The Critical Praxis of Special Collections Librarianship

Faculty: Mario H. Ramirez


As the landscape of special collections librarianship changes, and it looks towards incorporating more progressive and community driven approaches towards cultural heritage stewardship, students and new and seasoned professionals are compelled to shift their praxis to incorporate principles of social justice that eschew previously held notions of historical value, materiality, authenticity, and Eurocentrism. In addition to considering the fundamental undergirding’s of the profession which account for policies, practices, and traditions that have contributed to the formation of special collections librarianship for the past two centuries, this course will ask the fundamental question of what the profession could and should look like in the face of growing challenges to the cultural and historical marginalization of minoritized groups in special collections settings. 

Through readings, site visits, lectures, and discussions, this course aims to challenge its participants to reflect upon their own praxis and biases as a means of critically interrogating how they frame special collections librarianship, and the definitions, practices, and terminologies that have traditionally circumscribed the profession’s ability to be inclusive and equitable. 

Participants will visit several special collections libraries in the Los Angeles area which aim to serve a diverse public, including UCLA’s Department of Special Collections, the Southern California Library, The Huntington Library, Cal State LA’s Special Collections and Archives, Center for the Study of Political Graphics, the Autry Museum of the American West, and USC’s Special Collections.

Years offered: 2022