LIBR 284-02
LIBR 284-11
Seminar in Archives and Records Management
Topic: Oral History
Fall 2011 Greensheet

Nancy MacKay
Office Hours: by e-mail

Greensheet Links
Textbooks and Readings
Course Requirements
iSchool eBookstore

This course will be delivered via D2L software. Students are automatically enrolled if registered. The course site will open approximately August 19, 2011. Instructor will communicate with students through before the course site opens. 

Course Description

This course covers the theory and practice of oral history as a means to expand and enhance the historical record. The class is organized around the design, implementation, and processing of an oral history project with an emphasis on the intersection between library science and oral history.

Students will work in small teams to design and conduct an oral history project from beginning to end, based on a theme selected by the instructor. Each student will select a narrator based on the project design, then prepare, conduct, transcribe, and process the interview. Each step will be a learning experience to explore oral history methodology and practice in various settings.

Collaboration is required and students are expected to work actively with each other and with the instructor. Though there are some reading assignments, the primary learning experience will be experiential. Guest speakers will enliven our weekly lessons and provide a new perspective on current oral history practice.

The course is organized into five learning modules. The week unit runs from Sunday through Saturday. Unless otherwise stated, assignments are due at 11:59 p.m. on the Saturday due date. The workload is heaviest during the interview and transcription stage, around weeks 6-12.


  1. Introduction to Oral History, Weeks 1-2
  2. Planning an Oral History Project, Weeks 3-6
  3. The Interview, Weeks 7-10
  4. After the Interview, Weeks, 11-14
  5. Assessment, Weeks 14-16

Most course content will be delivered through Elluminate. Tentatively, there will be 5 live Elluminate lectures, 6 prerecorded lectures, and 3 guest speakers.  Elluminate sessions are generally scheduled for Sundays at 5 p.m. Pacific Time, though be aware of excptions this semester. Students are strongly encouraged to attend live sessions, especially for guest speakers, but all sessions are archived for students who can't attend.

Prerequisites: 200, 202, 204

Course Objectives

Student Learning Outcomes
At the completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Plan and implement an oral history project
  2. Apply history research methods to develop context for the topic at hand
  3. Prepare, conduct, and record an oral history interview
  4. Understand the legal and ethical issues involved in recording a person's memories and making them available to researchers and the general public
  5. Implement current oral history processing and preservation practices and techniques
  6. Evaluate methods of access to completed oral histories
  7. Understand the uses of oral history as a primary source
  8. Participate in oral history's professional and scholarly community

LIBR 284 supports the following MLIS Core Competencies:

  • Use the basic concepts and principles related to the creation, evaluation, selection, acquisition, preservation, and organization of specific items or collections of information;
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the use of current information and communication technologies, and other related technologies as they affect the resources and uses of libraries and other types of information providing entities;
  • Understand the nature of research, research methods, and research findings; retrieve, evaluate, and synthesize scholarly and professional literature for informed decision-making by specific client groups;
  • Demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for group work, collaborations, and professional level presentations;
  • Evaluate programs and services on specified criteria.

Course Requirements

There is a fair amount of technology involved in this course. Students must obtain a digital audio (or video with prior permission from the instructor) recorder with external microphone. Students will transfer the interview sound file to their computer, then upload it onto the SLIS server, and finally will transcribe the interview from the sound files, with the option to use transcribing software.


  1. Project design statement. Create a project design statement using the template provided. (15 points)
  2. Interview. Prepare and conduct a 60 minute recorded interview. (20 points)
  3. Interview transcript. Transcribe and audit edit your interview, and submit transcript to the interviewee for correction and approval. (15 points)
  4. Final paper. Prepare a written assessment of your oral history experience based on the Oral History Association's Evaluation Guidelines. (20 points)
  5. Quiz. Will test comprehension of oral history best practices. (15 points)
  6. Narrator profile. Create a biographical profile of the chosen narrator using the template provided. (5 points)
  7. Interview Summary Form. Complete this form which summarizes the circumstances and content of the interview (5 points)
  8. Cataloging Template. Create metadata using the template provided. (5 points)

Course Calendar - (may change slightly)



Weeks 1-2 (August 24-September 3)


ELLUMINATE, August 24, Course orientation

ELLUMINATE, August 28,

Introduction to Oral History


Weeks 3-6 (September 4-October 1)


ELLUMINATE, September 4, Project planning: Overview

ELLUMINATE September 11, Guest speaker, Barbara Sommer

Team Progress Report due September 17

Project Design Statement due October 1

Narrator Profile due October 1


Weeks 7-10 (October 2-29)

ELUMINATE October 2, Interviewing Overview
Quiz due October 8

ELLUMINATE October 23, Interviewing Q&A and introduction to processing
Interview due Oct.29

Interview Summary due October 29

After the Interview

Weeks 11-14 (October 30-November 16)

Processing and recording keeping

ELLUMINATE, October 30. Guest speaker, Cyns Nelson

ELLUMINATE, November 13, Guest speaker, Geoff Froh


Weeks 15-16 (November 27-December 8)

  Using oral history
ELLUMINATE Office Hours, Dec. 4
Final paper due Dec.8

Textbooks and Readings

  • Sommer, B. and Quinlan, M.K. (2009). Oral History Manual. 2nd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. PURCHASE OPTIONAL. Available as eBook through King Library

Additional readings will be available electronically.

Required Textbooks:

  • MacKay, N. (2007). Curating Oral Histories. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. Available through Amazon: 159874058X. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Ritchie, D. A. (2003). Doing Oral History. New York: Oxford University Press. Available through Amazon: 0195154347. arrow 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;
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA) — 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 the following semester. 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.

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

University Policies

General Expectations, Rights and Responsibilities of the Student

As members of the academic community, students accept both the rights and responsibilities incumbent upon all members of the institution. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with SJSU's policies and practices pertaining to the procedures to follow if and when questions or concerns about a class arises. See University Policy S90-5 at More detailed information on a variety of related topics is available in the SJSU catalog at In general, it is recommended that students begin by seeking clarification or discussing concerns with their instructor. If such conversation is not possible, or if it does not serve to address the issue, it is recommended that the student contact the Department Chair as a next step.

Dropping and Adding

Students are responsible for understanding the policies and procedures about add/drop, grade forgiveness, etc. Refer to the current semester's Catalog Policies section at Add/drop deadlines can be found on the current academic year calendars document on the Academic Calendars webpage at The Late Drop Policy is available at Students should be aware of the current deadlines and penalties for dropping classes.

Information about the latest changes and news is available at the Advising Hub at

Consent for Recording of Class and Public Sharing of Instructor Material

University Policy S12-7,, requires students to obtain instructor's permission to record the course and the following items to be included in the syllabus:

  • "Common courtesy and professional behavior dictate that you notify someone when you are recording him/her. You must obtain the instructor's permission to make audio or video recordings in this class. Such permission allows the recordings to be used for your private, study purposes only. The recordings are the intellectual property of the instructor; you have not been given any rights to reproduce or distribute the material."
    • It is suggested that the syllabus include the instructor's process for granting permission, whether in writing or orally and whether for the whole semester or on a class by class basis.
    • In classes where active participation of students or guests may be on the recording, permission of those students or guests should be obtained as well.
  • "Course material developed by the instructor is the intellectual property of the instructor and cannot be shared publicly without his/her approval. You may not publicly share or upload instructor generated material for this course such as exam questions, lecture notes, or homework solutions without instructor consent."

Academic integrity

Your commitment, as a student, to learning is evidenced by your enrollment at San Jose State University. The University Academic Integrity Policy F15-7 at requires you to be honest in all your academic course work. Faculty members are required to report all infractions to the office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development. The Student Conduct and Ethical Development website is available at

Campus Policy in Compliance with the American Disabilities Act

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you need to make special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, or see me during office hours. Presidential Directive 97-03 at requires that students with disabilities requesting accommodations must register with the Accessible Education Center (AEC) at to establish a record of their disability.

icon showing link leads to the PDF file viewer known as Acrobat Reader Download Adobe Acrobat Reader to access PDF files.

More accessibility resources.