MARA 284-11 (1-UNIT)
Seminar in Archives & Records Management
Topic: Advocacy & the Professional Image of Archivists & Archives in Popular Culture 
Spring 2020 Syllabus

Joshua J. Zimmerman
Office Hours: By appointment. Appointments can be via telephone or online.

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Canvas Information: This is a one-unit course that runs from January 28th - February 25th. Your course will be available on Canvas on January 28th at 6 pm PT.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

This course introduces students to the various popular image(s) of archivists and archives as viewed by those both inside and outside the profession. Often these images are touchstones for people who have never used an archive or who have never met an actual archivist. This course will allow students to address these popular stereotypes and rewrite their own professional narrative. Students will gain a better understanding of the challenges that archivists face in gaining respect for the profession, funding for archival programs, and visibility in institutions, communities, and society in general. Issues such as advocacy, outreach, societal value, labor, community archives, and professionalization will be explored through discussions and readings from both professional literature and popular culture.

Course Requirements


Lectures, discussions, assignments, and rubrics will be posted to the Canvas course management system. Links to additional materials will be provided in Canvas as well.

The total number of points is 100. Here is a brief summary of the assignments and points earned:

  • Discussions based on material covered – 5 points each x 4 weeks = 20 points
  • "Elevator Speech" + 1 page rational and explanation – 30 points. (CLOs 1, 2, 3, and 4)
  • Critical Analysis (Paper) – 50 points. (CLOs 1, 2, 3, and 4)
Note: For weeks with required discussion board postings, students should provide their initial post by Thursday at 11:59 PM, Pacific Time, to leave ample time for follow-up discussion and to get full credit. Partial credit (see Canvas Rubric) is given for initial posts after Thursday. Please participate early and actively in the required discussions.

Course Calendar

Unless otherwise noted, each module begins on Monday (12:01 AM, Pacific Time) and ends on Sunday (11:59 PM, Pacific Time) though all lectures and readings will be open once the course opens. Assignments will be due by 11:59 PM, Pacific Time on the due date. Unless otherwise noted, discussions end on Sunday (11:59 PM, Pacific Time). Dates subject to change with fair notice. 


Title / Readings


Module 1: January 28 – February 2

Introductions / Exactly who are archivists? What are archives?


Module 2: February 3 – February 9

How do archivists relate to the allied professions: Information technology, records management, libraries, and museums?




Module 3: February 10 – February 16

Role of professional outreach and advocacy in popular image formation.

"Elevator Speech" + 1 page rational and explanation due Sunday, February 16

Module 4: February 17 – February 23

“Discovered in the archives:” Erasing archivists and archival labor.



Module 5: February 23 – February 25

Mini Module: Wrap up. Where do we go from here? Revisiting who archivists are, and might or will be.

Discussion (due Tuesday, February 25)

Critical Analysis (Paper) due Tuesday, February 25


  1. Course grades are determined by the accumulation of 100 possible points, distributed as outlined above in the course calendar.
  2. This class follows the standard iSchool Grading Scale.
  3. Late assignments will not be accepted after 5 days past the due date. Late assignments submitted after the assignment deadline will receive a 10% point reduction for each day up to 5 days based on the total point value of the assignment. For example, a 25 point assignment would have a daily 2.5 point reduction; a 15 point assignment would have a daily 1.5 point reduction; a 5 point assignment would have a daily .5 point reduction. No Points will be awarded after 5 days late.
  4. Discussion board postings will not be accepted for credit after the week's discussion has ended.
  5. All course materials must be completed by the last day of the class.

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

MARA 284 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Competently and concisely articulate and explain the value of archivists and archives to resource allocators and the public at large.
  2. Understand the historical and technological developments that have shaped the public perception of archivists and archives throughout time and location.
  3. Analyze modern portrayals of archivists and archives in popular culture.
  4. Outline ways to change harmful or negative public portrayals.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

MARA 284 supports the following core competencies:

  1. A Articulate the ethics and values of archivists, records managers, and/or information professionals and discuss their role in social memory and organizational accountability.
  2. B Explain the social, cultural, and economic dimensions of data, records, and information use.


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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