LIBR 220-04
LIBR 220-13
Resources and Information Services in Professions and Disciplines
Topic: Legal Resources
Spring 2009 Greensheet

Marc Lampson, MLIS, JD
Emergencies: (206) 441-9178 ext. 17
Office Location: At the Online Discussion Board entitled, “The Hallway.”
Office Hours: Anytime in the Hallway or by e-mail; phone calls between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. only please, and only in emergencies. I check e-mail frequently, so I’m much more accessible through email.

Greensheet Links
Textbooks and Readings
Course Requirements
ANGEL Tutorials
iSchool eBookstore

Students must self-enroll for this course on Angel prior to the first day of class, officially designated as January 23. You will be required to use a password access code which I will provide using MYSJSU Messaging system no later than January 21.

Course Description

This course will introduce current and aspiring information professionals to the basic legal resources for the federal legal system and the California legal system. The course will cover those resources that are likely to be of interest to legal professionals and the general public, particularly people visiting Public Libraries and Public Law Libraries.

The course is designed for people with little or no initial familiarity with legal resources, but who have an interest in learning about these resources to be able to help other people – for instance, library patrons - find legal information.

The emphasis will be on answering legal resource questions that one is likely to receive at a reference desk in a public library.

Course Objectives

The fundamental objective of this course is for the student to learn the basic resources that both lawyers and non-lawyers are likely to need and use when seeking out legal information and are therefore likely to ask information professionals for assistance in finding.

In pursuit of this objective, the student will:

  • Learn the federal and state governmental units that make primary law and the type of primary law they make;
  • Learn how to identify the major types of primary law and secondary authority for both federal and state jurisdictions;
  • Learn where the nearest brick-and-mortar law library is and how to find materials in it;
  • Learn how to use online resources – both "free" and "pay-for-view" resources – in locating legal information;
  • Learn the major print, online, and pay-for-view sources for legal information;
  • Learn how to find – in print, in pay-for-view databases, and on "free" Web sites - the major types of primary law and secondary authority for both federal and state law;
  • Learn how to answer questions from patrons about basic legal resources and direct those patrons to the best sources for legal information;
  • Learn the relative merits and shortcomings of in print, online, and pay-for-view sources for legal information;
  • Learn strategies for developing search terms for using "finding tools" in print, online, and pay-for-view databases for legal information;
  • Research, write, and produce a guide to a specific area of law (a "pathfinder") that could be utilized by patrons needing legal information.

LIBR 220 (legal resources) primarily supports the following SLIS Core Competencies:

  • use the basic concepts and principles related to the creation, evaluation, selection, acquisition, preservation and organization of specific items or collections of information;
  • recognize the social, cultural and economic dimensions of information use;
  • demonstrate proficiency in the use of current information and communication technologies, and other related technologies, as they affect the resources and uses of libraries and other types of information providing entities; 
  • demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for group work, collaborations and professional level presentations;
  • contribute to the cultural, economic, educational and social well-being of our communities.

In addition, this section supports the following SLIS Core Competencies:

  • design, query and evaluate information retrieval systems;
  • understand the system of standards and methods used to control and create information structures and apply basic principles involved in the organization and representation of knowledge;
  • use service concepts, principles and techniques that facilitate information access, relevance, and accuracy for individuals or groups of users;
  • understand the nature of research, research methods and research findings; retrieve, evaluate and synthesize scholarly and professional literature for informed decision-making by specific client groups;
  • articulate the ethics, values and foundational principles of library and information professionals and their role in the promotion of intellectual freedom;
  • compare the environments and organizational settings in which library and information professionals practice.

Course Requirements

Angel and Self-Enrolling
Students must self-enroll for this course on Angel prior to the first day of class, officially designated as January 23. You will be required to use a password access code which I will provide using MySJSU Messaging system by at least January 21.

The assignments for this course are:

  • Quizzes & Research Assignments (200 points)
    The student will take five online, timed quizzes worth 40 points each. These quizzes will be posted approximately every 3 weeks. While quizzes may be somewhat unusual in a graduate course, they are designed with a specific purpose in mind – answering reference questions – and will involve not just rote learning but actual hands-on familiarity with legal resources.

    The idea of the "quiz" is to represent as well as possible in the print format the type of reference question one might receive at a reference desk and for which one would be expected to have a relatively "ready" answer. The quizzes will also be somewhat unusual in that to answer many of the quiz questions, will have to first complete a research assignment, usually in a "brick and mortar" law library. The quizzes, in conjunction with the corresponding research assignment, in the aggregate will be worth 200 points.
  • Discussion Boards (50 points)
    About once every two weeks I will post a new topic for a new discussion board that focuses on the topic for the upcoming two weeks, e.g., secondary sources, statutes, etc. I will generally pose a question or two to get the discussion rolling and then I’ll "lurk" while students actively participate in the discussion. The questions will not typically have a "right" or "wrong" answer; therefore, students should not expect the instructor to intervene because I have found such intervention usually stops discussion.

    Likely Discussion Board Topics: 
    • Legal Systems
    • Free Internet Legal Research – Report other helpful sites; Evaluate sites; evaluate relative merits of "free online sites" to print and pay for view
    • Secondary Sources
    • Westlaw/Lexis
    • Constitutional Law
    • Statutory Law
    • Case Law
    • Regulatory Law
    • Comparative Access for Patrons: Print, Free Online, Pay-for-View DBs
    • Free-For-All Discussion on “Legal Research”
    Students will be given a maximum of 5 points per discussion board topic for a maximum of 50 points for the semester for their substantive contribution to the discussion board for the week.

    A separate, ongoing "discussion board" will also be posted called "The Hallway," where I will actively participate around questions concerning course logistics, assignments, quizzes, and other sorts of questions that arise in hallway conversations after "class." The Hallway Discussion Board will not be graded.
  • Special Project (50 points)
    Students in the final weeks of the course will work on and then submit a one- or two-page, double-spaced "search strategy" sheet describing a legal topic of their choice and describing how they would advise a patron to research that topic. The due date is May 9, 2009. The project will be graded based on a checklist that I will provide to you when the project is officially "assigned" near the final two weeks. At the end of the course we will post these strategy sheets for the benefit of all.

Late Assignments
Points earned for late assignments will be reduced by10 percent for every 24 hour period between the due date and the submitted date.

Three-hundred (300) points will be available for the course work. The person receiving the highest number of these 300 points will receive an “A,” and the points achieved will be the reference point for all other grades in the course.

Students earning less than the highest number of points achieved, will be graded on a percentage basis in reference to the highest number of points achieved in the course under the standard SJSU SLIS Grading Scale.

In the final grading process, the highest number of points actually earned by a particular student in the course will be taken to be the top of the scale; all other grades will be determined in relation to the highest number of points actually earned.

For instance, if the student earning the highest number of points earned 290 points of the 300 possible, then anyone earning 97% of 290 points (281 points) would receive an A, and so on.

Incompletes will be granted only in rare and extreme emergency situations.
Students who cannot fulfill all the work for a course due to a medical or family emergency may be assigned an Incomplete only if arrangements are made with the instructor.

Please see the University policy on incompletes:

Textbooks and Readings

Recommended Texts
Many texts on legal research and the legal system are in print. Any one of them published in the past 5 years would probably provide additional help but I do not recommend that you spend lots of money on any other text other than the two listed above.

Required Textbooks:

  • Elias, S., & Levinkind, S. (2007). Legal Research: How to Find and Understand the Law (14th ed.). Nolo Press. Available through Amazon: 1413306934. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Guerin, L., & Gima, P. (2006). Nolo's Guide to California Law (9th ed. 2006). Nolo Press. Available through Amazon: 1413304915. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work;
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation.  You must repeat the class the following semester. If -on the second attempt- you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

General Expectations, Rights and Responsibilities of the Student

As members of the academic community, students accept both the rights and responsibilities incumbent upon all members of the institution. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with SJSU's policies and practices pertaining to the procedures to follow if and when questions or concerns about a class arises. See University Policy S90-5 at More detailed information on a variety of related topics is available in the SJSU catalog at In general, it is recommended that students begin by seeking clarification or discussing concerns with their instructor. If such conversation is not possible, or if it does not serve to address the issue, it is recommended that the student contact the Department Chair as a next step.

Dropping and Adding

Students are responsible for understanding the policies and procedures about add/drop, grade forgiveness, etc. Refer to the current semester's Catalog Policies section at Add/drop deadlines can be found on the current academic year calendars document on the Academic Calendars webpage at The Late Drop Policy is available at Students should be aware of the current deadlines and penalties for dropping classes.

Information about the latest changes and news is available at the Advising Hub at

Consent for Recording of Class and Public Sharing of Instructor Material

University Policy S12-7,, requires students to obtain instructor's permission to record the course and the following items to be included in the syllabus:

  • "Common courtesy and professional behavior dictate that you notify someone when you are recording him/her. You must obtain the instructor's permission to make audio or video recordings in this class. Such permission allows the recordings to be used for your private, study purposes only. The recordings are the intellectual property of the instructor; you have not been given any rights to reproduce or distribute the material."
    • It is suggested that the syllabus include the instructor's process for granting permission, whether in writing or orally and whether for the whole semester or on a class by class basis.
    • In classes where active participation of students or guests may be on the recording, permission of those students or guests should be obtained as well.
  • "Course material developed by the instructor is the intellectual property of the instructor and cannot be shared publicly without his/her approval. You may not publicly share or upload instructor generated material for this course such as exam questions, lecture notes, or homework solutions without instructor consent."

Academic integrity

Your commitment, as a student, to learning is evidenced by your enrollment at San Jose State University. The University Academic Integrity Policy F15-7 at requires you to be honest in all your academic course work. Faculty members are required to report all infractions to the office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development. The Student Conduct and Ethical Development website is available at

Campus Policy in Compliance with the American Disabilities Act

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you need to make special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, or see me during office hours. Presidential Directive 97-03 at requires that students with disabilities requesting accommodations must register with the Accessible Education Center (AEC) at to establish a record of their disability.

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