INF 7715: Archival Reference

Credits: 1

Prerequisite(s): None

Course description

Archival education focuses on the organization and preservation of historical materials, but archives is also a customer-driven profession. Archivists need to utilize standard customer service theory and develop keen interpersonal skills to match information to the researcher.

This course addresses the challenges in relating to researchers, assisting them in understanding what exists and what does not, as well as designing a reference process with the researcher in mind. There will also be some exposure to conducting a reference interview and how to help a user define what they need.

Course content

  • In-depth case studies of varying archival institutions and how they serve their communities
  • Overview of the archival reference process
  • Review of various archival reference tools and their advantages and disadvantages
  • Exposure to reference ethics
  • Analysis of various types of research questions and how to best prioritize and respond
  • Expert guest lecturers including historical and professional researchers

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  1. Compare modern archival reference theories
  2. Demonstrate understanding of current best practices in archival reference services
  3. Discern differences in types of archival material and the limitations of quality
  4. Develop creative problem solving for identifying information for a patron
  5. Explain how archival arrangement/description can impact reference service
  6. Understand how to reconcile conflicting resources and bias to a patron
  7. Analyze how to serve a diverse user base in order to provide better reference service

Course methodology

Course format and method may include some or all: Lectures, readings, class discussions, oral presentations, guest speaker(s) and, where appropriate, tours of institutions.

Bases for evaluation of student performance

Some or all:

  1. Research paper
  2. Examination
  3. Oral Presentation/Case Studies
  4. Participation/Discussion