LIBR 281-14
Seminar in Contemporary Issues
Topic: International and Comparative Librarianship
Summer 2017 Syllabus

Melanie Sellar
Office location:
 No physical office; online through Canvas
Office Hours:  By appointment 

Syllabus Links

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning June 5th, 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

This course will provide students with a broad understanding of international library activities and practices, with a particular focus on traditional libraries (public, school, community, and academic libraries) in non-North American settings. In the spirit of critical library practice, students will be asked to employ a critical mindset to all of the class discussions and assignments. 

Course Requirements

In this course, we will both study international librarianship and engage in international librarianship ourselves. The learning activities and assignments support both of these goals. The studying part is likely most familiar to you as students. How will we engage in international librarianship, given the time boundaries of an academic semester?

To begin, you will network with an international colleague of your finding and choice. This networking assignment will require you to identify a person and organization of interest and then to interview them. We are "doing" international librarianship by opening up professional dialog to span country borders. 

Secondly, your written assignments are positioned as white papers. A white paper needs an audience; for this course, Librarians Without Borders (LWB) will be our theoretical audience. The white papers will have a particular focus, and will include a section where you suggest how LWB might support those areas (if at all). An orientation to LWB with an optional synchronous session will be provided. Instruction on writing white papers will also be provided.

Lastly, all students in the course will have the opportunity to pitch a blog post article to LWB, during and after the course ends. If your pitch is accepted, you will publish a piece relating to international librarianship under your name. This is a volunteer option available to you if you are interested, it is not a requirement.

Nature of Assignments
There are two categories of assignments: participation and individual writing. 

The participation category is comprised of four (4) types: a networking assignment (1), regular discussion forum participation (6 posts), facilitating a discussion forum (1), and the culminating discussion forum (1 post). 

There will be two (2) written assignments that will take the form of white papers. A white paper, in essence, is a kind of writing product that you can expect to write very frequently in your professional career. See this Wikipedia article for a definition. You will be provided with a template for writing the white paper, as well as some instruction on how one writes it. 

Professionalism of Discourse
The netiquette statement -- that is, expectations for how to communicate with peers -- will be published in the course. Students are expected to converse with their peers in discussion forums in adherence with this statement. Those who do not are subject to points deductions from their participation grades. 

Late Policy
Assignment late policy: 20% deduction per day, with assignment not accepted after 2 days. Discussion forum late policy: no late submissions accepted.

Course Calendar
*Subject to change with fair notice*

All modules will be published at midnight PST on Tuesday and Friday of each week. The exception is Week 1 (5/5-5/10), which will have a Monday and Tuesday schedule. 

Course Calendar for LIBR 281-13 Summer 2017



Module Title

Main Focus


1 6/5-6/10 Course Overview

Orientation to syllabus and course structure. Students and instructor create video introductions via FlipGrid.

2 6/5-6/12 Introduction to International Librarianship (IL)

What does it mean to do or study international librarianship, and why do we do it?


Participation: Discussion Forum
3 6/13-6/15 Comparative Librarianship as a Methodology 

Overview of comparative librarianship as a methodology, including challenges and criticisms.


4 6/16-6/19 Critical Perspectives on IL

Builds upon conversations seeded in Module 3. Criticisms of IL, including influence of Western libraries and cultural imperialism.


Participation: Discussion Forum
5 6/20-6/22 International Organizations 

Landscape of library (and library/information related) organizations supporting IL. 


6 6/23-6/26 NGOs in the International Space

Other IL actors: non-governmental organizations, their roles, activities, challenges.

Optional: synchronous web conference meeting with Librarians Without Borders.

Participation: Discussion Forum

Participation Assignment: Students will choose 1 of 8 spotlight discussion forums (either issue or country Modules 6-9, 11-14) to facilitate with a small group of peers. 

6 6/27-6/29 Issue Spotlight: Indigenous Knowledge and Culture 

Modules 6-9 will spotlight issues of international attention. The primary learning material will be the guest speaker, with some light introduction and supporting readings. The guest speakers can serve as models for the kinds of questions that students should address for their own issue analysis in Assignment 1.

Overview and discussion of the inclusion of indigenous people and their knowledge, culture in international libraries.


Students will participate in 2 out of 4 issue spotlight discussion forums. 

It is possible one of these 2 may the facilitating assignment.

Facilitating includes generating questions and co-leading the forum.


7 6/30-7/3 Issue Spotlight: Open Access Initiatives 

Overview and discussion of open access initiatives internationally, including impact and ongoing challenges.

Submit: name of individual you will interview for networking assignment.

8 7/4-7/6 Issue Spotlight: Support of the Profession

Overview of the support of the librarian profession internationally with a focus on LIS education and continuing education. 

*Recommendation: submit proposed topic for White Paper 1 to instructor for feedback*

9 7/7-7/10 Issue Spotlight: Global Information Literacy

Introduction to diverse international perspectives demonstrating how information literacy is viewed, taught, and conceptualized internationally. 

10 7/11-7/13 Assignment Module

Students work on assignments


White Paper Assignment 1:

International Issue Analysis

Due by 7/16

11 7/14-7/17 Country Spotlight: Americas (Guatemala & Honduras)

Modules 11-14 will spotlight the library landscape in countries of various regions. The primary learning material will be the guest speaker recording, with some light introduction and supporting readings. The guest speakers can serve as models for the kinds of questions that students should address for their own country analysis in White Paper Assignment 2.

Recorded guest speaker video. State of the art of libraries and librarianship in Guatemala and Honduras. 


Students will participate in 2 out of 4 discussion forums.

It is possible one of these 2 may the facilitating assignment.

Facilitating includes generating questions and co-leading the forum.




12 7/18-7/20

Country Spotlight: Asia


Recorded guest speaker video. State of the art of libraries and librarianship in Bhutan. 


13 7/21-7/24 Country Spotlight: Africa (Ghana)

Recorded guest speaker video. State of the art of libraries and librarianship in Ghana.

14 7/25-7/27

Country Spotlight: Europe

(Country TBD)

Recorded and optional live guest speaker. State of the art of libraries and librarianship in a TBD European country.

15 7/28-7/31 Assignment Module

Students work on assignments.


White Paper Assignment 2: Country Profile and Analysis 

Due by 7/31

(posted to instructor and into the course)

16 8/1-8/3 Peer Reads Students will browse peers' country reports and pick one to discuss and compare with their own along some dimension.  
17 8/4-8/11 Culminating discussion forum Students work on final assignments. 

Culminating Discussion forum: comparison of countries.

Last day to submit networking assignment. 

*Subject to change with fair notice*
Rubrics will be provided in advance by the instructor for all assignments.



Supported CLOs

Grading (Points)

Participation International Networking Assignment (1)  3  20
  Discussion forum: regular (6)  1, 2, 5  25
  Discussion forum: facilitation (1)   1, 3, 4, 5  15
  Discussion forum: culminating (1)   1, 5  10
 Individual Writing White Paper 1: Analysis of an international issue (including relevant organizations and their work) with opportunity identification  1, 23, 5  75
  White Paper 1: Analysis of a given country’s library landscape with opportunity identification  1, 3, 4, 5  75
Total Possible Points   220

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 understanding of the principles, concepts, and practices of international and comparative librarianship.
  2. Identify and critically assess the roles and contributions of professional organizations, intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental agencies working internationally.
  3. Discuss specific major issues facing libraries, library services and the library profession, both in multinational and local contexts.
  4. Analyze library services and systems, successes and challenges in other national library environments, within their historical, societal, and cultural contexts.
  5. Apply a critical mindset to international librarianship activities in order to impact their own praxis as future global librarians.

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. 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. D Apply the fundamental principles of planning, management, marketing, and advocacy.
  4. O (for students entering from Spring 2015) identify ways in which information professionals can contribute to the cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being of our global communities.


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;
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA or Informatics) — 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.

Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 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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