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College of Professional and Global Education · School of Information

Seminar in Archives and Records Management - History of Libraries in the US
INFO 284

  • Spring 2023
  • Sections 03, 15
  • 2 Unit(s)
  • 03/13/2023 to 05/15/2023
  • Modified 05/22/2023

Canvas Information: Course will be available March 13th, 6 am PT.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Contact Information

Dr. Donald Westbrook
Office Hours: Virtual/Email

Course Information

NOTE: This 2-unit class runs from March 13 to May 15.

Course Description and Requisites

This course examines the history, development, and role of the library in American history, culture, and society from colonial times to the present day. The evolution of libraries, librarianship, and library technologies and services will be considered.


INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204, other prerequisites may be added depending on content.

Classroom Protocols


Students are expected to participate fully in all class activities. It is expected that students will be open-minded and participate fully in discussions in class and debate in a mature and respectful manner. Use of derogatory, condescending, or offensive language including profanity is prohibited. Disagreement is healthy and perfectly acceptable. Expressing disagreement should always include an explanation of your reasoning and, whenever possible, evidence to support your position. In accordance with San José State University's Policies, the Student Code of Conduct, and applicable state and federal laws, discrimination based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability is prohibited in any form.

Program Information

Course Workload

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 Goals

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes) Supported

INFO 284 supports the following core competencies:

  1. C Articulate the importance of designing programs and services supportive of diversity, inclusion, and equity for clientele and employees.
  2. F Use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information items.

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)

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

  1. Discuss early print culture in colonial America and the founding of the firstlibraries.
  2. Describe the evolution of libraries in the 19th and 20th centuries and the social, cultural, and economic factors that influenced their growth.
  3. Trace the development of library technologies and services and their impact on society.
  4. Discuss the professionalization and feminization of librarianship. Identify the major figures in American library history.
  5. Describe the development of library historiography and current scholarly issues and trends.

Course Materials


Recommended Textbooks:

  • Learn about the history of your school! Hansen, D.G. (2010). A pioneering and independent spirit. Trafford. Available through Amazon: 1426921098
  • Arms, W. Y. (2001). Digital Libraries. The MIT Press. Available through Amazon: 0262511274.
  • Augst, T., & Carpenter, K. (2007). Institutions of Reading. Univ. of Massachusetts Press. Available through Amazon: 1558495916.
  • Battles, M. (2003). Library: An unquiet history. W. W. Norton & Company. Available through Amazon: 0393020290
  • Hildenbrand, S. (Ed.). (1996). Reclaiming the American library past: Writing the women in. Ablex Publishing. Available through Amazon: 1567502334
  • Pawley, C., & Robbins, L. S. (Eds.). (2013). Libraries and the reading public in twentieth-century America. University of Wisconsin Press. Available through Amazon: 0299293246
  • Van Slyck, A. (1998). Free to all: Carnegie libraries and American culture, 1890-1920. University of Chicago Press. Available through Amazon: 0226850323.
  • Wiegand, W. (2011).  Main Street public library: Community places and reading spaces in the rural heartland, 1876-1956. University of Iowa Press. Available through Amazon: 1609380673
  • Wiegand, W. A. (2015). Part of our lives: A people's history of the American public library. Oxford University Press. Available through Amazon: 0190248009
  • Wiegand, W. A. (1996). Irrepressible reformer: A biography of Melvil Dewey. ALA. Available through Amazon: 083890680X
  • Wolff, K. (2009). Culture club: The curious history of the Boston Athenaeum. University of Massachusetts Press. Available through Amazon: 1558497145
  • Wright, A. (2007). GLUT: Mastering information through the ages. Joseph Henry Press. Available through Amazon: 0309102383.

Course Requirements and Assignments

The assignments for this course are as follows:

  • Discussions. 28 points (7 discussions, 4 points each)

Participate in a series of discussions related to American library history, research methodologies, sources, the research paper, and other topics connected with course learning outcomes. (Learning Outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5)

  • Library History Book Review. 35 points

Locate and review a library history book. A list of recommendations will be provided. (Learning Outcomes 3, 4, & 5)

  • Research Paper. 37 points

Write a research paper that includes a thesis, discussion of methodology, literature review section, and demonstration of research skills addressed in the course. (Learning Outcomes 3, 4, & 5)

Assignment Submission

All assignments must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. (Pacific Time (PT)) on the day they are due. Late submissions will be reduced by 20% of the total points possible for that assignment or discussion post.

Grading and Due Dates


28 points

See Schedule

Library History Book Review

35 points

Due April 16

Research Paper

37 points

Due May 15

Grading Information

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100A
94 to 96A minus
91 to 93B plus
88 to 90B
85 to 87B minus
82 to 84C plus
79 to 81C
76 to 78C minus
73 to 75D plus
70 to 72D
67 to 69D minus
Below 67F


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 (PDF), relevant university policy concerning all courses, such as student responsibilities, academic integrity, accommodations, dropping and adding, consent for recording of class, etc. and available student services (e.g. learning assistance, counseling, and other resources) are listed on the Syllabus Information web page. Make sure to visit this page to review and be aware of these university policies and resources.

Course Schedule

Reminder: Weekly/modular class sessions run from Monday through Sunday. Schedule below subject to change with fair notice.

Module 1 (1 Week)

March 13 - March 19

Module 1 (1 Week): Introductions and Goals for the Course

Discussion 1

Module 2 (2 Weeks)

March 20 - April 2

Module 2 (2 Weeks): Early Print Culture in Colonial America and the Founding of the First Libraries; Evolution and Growth of Libraries in the 19th Century

SJSU Spring Recess: March 27 - March 31

Cesar Chavez Day: March 31

Discussions 2a and 2b

Module 3 (2 Weeks)

April 3 - April 16

Module 3 (2 Weeks): The Diversification of Librarianship and Major Figures in American Library History; Evolution of Libraries in the 20th Century

Discussions 3a and 3b

Library History Book Review due by Sunday, April 16, 11:59 PM PT.

Module 4 (2 Weeks)

April 17 -April 30

Module 4 (2 Weeks): Library Schools, Technologies, Historiography, and Current Scholarly Issues and Trends; American Libraries in a Globalized World

Discussions 4a and 4b

Module 5 (2 Weeks)

May 1 - May 15

Module 5 (2 Week): Conclusion: The Future of American Libraries and Information Centers

Research Paper due by *Monday,* May 15, 11:59 PM PT.