INFO 281-05
INFO 281-12
Seminar in Contemporary Issues 
Topic: Indigenous Librarianship (2-Units)
Spring 2020 Syllabus

Rowena Koh
Office Location:
Office Hours: By appointment

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning January 23rd at 6 am PDT 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.

This 2-unit course runs from January 28th - March 24th. It will be available on Canvas on January 28th.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

This intensive course introduces students to some of the main concepts and unique challenges in Indigenous librarianship, including: cultural protocols; knowledge organization; intellectual property rights; representations in publishing; evaluation of information sources about Indigenous peoples; and current initiatives in the digitization and revitalization of Indigenous cultures and languages. 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 vigorous self-reflection and critical thinking. The objective of this short course is to provide a preliminary theoretical and critical foundation on which to pursue further research, learning opportunities, and experiential practices. While skills will be developed in the evaluation of resources and building of a subject guide, students should be prepared for a course that is reading, reflecting and writing intensive. Please make note of the course calendar below and reserve enough time to adhere to the frequent due dates.

Reflection Papers (3)

There will be short reflection papers due at the end of weeks 2, 4 and 6. Referring to course material and addressing specific questions, students will be asked to reflect on their learnings in the course so far. The paper (~1000 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.

Subject Guide

The 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. Working in small groups, students will build the subject guide over the duration of the course. The process will involve:

  • Choosing a library (Indigenous, academic, public, school, special, etc.) for which you will build the guide and writing a scope note describing the topic and audience.
  • Collecting and briefly annotating 30 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.
  • Selecting key subject headings, search terms and tags to describe the topic of your guide; these will help users find information in your library's catalog and online and reflect learnings from the course
  • Designing and building your subject guide, making sure that the resources are organized and presented in a way that encourages use, reflects the scope of the topic, and considers course learnings
  • Presenting your final subject guide
  • Peer reviewing two other subject guides

Final Paper

The final reflection paper (~2500-3000 words) asks students to reflect on their learning journey throughout the course. In addition to demonstrating their experiences relating to the course content, students will also consider the 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, archives or museums.


Participation includes weekly required discussion posts, which will include self-introductions, short responses to questions related to the module readings/viewings, as well as interaction with other students. 

Course Calendar




January 28 Introduction & Context
  • Introduction to the course, instructor, and students
  • Principles of Learning
  • Truth & Reconciliation
  • Theoretical frameworks

Discussion Board

January 31

Post self-introductions and respond to at least two other posts

February 3

Post/submit a short response to questions related to module 1 readings/viewings and respond to at least two other posts

February 4

Issues in Indigenous Librarianship

  • Defining Indigeneity
  • Libraries and colonization
  • What is an Indigenous library?

Reflection Paper #1 / Discussion Board

February 10

Submit reflection paper to instructor and post on discussion board

February 11

Read and respond to at least two other posts

Subject Guide / Team Match

February 11

Choose your subject guide teams

February 11


  • Cultural representations
  • Cultural appropriations
  • Issues in publishing

Discussion Board

February 17

Post/submit a short response to questions related to module 3 readings/viewings and respond to at least two other posts

Subject Guide / Library Profile & Scope Note

February 18

Submit library profile and scope note describing the library, topic, and audience of your guide

February 18


Collection Development

  • Critical Indigenous literacies
  • Selection considerations
  • Supporting Indigenous voices

Reflection Paper #2 / Discussion Board

February 24

Submit reflection paper to instructor and post on discussion board

February 25

Read and respond to at least two other posts

February 25

Cultural Protocols

  • What are cultural protocols?
  • Guidelines for libraries
  • Building relationships

Discussion Board

March 2

Post/submit a short response to questions related to module 5 readings/viewings and respond to at least two other posts

Subject Guide / Initial Selections

March 3

Submit 5 annotated titles

March 3

Indigenous Knowledge

  • What is Indigenous knowledge?
  • Who owns Indigenous knowledge?
  • Protecting Indigenous knowledge

Reflection Paper #3 / Discussion Board

March 9 

Submit reflection paper to instructor and post on discussion board

March 10 

Read and respond to at least two other posts

March 10

Knowledge Organization

  • Indigenous worldviews
  • Issues in cataloging and classification

Discussion Board

March 16

Post/submit a short response to questions related to module 7 readings/viewings and respond to at least two other posts

March 17

Innovations & Initiatives

  • Reimagining librarianship

Subject Guide / Final

March 23

Present final subject guide, including selected subject terms, keywords and tags

Discussion Board

March 24

Peer review two other subject guides and post comments on discussion board



Final Paper

March 31

Submit final reflection paper to the instructor


There will be a deduction of 5% per day for assignments turned in after the due date, including mandatory discussion posts. 

Activity Possible points CLOs supported
Reflection Paper #1 10% CLO #1
Reflection Paper #2 10% CLO #3
Reflection Paper #3 10% CLO #2
Subject Guide 20% CLO #2
Final Paper 30% CLO #3
Participation 20% CLO #1, CLO #3
Total 100%  

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 those principles within that profession.
  2. C Articulate the importance of designing programs and services supportive of diversity, inclusion, and equity for clientele and employees.
  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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