INFO 281-11
Seminar in Contemporary Issues
Topic: Graphic Novels (Adult/Teen)
Summer 2016 Syllabus

Morgan Rose Pershing
Office Hours: Virtual

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning June 6th, 6 am PDT 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 into the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

Overview of the current state of adult graphic novels with some teen crossover. This class will include and overview of what makes a graphic novel, graphic novel history and assessing what makes a well-rounded graphic novel collection. In addition, students will learn about intellectual freedom challenges to this medium and examine graphic novels from several different categories: Marvel/DC, gamechangers, classics, non-fiction/memoir and new/recommended (core collection lists to be provided upon class start date).

Course Requirements


  1. Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics - Using McCloud's text, write a five-page paper on the "invisible art." CLO 1

    Comics are so much more than just words plus pictures. This assignment is your chance to elucidate that by explaining how reading a graphic novel requires active participation and pointing out how unique the medium is, especially as opposed to just prose or single panel cartoons.

    • Reader participation in the story:
      • What happens in the gutter?
      • Explain closure
    • How does the reader come to understand "invisible" things like the passage of time or motion?
    • Did McCloud's book cause you to look at comics in a new way? How so?
  2. Your public library's graphic novel collection - Write a 3 page assessment of the state of the graphic novel collection at your local library. CLO 1

    • Are the collections for children, teens and adults shelved together in their respective areas or apart from each other (i.e. integrated into the regular book collection)?
    • Are the adult graphic novels separated out from the 741.5s or are they shelved in Dewey order?
    • Does your library treat graphic novels as a medium or a genre? For instance, is Maus shelved with other World War II books (genre) or in the 741.5s (medium)?
    • Does the collection contain the majority of the graphic novels on our core collection lists?
  3. Annotated graphic novel list – Read two graphic novels from each of our core collection lists, 10 in total, and write a 200-250 word annotation for each. CLO 1

    • Start each item with a proper (ALA) bibliographic entry
    • Sum up the plot
    • Comment on any unusual aspects – is there a creative use of the arrangement of panels or a device you’ve never seen used before?
    • Your personal reaction: Did you like it? Does this book deserve a spot in the graphic novel canon?

  4. Weekly and ongoing discussions
    Ongoing: What Are You Reading
    Please post at least three times during the class duration about what graphic novel you are reading from our core collection lists for your annotated list. I want to know if you recommend it and why (or why not?). Things to think about:
    • Do the text and art work well together?
    • Did you enjoy (or not) something in particular? The art, the plot, etc.
    • What is your gut reaction to this work?
    Discussion Assignments
    • Week 1: Introduce yourself and tell us about your history with graphic novels.
    • Week 2: Publishers – Choose a comic book publisher from the list I provide you and write a post on: the type of materials it publishes, does it have any award winners, how long has it been around, and anything else you think we should know. CLO 3
    • Week 3: Intellectual freedom – Choose a case study from Comic Book Legal Defense Fund ( Sum up the “issue” and the outcome. CLO 3
    • Week 4: Wrap it up and comments – Tell us about your favorite graphic novel you read for this class or recommend one that didn’t end up on our core collection lists. Also, did this class change your mind about graphic novels and what did you come away with?

Course Calendar
*Subject to change with fair notice

Assignment due dates:

  • Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics - Due June 14, 2016, Midnight
  • Your public library's graphic novel collection - Due June 21, 2016, Midnight
  • Annotated graphic novel list - Due July 5, 2016 Midnight

Discussion due dates:

  • Ongoing: What Are You Reading - All three entries due by July 5, 2016, Midnight. I encourage you to post throughout the four weeks, but you won't be dinged if you post at the end.
  • Week 1: Introduce yourself and tell us about your history with graphic novels - Due June 14, 2016, Midnight
  • Week 2: Publishers - Due June 21, 2016, Midnight
  • Week 3: Intellectual freedom - Due June 28, 2016, Midnight
  • Week 4: Wrap it up and comments - Due July 5, 2016, Midnight

Students can accumulate up to 100 points.
Late assignments will not be accepted.

Understanding Comics 20
Collection Assessment 20
Annotated Bibliography 35
Discussion: What are you reading? 10
Discussion: Intro & Comics History 5
Discussion: Intellectual Freedom 5
Discussion: Wrap-up 5

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 281 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Evaluate case studies of community partnerships.
  2. Articulate major issues and problems related to metadata.
  3. Apply current metadata terminology and concepts, including major content and encoding schemes for digital libraries.
  4. Analyze and critically apply different approaches to metadata creation, storage, management, and dissemination within different information communities for different purposes.
  5. Critically analyze and compare different metadata standards and their applicability to different contexts, and apply basic metadata quality metrics to assess the relative quality of different types of descriptive metadata.
  6. Create descriptive metadata for digital resources, and design and plan metadata database templates for digital resource projects.
  7. Demonstrate knowledge of the different kinds of booktalks, and which are most effective with different writing styles, genres, and audiences.
  8. Create or adapt written booktalks of different formats, styles, and lengths that will entice audiences of varying ages to read the titles presented.
  9. Perform face-to-face and digital booktalks in a variety of settings and for different audiences.
  10. Use still images, captions, voiceovers, and soundtracks to create effective booktrailers.
  11. Write effective readers' annotations for booklists and bibliographies.
  12. Exhibit familiarity with book display and merchandising techniques, including the use of digital talks and trailers, necessary to support an extensive booktalking and school visiting program, or a booktalking program in the public library or other venues.
  13. Work with school faculty and administration to set up and run an extensive school visiting program, and work with administration of the public library to support a booktalking program for audiences of various ages, set up in various locations.
  14. Understand the impact of an extensive booktalking program on the public library, and identify techniques to ensure that the impact is as positive as possible for all library departments.
  15. Write a curriculum unit on teaching booktalking and/or booktrailering to middle or high school students.
  16. Identify potential community partnerships.
  17. Explain the advantages of creating community partnerships.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 281 supports the following core competencies:

  1. B Describe and compare organizational settings in which information professionals practice.
  2. D Apply the fundamental principles of planning, management, marketing, and advocacy.
  3. E Design, query, and evaluate information retrieval systems.
  4. F Use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information items.
  5. G Demonstrate understanding of basic principles and standards involved in organizing information such as classification and controlled vocabulary systems, cataloging systems, metadata schemas or other systems for making information accessible to a particular clientele.
  6. I Use service concepts, principles, and techniques to connect individuals or groups with accurate, relevant, and appropriate information.
  7. M Demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for professional work including collaboration and presentations.
  8. N Evaluate programs and services using measurable criteria.


Required Textbooks:

  • Alpert, A. (2012). Read on..graphic novels: Reading lists for every taste. Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1591588251arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics: The invisible art. Harper Perennial. Available through Amazon: 006097625X. 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.

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