LIBR 221-01
Government Information Sources
Spring 2009 Greensheet

Mary Martin
Office Phone: (909)621-8923
Cell Phone: I will give my cell number to anyone who absolutely can’t call me at the office
Office location: Libraries of The Claremont Colleges, and online – both by appointment – e-mail & chat daily)
Office Hours: (Online – or at Claremont) Wed. 5:00-6:00 pm

Greensheet Links
Textbooks and Readings
Course Requirements
ANGEL Tutorials
iSchool eBookstore

Students need to self-enroll in this course on the ANGEL Course Management System. The instructor will send the enrollment PIN via the MYSJSU messaging system.

Course Description

This course will prepare a framework from which the student will develop a working knowledge of the creation, nature, distribution and accessibility of government information resources. Topics covered will include government information resources, provenance (origin) of government information, uses for citizenry and academic communities, collections, services, staffing, and future trends for government information in libraries.

Course Objectives

The student will; as an information professional, understand the origins and nature of government information resources and establish an expertise in finding government information resources for library patrons. The student will also learn how to direct library patrons in finding government information resources on their own. The focus is on how to find and use government information no matter what your position might be in a library, school, or corporate setting. The student will have an understanding of how to build/access a government documents collection for a library of any type.

The class will assist in preparing them as professionals for participation in the world of government information access whether as a library generalist, a government information specialist, or a special library information provider. The method will involve exploring various government information venues; federal; international, foreign; state and local. The student will learn how to access government information; anticipating and facilitating government information requests, and helping users locate more difficult to find information resources. It will also create an awareness of the role the library profession can play in providing access to government information to citizens, students, scholars, and other professionals.

On completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • Understand what government information is based on its nature, format; how it is disseminated and how it may be used
  • Determine who/what creates government information and understand the organizational structure of that body.
  • Learn how to use specially created reference tools and Web pages to find answers to common government information questions
  • Determine what type of information is available, and what is not; to ferret out possible “hidden’ sources of information and direct users to possible sources
  • Learn how to move beyond Web resources into the paper historical collections when necessary
  • Create a basic Web page guide or pathfinder to government information resources on a particular topic or of a particular jurisdiction
  • Begin to develop and maintain an awareness of government information creation and dissemination policies and how to interact with professional organizations and government agencies to be a partner in this important area of librarianship

LIBR 221 supports the following SLIS Core Competencies:

  • compare the environments and organizational settings in which library and information professionals practice;
  • 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;
  • recognize the social, cultural and economic dimensions of information use.
  • evaluate programs and services on specified criteria; and
  • contribute to the cultural, economic, educational and social well-being of our communities.

Course Requirements

There will be a topic of discussion each week with suggested readings, and students will be expected to read the suggested material and/or articles and contribute weekly (at least one posting) to a discussion with their classmates about the topic on Blackboard.

Discussion topics include: organization of government information [types of collections; jurisdictional constructs;] types of government information: statistics; record-keeping; legislation and regulation and court information; government information policy; availability of non-governmental information providers; user-based library reference services; training and staffing; professional issues; the role of government information resources in strategic planning and future issues.

Expectations Regarding Written Assignments for Government Information Resources

  • All assignments should be in MS Word or WordPerfect format [contact the instructor if you cannot do this]. The exception is the Web page which should be in HTML formatting - preferably using the template that will be provided. The assignments will be submitted electronically through Blackboard.
  • All assignments should be clearly marked with the page number, student’s name, the class, assignment number and the date.
  • Assignments should be free of spelling errors and the sentence structure should be excellent [grammar should reflect a student working at the graduate level – which is rather high [I will take into account English as a second language]
  • The assignments should be clearly written. Each section should clearly state which question and/or section is being answered and have an introductory and closing sentence. Multipart assignments should be delineated – however. I’m not picky about whether it’s letters or numbers, just that it be in logical order.
  • Essay format is desirable only in a policy or opinion paper.
  • All ideas taken from other sources should be credited, preferably using Chicago style format; MLA or Turabian are acceptable also. I will not correct formatting errors in citations, nor deduct from the grade for minor errors, but students should be in the habit of using proper citation format.
  • As a practitioner in an academic library for many years, having read and prepared many memos and policy papers etc. (the real thing – in the workplace), I have learned to appreciate brevity and clarity. We need to sell our ideas, convince others that we can accomplish the task. There’s no time to wax eloquent on a subject any longer. You can if you must, but be prepared to lose your audience after the first couple of paragraphs.
  • If you are unhappy with a grade, approach me about it. I am not unreasonable. The reason I am a stickler about all of this is that no one has time to have to struggle to understand what the student is saying (or anyone else for that matter). Have someone else read your paper – you’ll be in for a shock! I found this out the hard way – writing a book with three editors, having copyeditors, and myself having to edit other authors work.

Class Schedule
*Pre-assignment due the first week of class (by January 23)
**See below for pre-

Week 1 January 25 Introduction - AND - Government Information Importance Assignment # 1 due February 2
Week 2 February 1
Libraries and Government Publications Collections  
Week 3 February 8
Government Structure and Types of Publications /3 branches of United States Government Assignment# 2 Due February 16
Week 4 February 15 Government Information Resources Online  
Week 5 February 22
How to answer government information questions
Federal Government
Search Engines,
Reference Tools/Subject and Agency Searching
Assignment #3 Due March 2
Week 6 March 1 Executive Branch
Week 7 March 8
Legislative Branch Assignment #4 Due March 16
Week 8 March 15 Judicial Branch
Week 9 March 23-27 Spring Break No Lectures or Assignments Assignment #5 Due Mar 30 
Week 10 March 29 Statistics/Census  
Week 11 April 5
Federal Depository Library Program/Managing a Federal Depository Library CollectionState & Local Government Assignment #6 Due April 6
Week 12 April 12
State & Local Government  
Week 13 April 12
International Government Organizations and Foreign Government Publications Assignment #7 Due April 20
Week 14 April 19
Historical Government Documents
Week 15 April 26
Libraries and E-government and How can we help; and do we want to? Assignment #8 Due May 3
Week 16 May 5 Government Information Policy Last day to turn in any work – May 13, 2009

*If there are ever problems posting to Angel, email your summary and assignment (s) to me at the above listed email. I can and will handle information sent to me by email but I expect all students use Angel by the second week of class whenever possible.


Getting to know you
As an icebreaker – each student will need to participate in this“Getting to know you” exercise.

  1. Post (to the student bulletin board for the class) a one paragraph summary description of who you are and why you are taking this class.
  2. List three things about yourself, two of which are true, and one that is false.
  3. Try to be creative and/or amusing – but be somewhat plausible.

This is more fun than you might think. I participated in an EMBA (Executive MBA) orientation program where they did this and it was fun.


  1. Find a definition of government information and also an example of a government authored information resource. The resource can either be in paper or from an Internet Web source but you must submit both the definition and citation to the definition, as well as the bibliographic information and location information for the document/publication/information resource. You must also post a copy of the first page of the document, a copy of the Web page, or the URL of an online government information resource to the student drop box. In other words, substantiate the source.
    1. Explain what governmental body (agency) created it and what information it conveys.
    2. What branch of the government does the agency (author) belong to?
    3. What is its purpose (the resource)?
    4. Is it available in additional formats at other locations (Web and/or paper?)
    5. Find an organizational chart for the government and describe where this agency exists in the hierarchy.
    (2-3 pages) (Due February 2)
  2. Make an appointment to speak with a librarian or staff person in charge of a depository library collection. You will be required to give the name and contact information for the person with whom you meet. To locate a depository library check the following directory:
    1. Ask the individual how the government document collection is organized.
    2. Tell them you need to find a government document.
      Use one of the following examples.
    3. Locate the document and photocopy the title page.
    4. Describe how you located it.
    5. Describe what, if anything, might have made your search easier.
    (2-3 pages) (Due February 16)
  3. Find a government Web site. It can be federal, international, state or local.
    Examples can be found at the following pointer sites: Answer the following questions about the Web site:
    1. What is a possible information need for this site?
    2. Does it do a good job conveying what ever information the user might need?
    3. Is it easy to use and understand? How might it be better?
    4. How one would use this Web site to answer a patron’s question?
    5. How might one find information that is not on the Web site?
    6. How could the user find the information in paper? (a paper copy) i.e. a birth certificate)
    Screen capture the front page of the site; or copy the URL and post it to the student assignment posting area along with the answers to the questions.
    (3-4 pages) (Due March 2)
  4. Assume a library patron has asked one of the following questions. [to be provided]
    Answer the following:
    1. Describe how you would go about assisting a patron to find the answer for this question.
    2. Describe your reference interview (additional questions you might ask, etc)
    3. Provide details of your search strategy; and how you would involve the library user in the process
    4. Provide the answer to the question or referral if you do not find the answer. 
    5. (3-5 pages) (Due March 16)
  5. Answer the following list of questions concerning Federal Government Information (Treasure Hunt) [to be added –about 10 questions] Answers can be from a paper source or an Online source as long as it is from a Government Publication or Government Agency Web site. NO non-governmental sources!!!
    • Legislative History
    • Census statistics
    • EPA Regulations
    • Find a court case
    (Due March 30)
  6. Take a look at the Tools at the Web sites listed in the FDLP (Federal Depository Library Program) portion of class resources:

    Describe at least 3 of the FDLP tools and their purpose. Describe how to use the tools to approach one of the following scenarios as if you are a new [government information] librarian. (Many will have responsibility for government information but not be“the” government information librarian) Focus on U.S. Government Information Resources for this exercise.

    Approach the assignment from one of the following scenarios:
    • Scenario #1 You are a new government information librarian in a large academic (or public) library with a large government publications collection:
      • What steps would you take to get to know your collection?
      • What tools would you use/provide to help users find materials in the collection?
      • How could you use the resources listed above to gauge the appropriateness of the collection?
      • How would you present your findings to the library administration?
    • Scenario #2 Your library does not have a government information collection or provide formalized access to any resources and you have been asked to
      create a plan for accessing U.S. government information in the library.
      • How would you determine what materials would be appropriate for the collection?
      • How might you create a collection?
      • How would you provide access?
      • Which of the resources at the FDLP Web site might you use?
      • What other sources of information might you utilize?
    (3-5 page paper) (Due April 6)
  7. Answer the following list of questions (State and Local, International and Foreign
    government information. Answers can be from a paper source or an online source
    as long as it is from a Government Publication or Government Agency Web site. (Treasure Hunt) [to be added – about 10 questions]
    (Due April 20)
  8. Create a government information Web page (first level only necessary) for your library.
    You can create one using your own HTML authoring program, or you can use the template provided by the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT). It can have a general information focus or be designed to serve a specific purpose. The template can be found at the following URL: If you use the
    template, focus on the Federal (General and Legislative/Regulatory), Statistical, and Additional Resources government information source sections of the template.
    (Examples will be provided) (Due May 3)

***If you do not know how to create a Web page – contact the instructor. I
will discuss this with you and give you an alternate assignment.


Assignment 1 Due Feb 2 10%
Assignment 2 Due Feb16 10%
Assignment 3 Due Mar 2 10%
Assignment 4 Due Mar 16 10%
Assignment 5 Due Mar 30 10%
Assignment 6 Due April 6 15%
Assignment 7 Due April 20 10%
Assignment 8 Due May 3 15%
Class Discussion List  Ongoing 10%
TOTAL   100%

Textbooks and Readings

See ANGEL Course site.

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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