

    The note documents that Roosevelt received word of the invasion from Ambassador Anthony Biddle, through Ambassador William Bullitt. The note also documents the President’s order that all Navy ships and Army commands be notified by radio of the German invasion.

    My Google Reader today led me to the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, which also commemorated the September 1st invasion of Poland by excerpting a poem by W. H. Auden in its “Face-to-Face” blog. Face-to-Face always features portraits, and it also often adds enriching information tied to both historical and current events.

    The tools of today are helping me discover history at a painless, gentle pace. Many educators approach the latest technology tools with some trepidation–sort of an “I-can-never-know-enough” mentality. I certainly do. Still, I am beginning to understand that when I can control the onslaught one day at a time, it can be a pleasurable experience.

    And now it is time for me to check today’s Tweet from John Quincy Adams as he crosses the Atlantic Ocean on his way to Russia. I will find out what the weather was like on September 1st, 1809, and I will be impressed by which classical literature the future president was reading. Slowly, slowly, I will make my way across the Atlantic with him. At each point along the route, I can click on the map to read his latest diary entry. Technology is helping me to enjoy a quieter, more thoughtful time. Would you like to come along?
    John Quincy Adams

    John Quincy Adams, from the Massachusetts Historical Society
    About the Diary Entries from the 1809 Trip to Russia