Special Collections Certificate Planning Tools

Plan of Study Form

Special Collections Plan of Study form (to be filled out and sent to katie-mccullough@uiowa.edu)

Course Schedule Fall 23-Summer 25

Course rotation form to help you see the courses we are offering and when for the next 3 years

If you are interested in the Special Collections Certificate, contact your advisor to work out a plan of study, and submit the plan of study form to Katie McCullough (katie-mccullough@uiowa.edu). Please note that this is the curriculum for those students who enter the program in Fall 2023 or after.

Certificate in Special Collections Librarianship


The Certificate in Special Collections Librarianship allows students in the Master of Arts in Library and Information Science to adapt their skills to the unique challenges of working with rare books, manuscripts, and archives, digitized and born-digital collections, artist’s books, scrapbooks, photographs, zines, and other “unique and distinct” formats.

The required introductory course and four areas of study offer foundational knowledge in areas of history, theory, and ethics, as well as practical training in the care, use, and organization of special collections and archives, all while promoting the development of research skills and primary source literacies needed for careers working with unique and distinct collections.

Broad foundational knowledge of physical and digital special collections might be applied in settings such as academic and public library special collections, rare book libraries, government and corporate archives, historical societies, galleries, and museums, and may prepare students for further graduate study.


The Graduate Certificate in Special Collections Librarianship can be completed as part of the Master of Arts in Library and Information Science, both in-person and online. Traditional incoming students start the Certificate in Special Collections and Archives Librarianship in the Spring of their first year. U2G students may only take Certificate courses during their second "Graduate" year. The certificate can be completed with or without a practicum, though the practicum is strongly recommended for all students to combine their academic studies with hands-on experience in a cultural heritage setting.

Students should apply for the certificate as part of the application to the Master of Arts in Library and Information Science or may apply during their first semester in the program. Students will begin the certificate plan of study in their second semester.

Please note:

  • Graduate courses completed may only be used twice; once for a degree and once for a certificate. Therefore, a graduate course counted toward a graduate degree cannot count for two graduate certificates simultaneously.
  • On-campus students who elect to pair the Certificate in Special Collections Librarianship with the Center for the Book’s Certificate in Book Arts must apply separately to the Book Arts Certificate, and students completing both should anticipate spending three years.

Course Requirements:

The Graduate Certificate in Special Collections Librarianship develops students’ skills in a variety of areas suitable to work in special collections, archives, and cultural heritage settings via an introductory course and courses spread over four areas of study.

The certificate is comprised of 15 semester hours (s.h.):

  • (3 s.h.) Required: SLIS 5630: Introduction to Special Collections and Archives
  • (12 s.h) Take four courses, one from each of the four areas listed below:

Required Introductory Course (Everyone):

This introductory course is required for all certificate students who will take this course in the spring of their first year in the MA in Library and Information Science. This course presents a broad overview of history, theory, ethics, and practical skills for working with special collections and archives.

  • SLIS: 5630: Introduction to Special Collections and Archives (3 s.h.)

Areas of Study (Four courses total):

Choose at least one course from each of the four areas below. All students must take a minimum of one course in at least three of the four areas listed here to successfully demonstrate their exposure to the breadth of special collections and archives work.

Area 1: Material Culture Research & Analysis

Courses in this area offer students knowledge of primary source literacies and research skills that can be applied to the care, use, and interpretation of unique and distinct collections and supporting the researchers who work with them.

Select from the approved courses below:

  • SLIS: 5600/UICB:5600 - Reading Culture: History & Research in Media (3 s.h.) (Spring)
  • SLIS: 4920/UICB 4920 - The Book in Early Modern Europe (3 s.h.) (In-person only; not offered regularly)
  • SLIS: 6411 - Topics: Humanities Librarianship: Inquiry, Learning, Knowledge (3 s.h.) (Fall)

Area 2: Care and Use of Collections

Courses in this area explore the role of the special collections practitioner in the balance between providing access and promoting use of collections and the preservation practices that ensure the long-term safety and stewardship of unique and distinct collections.

Select from the approved courses below:

  • SLIS:6355 Advanced Topics In Special Collections (Example: Public Services for Special Collections and Archives) (3 s.h.) (Spring)
  • SLIS: 5530 -  Preservation Management (3 s.h.) (Spring)

Area 3: Arrangement, Description, and Cataloging

Courses in this area explore contemporary descriptive practices for special collections and archives with a focus on user discovery.

Select from the approved courses below:

  • SLIS: 6350 - Archives: Theory and Practice (3 s.h.) (Fall, Spring)
  • SLIS: 6255 -  Rare Book Cataloging (summer only) (3 s.h.)

Area 4: Digital Curation & Stewardship

Courses in this area investigate the selection, acquisition, development, preservation, and delivery of digitized and born-digital collections.

Select from the approved courses below:

  • SLIS: 6140 -  Digital Environments and Library Users (3 s.h.) (Fall)
  • SLIS: 6145 -  Digital Preservation and Stewardship  (3 s.h.) (Spring)


Practicums focus on the practical application of theory and students gain hands-on experience in LIS work. Students enroll in the SLIS Practicum class, receive academic credit, and work with a faculty member to identify opportunities for working in libraries and other organizations. Students set professional and personal goals, complete 120 hours of work, and participate in classroom conversations. Students must complete the Proposal for Practicum in Libraries and Information Centers form two weeks before the beginning of the semester. For more information, contact Kara Logsden.  Placements must be approved as a special collections placement. Speak with Colleen Theisen for approval.