INFO 281-14: Seminar in Contemporary Issues — Scholarly Communication and Publishing: Access, Intellectual Property, and Impact (2 units)
Summer 2019 Syllabus

Dr. Katherine E. Skinner
E-mail  (please ALWAYS use 281-14 in the subject)
Office Hours: Virtually via weekly Zoom 

Syllabus Links
Canvas Login and Tutorials
iSchool eBookstore

Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning June 3rd, 6 am PT unless you are taking an intensive or a one-unit or two-unit class that starts on a different day. INFO 281-16 is an intensive 2-unit course that begins on  June 10th and runs until August 5, and the CANVAS course site will open at 6 am PT on the first day that the class begins, June 10th.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

The course is designed to introduce you to the world of digital publishing and networked communications, with an emphasis on how these functions are changing the academic and scholarly communications landscapes. The course will include in-depth explorations of publishing functions from acquisitions to distribution, and from impact assessment to preservation. Students will emerge from the course with a strong understanding of library publishing fundamentals in both academic and public library settings. For students seeking to prepare for a potential career in library publishing or another publishing field, this course will provide a solid foundation. For students who are interested in the wide range of digital publication types that libraries manage today—where they come from, how they are produced, how they are tracked and assessed, and how purchasing decisions are made—this course will satisfy those curiosities as well. Investigation of major contemporary issues within the information profession; topics range from censorship to the need for a national information policy and change each time the course is offered.

In addition to weekly readings and viewings (and awesome discussions, I promise!), the course will include weekly recorded “lecturettes” by Dr. Skinner, including a range of conversational recordings made with leaders in the library publishing field (see the Library Publishing Coalition for a sense of the range of institutional types to whom you will be exposed). All course "meetings" will be recorded to allow students to attend asynchronously.

During the course, students will have a mix of research (one short research paper), practicum (one collaboration with a library publisher – set up through the professor’s connections), and hands-on experience using several platforms and tools that are used in the publishing landscape today.

Course Structure

The syllabus will evolve according to student interests, which will be gauged through a survey in week 1, but it will follow roughly the following topics:

Week 1: What is publishing, and what do libraries have to do with it today?

Week 2: The functions of publishing: Nuts and bolts (publication types, platforms)

Week 3: Mission-driven publishing and the library: what are libraries publishing today, and why?

Week 4: Developing an Editorial Strategy

Week 5: Content types: Journals, books, open textbooks, multi-modal works (including self-publishing)

Week 6: Discovery and Assessment Measures

Week 7: Marketing and Outreach

Week 8: The Publishing Business: financials, staffing, and sustainability

Week 9: Preservation of digital publications

Week 10: Legal Considerations (Creative Commons, author agreements, and copyright and IP)


Please see our Canvas site for final details regarding due dates, assignment requirements, and grading information.

Position Paper (20% of total grade): 
This assignment will enable you to explore an area of interest in greater depth by taking a position (pro or con) in response to a contemporary digital publishing issue. You do not have to personally agree with which side you take on the issue, but you are expected to provide supporting evidence for whichever angle you choose, either affirmative or negative. The assignment is designed to help you learn to construct a solid argument and to begin building your own personal philosophy of publishing. (Due: June 28)

Developing a Memorandum of Understanding (20% of total grade, CLO #4, CLO #7A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) frequently is employed when a publisher is providing a service with a partnering organization.  For instance, in a university setting, if the English Department wishes to produce a journal for its students and publish it through the library press, the MOU could be the controlling document. In this assignment, you will produce an MOU for a case study provided by your professor. (Due: Jul 12)

Final Project: Publishing Policy Development (range of options offered, including Diversity Policy, Author Rights Policy, Editorial Strategy, Platform Policy, Preservation Policy, and others) (20% of total grade, CLO #5, CLO #6 )
For this assignment, you will develop a relationship with a real library publishing unit that is building its digital portfolio and that has not yet produced all of the policies it needs. You will design and implement a needs-assessment interview to gather pertinent information about the institution and its publications, and then you will help the institution to select scope, and produce one policy in conjunction with the institution’s staff. You will also keep a journal of the experience, and will write up a brief paper documenting the challenges and successes of the project and any remaining work that you believe the institution should complete in the future. The assignment is designed to provide you with a mini-practicum that will deepen your understanding of digital publishing, policy development, and teamwork. All partners will be provided by the professor; most will be university library publishing departments from around the U.S. (Due: Aug 2)

Online Discussions (20% of total grade, CLO #1, CLO#2, CLO #3, and CLO #4)

Because this class is entirely asynchronous, the online discussions are an integral part of this course. These will be structured and participation is mandatory. For each week’s class material, one substantive, thoughtful initial post and one response to another person's posts are required.  (Due each week on Tuesday and Friday)

Assignment Submission
Assignments must be double‐spaced using a 12‐point font and include a one‐inch margin on all sides. They must be submitted by 11:59 pm PT on the day that they are due using the Canvas drop box provided in the relevant weekly module. Ten points per day (10/100 for the assignment, not for the class overall) will be deducted for assignments that are turned in after the due date without prior approval.

If your life circumstances require that you request an extension, please do so at least a week before the assignment due date. 

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. Recognize some of the key trends affecting both scholarly and trade publishing today, and how those impact libraries.
  2. Document the staff skills and production workflows needed to support the editorial strategy and content types included in your publishing program.
  3. Identify resources for supporting publishing activities.
  4. Develop guidelines for authors and journal editors.
  5. Understand the range of file types and content types that may be required in digital scholarly publication.
  6. Identify replicable workflows for submission, review, production, publication, and support of multimedia projects.
  7. Recognize a range of discovery and dissemination activities.
  8. Understand the current state of assessment and predictive analytics (including altmetrics and other common assessment forms).
  9. Understand how to set and manage the expectations of authors and other project contributors.
  10. Locate and evaluate tools, research, and other resources on publishing.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 281 supports the following core competencies:

  1. L Demonstrate understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods, the ability to design a research project, and the ability to evaluate and synthesize research literature.
  2. M Demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for professional work including collaboration and presentations.
  3. N Evaluate programs and services using measurable criteria.


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.

icon showing link leads to the PDF file viewer known as Acrobat Reader Download Adobe Acrobat Reader to access PDF files.

More accessibility resources.