LIBR 284-11
Seminar in Archives and Records Management
Topic: Oral History
Fall 2014 Greensheet

Nancy MacKay
Office Hours: by e-mail

Greensheet Links
Canvas Login and Tutorials
iSchool eBookstore

This is an online-only class using Canvas and Collaborate.

Students will be automatically enrolled in the Canvas site for this course.  The instructor will communicate with students through before the beginning of the semester.

Class officially begins on August 25, 2014.

Course Description

Oral history is a method of documenting recent history through recorded interviews. This course surveys the theory and practice of oral history as a means to supplement the historical record, with an emphasis on the intersection between library science and oral history. Students interested in public history, archives, or simply curious about oral history will enjoy the class.

Students will  design and conduct an oral history project from start to finish. Each student will create a project statement, then select a narrator,  prepare, conduct, transcribe, and process an audio recorded interview. Students will apply the methodology we learn in class to their oral history project.

Though students work individually on their oral history project, there are many opportunities for discussion and collaboration. Learning is primarily by doing, accompanied by exercises, discussions and reading/listening/viewing assignments. 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 as follows:

  1. Introduction to Oral History
    1. Week 1. Course introduction
    2. Week 2. Oral history overview
    3. Week 3. Oral history life cycle
  2. Planning an Oral History Project
    1. Week 4. Planning overview
    2. Week 5. Developing historical context and content
    3. Week 6. Special topics
      1. Legal and ethical issues
      2. Recording technology
      3. Relationship with repository
  3. The Interview
    1. Week 7. Interviewing overview
    2. Week 8. Interview nuts and bolts
    3. Week 9. Transcribing
    4. Week 10. Alternatives to transcribing
  4. After the Interview
    1. Week 11. Processing overview
    2. Week 12. Cataloging and metadata
    3. Week 13. Preservation
    4. Week 14. Access
  5. Evaluation, Weeks 15-17
    1. Week 15. Assessment
    2. Week 16. Reflection
    3. Week 17. Wrap-Up

The week cycle runs from Monday through Sunday. Unless otherwise noted, assignments are due at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on the Sunday due date. The workload is heaviest during the interview and transcription stage, around weeks 6-12.

Most course content will be delivered on Collaborate through prerecorded and live lectures. Unless noted otherwise, live sessions are scheduled on Sundays at 4 p.m. Pacific Time. Students are strongly encouraged to attend live sessions, especially for guest speakers, however no live attendance is required.  All Collaborate meetings will be recorded and archived on our course Canvas site for access throughout the semester. 

Course Requirements

In addition to the standard technology required for iSchool, students will work with audio files. Students will use a digital audio recorder of their choiceto record the interview,  transfer the sound file to their computer, upload it onto the iSchool server, and transcribe the interview from the sound files.


  1. Project Design Statement. Create a project statement using the template provided. (15 points) SLO #1, 2, 3, 4
  2. Narrator profile. Create a biographical profile of the chosen narrator using the template provided. (5 points) SLO #3, 7
  3. Quiz. This short quiz will test comprehension of oral history best practices we've discussed in class. (15 points) SLO #6, 7, 8
  4. Interview. Prepare and conduct a 60 minute audio recorded interview. (20 points) SLO #1, 2, 3, 4
  5. Interview Summary. Summarize the circumstances and content of the interview using the template provided(5 points) SLO #3, 5
  6. Transcript. Transcribe and audit edit interview, then submit transcript to the narrator for correction and approval. (15 points) SLO #3, 4, 5
  7. Cataloging Template. Create metadata using the template provided. (5 points) SLO #5, 7
  8. Final paper. Present and evaluate your oral history project according to instructions. (20 points) SLO # 2, 3, 5, 6, 7
  9. Extra credit opportunities will be announced in class.

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

LIBR 200, LIBR 202, LIBR 204, Other prerequisites may be added depending on content

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon successful 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. Identify 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.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

LIBR 284 supports the following core competencies:

  1. F Use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital items and collections.
  2. H Demonstrate proficiency in identifying, using, and evaluating current and emerging information and communication technologies.


Required Textbooks:

  • MacKay, N. (2007). Curating Oral Histories. Left Coast Press. Available through Amazon: 159874058X. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Ritchie, D. A. (2003). Doing Oral History. 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.