INFO 281-02
INFO 281-12
Seminar in Contemporary Issues (1 unit)
Topic: Indigenous Librarianship
Spring 2017 Syllabus

Rowena Koh
Office location:
Office Hours: By appointment

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning January 26th, 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 into the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

The course introduces students to some of the main concepts and unique challenges in Indigenous librarianship, including: knowledge organization; intellectual property rights and cultural appropriation; representation and evaluation of information sources about Indigenous peoples; and current initiatives in the digitization and revitalization of Indigenous culture and language. At the end of the course, students will be better positioned to undertake learning opportunities within Indigenous-oriented libraries, archives, cultural centers and organizations.

Course Requirements

*Subject to change with fair notice.

The topic of Indigenous librarianship requires self-reflection and critical thinking. The objective of this very short course is to provide a preliminary theoretical and critical foundation on which to pursue further research, learning opportunities and practical experience. While skills will be developed in the evaluation of resources and building of a subject guide, be prepared for a course that is reading, reflecting and writing intensive.

  1. Short papers
    There will be short papers due at the end of the each of the first three modules. Referring to course material and addressing specific questions, students will be asked to reflect on the topic of the week. The paper (500-700 words) will be posted on the discussion board for other students to review. Students are also expected to read and comment on at least two other posts.
  2. Mini subject guide
    The mini subject guide will provide students with the opportunity to explore and evaluate resources on a topic of relevance in Indigenous librarianship. In addition, it will give students a chance to develop skills using the LibGuides platform, a popular reference and research tool used in academic, public and other libraries, and to reflect on the advantages and limitations of such a tool when working with Indigenous materials and resources. The guide will be built over the duration of the course in components that reflect the module topic of the week. The process will involve the following:
    • Choose a type of library (Indigenous, academic, public, school, special, etc.) or an existing library for which you will build the guide and write a scope note describing the topic and audience.
    • Select key subject headings, search terms and tags to describe the topic of your guide and aid users in finding information
    • Collect and briefly annotate 20 key resources related to the topic of your guide, making sure to critically evaluate for authority, currency, objectivity, scope, purpose, audience, format, availability and cultural appropriateness.
    • Organize and build your subject guide on LibGuides.
    • Present your final subject guide and explore other students’ completed guides.
  3. Final paper
    The final reflection paper (2500 words) asks students to reflect on the course material and building of the subject guide, including evaluation tools used, justification of resources included, and the limitations of traditional library tools and practices in the representation of Indigenous peoples, knowledge and perspectives. Students are also expected to identify and discuss promising practices in Indigenous librarianship and reflect on how they feel they are better prepared to pursue Indigenous-oriented projects in libraries.
  4. Participation
    Participation includes the self-introductions and required responses to short papers and presentations.

Course Calendar

Week Topic Assignments
0 – Jan 26 Introduction
  • Introduction to the course, instructor and students

January 29 – Post self-introductions
 1 - Jan 30 Issues in Indigenous Librarianship
  • Key concepts and professional practices
  • Cultural protocols and professional associations
Short paper #1 / Discussion

February 4 – Submit short paper to instructor and post on discussion board

February 5 – Read and respond to at least two other posts

Subject guide – scope note

February 5 – Submit brief scope note describing the library, topic and audience of your guide
 2 - Feb 6 Knowledge ownership & organization
  • Intellectual propery and cultural appropriation
  • Classification and cataloguing tensions
Short paper #2 / Discussion

February 11 – Submit short paper to instructor and post on discussion board

February 12 – Read and respond to at least two other posts

Subject guide – search terms

February 12 – Submit subject headings, search terms and tags that will aid in finding and describing the topic of your guide
 3 - Feb 13 Representation & evaluation
  • Representations of Indigenous peoples
  • Resources for evaluation
Subject guide – draft

February 15 – Submit 5 annotated resources and a plan showing how you will organize your guide

Short paper #3 / Discussion

February 18 – Submit short paper to instructor and post on discussion board

February 19 – Read and respond to at least two other posts
 4 - Feb 20 Initiatives & innovations
  • Case studies of Indigenous libraries and initiatives
Subject guide – final / Discussion

February 22 – Finalize and present subject guide

February 23 – View, explore and comment on at least two other subject guides

Final paper

February 28 – Submit final paper to instructor

Due to the very short timeline of the course and the high number of enrollments, late submissions will be penalized heavily. There will be a deduction of 20% per day for assignments turned in after the due date, including mandatory discussion posts. 

Activity Possible points CLOs supported
Short paper #1 10 points CLO #1
Short paper #2 10 points CLO #3
Short paper #3 10 points CLO #2
Mini subject guide 30 points CLO #2
Final paper 30 points CLO #3
Participation 10 points CLO #1, CLO #3
Total 100 points  

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. Discuss the ethical guidelines, cultural protocols and historical contexts that impact the development of effective and culturally respectful information services for and with Indigenous communities and Indigenous-oriented organizations.
  2. Locate and critically evaluate information resources on Indigenous peoples for authority, currency, objectivity, scope, purpose, audience, format, availability and cultural respect.
  3. Identify ongoing and emerging information management issues that impact Indigenous communities and current initiatives being developed to address them.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 281 supports the following core competencies:

  1. A Demonstrate awareness of the ethics, values, and foundational principles of one of the information professions, and discuss the importance of intellectual freedom within that profession.
  2. C Recognize the diversity (such as cultural and economic) in the clientele and employees of an information organization and be familiar with actions the organization should take to address this diversity.
  3. F Use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information items.


No Textbooks For This Course.

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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