LIBR 281-13
Seminar in Contemporary Issues
Topic: Information Secrecy and Freedom of Information
Summer 2018 Syllabus

Susan Maret, Ph.D.

Syllabus Links
iSchool eBookstore

Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning June 4, 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 in the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

This course examines the political, legal, regulatory, historical, and social dimensions of government secrecy and its relationship to freedom of information in the United States. Topics covered in this class will include the growth of the U.S. government secrecy system, federal information policy, censorship, privacy, and federal control over public, scientific, and technical information resources. Consideration is also given to the homeland security issues that surround information access in library settings.

Course Requirements

Points Due
Open records paper (CLOs 1, 2, 3 & 4) 30  July 8
Final (research) paper (CLOs 1, 2, 3, & 4) 35 August 10
Participation ~ see Course Assignments docs on Canvas for additional information. (CLOs 1, 2, 3, & 4)

Weekly office hours through Zoom will be held. Note these meetings are voluntary and do not count towards participation.

Required Readings
There is no required textbook for this course. The course readings list is available through our Canvas course site and details access for readings (e.g., through King Library's subscription databases).

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. Describe the impact of government secrecy and restriction of government information within a historical and contemporary perspective.
  2. Describe and evaluate critical policy issues involved in government secrecy, information restriction, freedom of information, access and dissemination of information to libraries and society.
  3. Understand and explain the role of libraries and librarians in freedom of information.
  4. Identify the foundational research associated with secrecy theory, history of secrecy, information policy, and access to federal information.

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.


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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