Perspectives on Library and Information Science

LIS 501 - Winter 2007


Mark Breakdown
Topic Reports
Grading of Assignments
Late Assignments
MLIS Grade Guidelines

  Dr. Samuel E. Trosow
Associate Professor
Faculty of Information and Media Studies / Faculty of Law
  NCB 259
519 661-2111 x88498
  Office Hours:
Monday 11:30 to 1:00 p.m.
or by appointment

  T.A - Charles Maina
Office: NCB 234

  Class Meets:
Mondays 1:30 to 4:20 p.m.
Room: NCB 293

Assignments and Grading

Mark Breakdown

Topic Report #1 (15%) To be distributed in class January 8th and due January 15th

Topic Report #2 (25%) on either Module 2, 3, or 4

Topic Reports #3 & #4 @ 25% on Modules 5-8. (You may substitute a critical annotated bibliography for the fourth topic report, see below).

Class Participation (10%) Students are expected to attend all classes, to complete all required readings, to make some effort to do some supplemental reading, and to participate actively in class discussion. Students must demonstrate a critical engagement with the class readings and should be prepared to debate pertinent issues in class. Participation grades are earned for valuable contributions to class discussion over the course of the term.

Topic Reports

You are required to submit four topic reports over the course of the term. Everyone will do a topic report on Module 1, which will be worth 15% of your grade. The other three topic reports will be worth 25% each and will be spread throughout the term (one of the reports should be on either modules 2, 3 or 4, a sign-up sheet will be distributed on January 15th for the second report)

Topic Reports are based on the assigned readings plus at least two additional readings, which shall be cited in the report's reference list. Topic reports shall be submitted in classon the days indicated. The second report should be on either modules 2, 3 or 4. Topic reports should not exceed 5 pages (exclusive of references, double-spaced, 12 pt font and reasonable margins)

You may substitute a critical annotated bibliography on a course-related topic of your choice for the fourth report. This option will be further discussed in a subsequent class

Module 1:      
Nature and Characteristics of Information and Knowledge
Due: January 15th     
15% of grade

Information and knowledge are key concepts for librarianship and information science, so a clear understanding of what is meant by the terms should be foundational to the field(s). Yet attempts to precisely define the concepts have been elusive, and the terms are often conflated. With reference to your readings, assess the ability to define these terms and make an argument for the most useful definitions of information and knowledge

Module 2:    
The Information Society and its Critics
Due: January 29th   

Answer any one of the following three questions:

1. Frank Webster identifies six ways of distinguishing an information society. The first five involve quantitative measurements of (1) technological innovation and diffusion; (2) occupational change (i.e. the shift to service work); (3) economic value; (4) information flows (in the geographic sense) and (5) the expansion of symbols and signs. The sixth is more of a qualitative assessment of "changes in the way life is now conducted because of information." While he finds the sixth argument more persuasive than the others, he still rejects the notion of the "information society" and suggests it be abandoned.

Analyze and critique Webster's assessment of the information society concept. In doing so you should compare his critique of the information society to that of other authors, as well as to the arguments put forth by proponents of the information society such as Daniel Bell.

2. In the Social Framework of the Information Society Daniel Bell argues that "the axial principle of post-industrial society…is the centrality of theoretical knowledge and its new role, when codified, as the director of social change" (p. 501). Elaborate on and assess Bell's claim as well as the criticisms that have been made of this argument.

3. What is the relationship between technology and social change?

Module 3:     
Information Economics and the Information Divide

Due: February 12th   

Answer any one of the following two questions:

1. Compare and contrast the approaches to economic issues that are rooted in mainstream economic analysis (i.e. price theory, micro-economics) with that of political economy with respect to intellectual goods and services. Assess the contributions of these different schools of economic thought to understanding the work of librarians and information professionals. In answering this question, you should identify any special problems that information goods and services present for economic analysis.

2. There has recently been much interest and discussion about the concept of the Information Commons. Assess the usefulness of this concept for helping us understand the economic analysis of information and knowledge related goods and services. In answering this question, you could include a discussion of the following:

  • a working definition of the information commons;
  • your general reactions/ critiques of the the literature addressing the information commons including the assigned readings;
  • whether such a concept is useful or necessary at this time;
  • how the notion of the informaton commons relates to the different approaches to economic issues that you have studied;
  • the types of information policies that are implicated by the idea of an information commons;
  • what barriers exist to the realization of a commons;

Module 4:     
Information Institutions: Librarianship and the Public Sphere

Due: February 19th

Answer any one of the following two questions:

1. Frank Webster argues that the public library is one institution which helps ensure the existence of the public sphere. Several authors have also indicated a concern that such a public sphere is being eroded. Assess these arguments.

2. The debate over what to call people who use libraries rages on. On the one hand, many are pointing to the need to think of library users/patrons as "customers." And some in this group go even further and suggest that libraries could be run more like bookstores. Others are highly critical of using the term "customer" and raise concerns about the loss of the public service aspect of librarianship. Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments put forward by each camp, and give your assessment of the issue.

Module 5:     

Professionalism, Values and Neutrality
Due: March 12th

Answer any one of the following three questions:

1. You have read some very divergent views on the nature of librarianship, its role in society, and its place in the political process. These differences touch on many issues, but many writers boil the question down to the debate about neutrality. Analyze and assess the various viewpoints on neutrality in terms of your vision of what would constitute ideal library practice. You may answer this question with respect to library and information services in general, with respect to some particular type of library service, with respect to some particular issue, or with respect to the nature of education for library services.

2. As an example of a particular issue which you may address in responding to the above question, consider the question of diversity and multiculturalism in libraries. Why and to what extent should LIS professionals be concerned with diversity and multiculturalism? What are some of the means of serving diverse users, and to what extent should libraries go to meet these challenges? This issue is particularly timely in light of the influx of new immigrants to Canada including cities such as London (see

(If you are answering question #2, please also read Rebecca Miller and Aida Bardales."Better Together: The Joint Conference" Library Journal. 131 (19):134 (Nov 15, 2006) and letter from Tess Pappas in the February 1st LJ.

3. What is your assessment on the issue of whether librarianship is a profession, and whether librarians should strive for such status? In answering this question, it is important to carefully analyze your definition of "professions" or "professional" in light of the divergent theories of the sociology of the professions you have read about.

Module 6:      
Information Policy

Due: March 26th       
Answer any one of the following two questions:

1. Select a substantive information policy issue (or an interrelated set of issues) and discuss some of the challeneges it poses to contemporary library practice.

2. Assess the relevance and importance of definitions of information and knowledge to the information policy process.
Module 7:      
Globalization and International Issues
Due: April 2nd

Answer any one of the following two questions:

1. What is your assessment of the relevancy of the perspectives and recommendations contained in the McBride Report for the current period?  

2. What is your assessment of the argument that the library community needs to pay more attention to international trade issues?

Module 8:      
Postmodernism and Information

Due: April 9th

Assess the contribution of postmodern theory to the discipline of LIS and to the provision of information services.

Critical Annotated Bibliography

You may substitute a critical annotated bibliography for one of your topic reports.

This option requires that you select a topic of interest to you and search the scholarly literature of library and information science, communications research, law, political science, economics, sociology (or any other relevant discipline) to find recent articles, books, or other resources (including non-print materials) that cover your subject. You may choose any problem relevant to the course that is of most interest to you.

Your literature review will begin with a short essay, a problem statement, which introduces topic you will be addressing and which summarizes the major issues, theories, and areas of concern within the topic. It is followed by a critical annotated bibliography of the articles, books, chapters in collections of essays, or non-print materials dealing with the problem.

The bibliographic data is given prior to the annotation for each item cited. You must be sure that complete bibliographic information (author, title, date of publication, place of publication, publisher, number of pages, edition, series data) is given for each item cited. Remember that a critical annotated bibliography includes not only a description of the work, but also an evaluation of how useful it is, a statement describing the intended audience and whether it presents an evaluation/critique of the material. Simply describing the work cited is insufficient.

Your review should contain approximately 20 sources and should begin with a coherent statement of the problem you are exploring.

You will be graded on: the coherence of your problem statement, the appropriateness of items selected with respect to the topic, organization of material, clarity of expression (including spelling and grammar), correct bibliographic information, and use of proper bibliographic format. Your paper should conform to the APA Publication Manual, or some other format of your choice.

Critical Annotated Bibliographies are due April 9th

Grading of Assignments

Assignments will be graded on the basis of the quality of analysis and argument (how well it defines an issue or problem, how clearly it articulates a position or thesis regarding that issue or problem, and how well it provides argument, reasons, or evidence in support of its position or thesis). Mere summary of views found in the literature constitutes an inadequate assignment. Text pages shall be double-spaced and numbered. Turn off right-justification. Bibliographical references shall follow the paper as a separate section. Students may chose the citation style of their choice but should be consistent in their citations. Title-pages shall include student name and number, mailbox number, course number (LIS 501), and the instructor's name.

Late Assignments

Grades shall be reduced for late papers at the rate of 5% of the assignment grade per day for the first two days (or any portion thereof), and 2% per day thereafter, including weekends. Late papers should be left in the FIMS drop box next to the main office. Papers may be submitted electronically on weekends. Papers more than one week late will not be accepted.


Plagiarism is a serious academic offence. The following statement has been approved by the Senate of The University of Western Ontario for inclusion in every course outline:
Students must write their essays and assignments in their own words. Whenever students take an idea or a passage from another author, they must acknowledge their debt both by using quotation marks where appropriate and by proper referencing such as footnotes or citations. Plagiarism is a major academic offence.
(see Scholastic Offence Policy in the Graduate Calendar of the Faculty of Graduate Studies).

See also the statement on plagiarism in the MLIS Student Handbook.

MLIS Grade Guidelines

The MLIS Student Handbook contains information on the criteria used to grade assignments; see the grade guidelines.


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