This course will give graduate students the opportunity to further their research interests by working closely with unique, primary source material in SFU Special Collections and Rare Books. Through the assigned tasks, the student will make the material accessible via archival and metadata description, physical preservation, digitization, curation, and exhibition.

SFU Special Collections and Rare Books can supervise one student per term. When more than one application is received, Special Collections and Rare Books staff and the Graduate Chair of the student’s home department will determine which application is selected, based on the: (1) quality of the proposal; and (2) readiness of the student to undertake the proposed work.

The student will be involved in selecting a fonds / collection to work on that aligns with their particular area of interest. In the case of a large fonds, a discrete portion may be assigned.

Types of skills to be learned

  • Archival practices for cataloguing / describing fonds / collections
  • Creation and entry of metadata
  • Digitization practices and policies, including copyright policies
  • Online and physical exhibit curation skills

Types of tasks to be assigned

  • Research the creator and / or subject area as necessary
  • Determine an appropriate arrangement according to archival guidelines
  • Describe records at fonds, series, file, and item level in SFU AtoM
  • Coordinate digitization of selected items as possible, including securing any necessary permissions (e.g. copyright)
  • Create metadata for digital objects
  • Develop related online and / or physical exhibits contextualizing the material


Students must have taken a minimum of two graduate English courses at SFU before enrolling in a Directed Studies in Special Collections.


Supervision and training will be provided by one faculty member and Special Collections staff.


Applications must be made, in writing, to the Graduate Chair of the student’s home department and Melissa Salrin, by the following deadlines:

June 1 for Fall; October 1 for Spring; February 1 for Summer

Prior to submitting the application, the student should meet with Melissa Salrin / Special Collections staff [] to identify collections / fonds of interest and relevance to the student’s research. The student must also find a faculty member willing to supervise the project and evaluate the final output. Working with Melissa Salrin and the faculty member, the student will complete the form below.


The student will work with their supervisor and Special Collections staff to determine the appropriate outcomes from the Directed Study. These might include one or more of the following:

  • A finding aid
  • A physical exhibit
  • A digital collection

In addition, students will be expected to write a report at the end of the term. This report is to be submitted to their supervisor and Special Collections staff and must be a minimum of 1500 words. This report will outline the projects the student has worked on during the directed study, describe the purpose and relevance of their project, and suggest directions for further study.

Hours expected

During the course of a 16-week semester, students are expected to spend a minimum of five hours per week (or 80 hours total) in the library working on their collection. The student may arrange with permission of special collections staff to distribute the 80 hours differently over the course of the term, but the total number of hours should not be less than 80.