INFO 284-12
Seminar in Archives and Records Management: Special Collections
Summer 2022 Syllabus

Colleen Theisen, MSI
Office Hours: M-F by appointment plus two scheduled drop-in office hours TBA

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning June 1st at 6 am PT unless you are taking an intensive or a one-unit or two-unit class that starts on a different day. In that case, the class will open on the first day that the class meets. 

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

The 284-12 section has a focus on defining what a "special collections" is by understanding the history and development of the field, the practical day-to-day work as it is now, and the core areas of change that are impacting the future of the field. The course will begin with a history of the field and its development in comparison to archives and museum environments. The present day-to-day work will be presented via one area of special collections work each week about the management, preservation, use of, and access to "unique and distinctive" collections such as rare books, archives and manuscript collections, photographs, artists' books, scrapbooks, fanzines and more. Finally, the definition of special collections will include the changes created by the impact of ongoing digitization, the pandemic, and the significant work being done in the field to change and disrupt the patterns of the past to continue to create a more inclusive future.

The work in the course will consist of video lectures, weekly readings drawn from a variety of sources including the textbook, professional standards and guidelines, YouTube videos, and supplemental blogs and news articles. The work of the course will focus on sharing and learning from one another in the weekly discussion, as well as demonstrating knowledge via a weekly written reflection or assignment. A final assignment will tie it all together.  

Course Requirements


Assignments must be of graduate standard which means:

  • Check your work and correct grammatical and spelling errors before submitting.
  • All work will be handed in on time or else any needed flexibility must be arranged in advance.
  • Attribution and credit must be given to your sources of information whether that is published sources, lectures, or classmates in the discussion board.

There will be weekly discussions in the discussion board requiring active participation, five weekly assignments, a midterm assignment, and a final assignment.

The week begins on Thursday each week and your contribution to the discussion is due each Monday, and your responses are due by the end of the module each Wednesday. When there is a weekly assignment for the module it can be turned in before the following Saturday.

Each week you are presented with two options for assignments that allow you to demonstrate your mastery of the weekly subject via the option most relevant and interesting to you. One weekly assignment can be skipped entirely, or the lowest grade dropped.

  1. Past vs. Present Assignment
    1. Option 1: Then vs. Now: (CLO#1, CLO#2)
    2. Option 2: A Rare Book Librarian's Day (CLO#1, CLO #2)
  2. Material Analysis Assignment
    1. Option 1: Historic Letter Investigation
    2. Option 2: Digital Rare Book Investigation
  3. Patron Services Assignment
    1. Option 1: Reading Room Values Essay (CLO#1, CLO#2, CLO#3)
    2. Option 2: Reference Services Website Analysis (CLO #3)
  4. Collection Development Assignment
    1. Option 1: Collecting Policy Essay (CLO#1, CLO#3)
    2. Option 2: Spend this Money - Now! CLO#1, CLO#3)
  5. The Wider Field Assignment
    1. Option 1: Ethical Codes (CLO#2, CLO#3)
    2. Option 2: Public Library Special Collections (CLO#2)
  6. Outreach Assignment
    1. Option 1: Social Media Analysis (CLO#2, CLO#3)
    2. Option 2: Online Exhibition Analysis (CLO#2, CLO#3)

Final Assignment: (CLO#1, CLO#2, CLO#3).

Course Calendar

Subject to change with advanced notice:



Topics, Readings, Assignments, Deadlines 


June 2-8

Introduction to Special Collections Librarianship and the Profession(s): Then and Now

  • Weekly Discussion: Topic: What is Special Collections Librarianship? Due June 6th & 8th (40 points)
  • Weekly Assignment: Then and Now: Due June 11th (100 points)


June 9-15

Reading Rooms, Reference, and Security

  • Discussion: Due June 13 & 15th (40 points)
  • Weekly Assignment: Patron Services Analysis, Due: June 18th (100 points)


June 16-22

Collections: Rare Materials & Formats

  • Discussion: Topic TBA, Due: June 20 & 22nd (40 points)
  • Weekly Assignment: Material Analysis, Due June 25th (100 points)


June 23-29

Collection Development

  • Discussion: Topic TBA, Due June 27th & 29th (40 points)
  • Weekly Assignment: Collection Development, Due: July 2nd, (100 points)


June 30-July 6

Description: Cataloging and Metadata

An Overview of Ethics for Special Collections Professionals

  • Discussion: Ethical Challenges, Due July 5th & 6th (40 points)


July 7-13

Digitization & Online Collections

  • Discussion: Topic TBA, Due: July 11th & 13th (40 points)
  • Weekly Assignment: The Wider Field Assignment, Due July 16th (100 points)


July 14-20

Instruction & Outreach

  • Discussion: TBD, Due July 18th and 20th (40 points)
  • Weekly Assignment: Outreach Analysis & Policies, Due July 23rd (100 points)


July 21-27

Preservation, Conservation, and Disaster Planning

  • Discussion: TBA, Due July 25th and 27th (40 points)
  • Final Assignment (assigned), Due by July 30th (150 points)

Final Assignment


Final Assignment: Due by July 30th (150 points)


The course includes 1000 points, and grades are awarded based on points earned according to the chart below:

  • 40% Weekly discussion board assignments (Due Mondays) & responses (Due Wednesdays) (8x50 points each)
  • 50% Weekly short assignment (Due Saturdays)(Five assignments total - drop lowest or skip one) (5x100 points each)
  • 10% Final assignment

Discussion board posts are the core of our class participation and must be completed on time so that others are able to respond in order to receive full credit.

Assignments must be handed in by 11:59 pm Pacific Time, and late assignments with no prior arrangements will be penalized 1 letter grade per day that they are late. Arrangements and adjustments can be made with prior approval.

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204, other prerequisites may be added depending on content

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the past, present, and future of the special collections field, and its relation to librarianship as a whole.
  2. Articulate the similarities and differences between special collections, archives, and museums.
  3. Critique and create library policies and procedures as they relate to special collections work.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 284 supports the following core competencies:

  1. B Describe and compare organizational settings in which information professionals practice.
  2. F Use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information items.
  3. N Evaluate programs and services using measurable criteria.


Required Textbooks:

  • Cullingford, A. (2022). The special collections handbook (3rd ed.). Facet Publishing. Available through Amazon: 1783305371arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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