LIBR 210-15
Reference & Information Services
Spring 2009 Greensheet

Cheryl Stenström
Office Hours: By appointment via Blackboard

Greensheet Links
Textbooks and Readings
Course Requirements
ANGEL Tutorials
iSchool eBookstore

This course will be delivered entirely online through Angel.  Students must self-enroll for this course on Angel during these dates: January 15-23. You will be required to use a password access code which I will provide using the MySJSU Messaging system.

Course Description

A process-oriented examination of how information professionals answer reference questions. The interpersonal skills required for effective question negotiation and the sources with which questions are answered are covered as well as an overview of reference as a basic library service. There will be an emphasis on emerging models and evaluation of services and sources will be covered.

Full Description
This course explores some of the foundations of providing reference service, as well as functions, processes, sources and their evaluation. In addition, several special topics will covered such as staffing models, management of print and electronic collections, investigation and evaluation of new services and other topics of interest.

Course Prerequisites: LIBR 202

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, students will:

  1. have explored reference and information delivery as a library service
  2. demonstrate familiarity of the components of a successful reference interview
  3. demonstrate familiarity of basic reference sources (in multiple formats)
  4. be able to implement basic search strategies
  5. be able to evaluate of reference sources
  6. have an understanding of topics in bibliographic instruction
  7. have understanding of reference policies and standards
  8. demonstrate an ability to evaluate a variety of reference programs and their components
  9. have become familiar with emerging service models

LIBR 210 supports the following SLIS Core Competencies:

  • use service concepts, principles and techniques that facilitate information access, relevance, and accuracy for individuals or groups of users;

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

  • 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; and
  • evaluate programs and services on specified criteria.

Course Requirements

Course Format
As this is a Web-based course, all assignments for this class will be distributed via Blackboard. Please check your Blackboard email and the discussion board on a regular (preferably daily) basis. You may contact me via email, and I will make every effort to respond promptly (within 48 hours at the latest). Please note that I live in the Atlantic time zone.

All assignments will be evaluated for thoroughness, analysis, creativity, and thoughtfulness. Points will be deducted for failure to use correct spelling, grammar, and composition. All assignments are to have a professional appearance, using consistent formatting and citing techniques. Consult the SLIS APA Style Resources page for further specifics. In addition to grades received on the assignments, active participation in online discussions throughout the semester will be graded (see the grading summary below).  Due dates for assignments are firm. In exceptional circumstances, I can be contacted to negotiate an extension before the assignment due date.


  • Reports
    You will be asked to formally observe reference work and consciously participate in two different types of reference interactions (though you may wish to participate in any number of transactions of each type).  You will submit a brief report on each of these experiences.
  • Exercises
    You will complete a series of exercises designed to give you practical experience examining and using some of the reference sources and search techniques we are studying.
  • Issues case study
    Case studies are an effective tool for applying skills and theories, participating in group problem solving, and using evidence. You will participate in this is a detailed group project related to the topics explored in the course.
  • Database vendor feedback letter
    You will compose a letter intended to give an online database vendor feedback about their product.  This could take the form suggestions for improvement to a product your library has used for a period of time, or it could be feedback as to why your library prefers not to purchase a particular product based on your initial evaluation. For this assignment, you will be working in pairs.
  • Bibliographic instruction package
    You will be asked to prepare a presentation package for a bibliographic instruction session (you will choose your topic at the beginning of the term). This will include and audio/visual elements for the presentation, speaking notes or other guides for the presenter, an outline of the presentation format, supporting materials for participants including a bibliography or pathfinder on the specific subject area and any 'quick start' or user guides (these can be meant for print or online use).  For this assignment, there are several components.  You will be working in small groups of three  or four, and peer assessment will be used.
  • Discussions
    A portion of the overall grade is allocated for class participation. For the purposes of this class, participation includes prompt and thoughtful contribution to online discussions, engagement with class activities, and a demonstration that you are making an effort to master the material covered in this course. During most weeks of the course, there will be a new discussion topic posted related to the course readings. You will be required to participate in a minimum of ten topics.

More details on the assignments will be provided in Blackboard.

Assignment % of final grade
Reports 10% (5% each)
Exercises 20% (5% each)
Case study 10%
Vendor letter 10%
Instruction package 30%
Discussions 20% (2% each)

Course Calendar
The course is divided into two streams running more or less concurrently.  Each week, an  aspect of service will be explored along with a type of reference source or technique.

  • Unit 1 (Weeks 1 through 3, January 22-February 11): Background and overview/The reference interview
    • History and overview
    • Philosophy of service
    • Ethics
    • The reference interview I
    • The reference interview II
    IMPORTANT DATES: Deadline for establishing working groups for case study, instruction package and vendor letter  February 4; deadline for choosing instruction package subject area February 11
  • Unit 2 (Weeks 4 through 7, February 12-March 11): Administration and management/Sources, part 1
    • Policies
    • Issues
    • Staffing models
    • Staff training
    • popular internet sources
    • bibliographies
    • indexes
    • encyclopedias
    IMPORTANT DATES: Exercise 1 due February 25; Case study project due March 11
  • Unit 3 (Weeks 8 through 10, March 12-April 1): Users/Sources, part 2
    • Bibliographic instruction
    • Serving special populations
    • almanacs/directories
    • biographies
    IMPORTANT DATES: Exercise 2 due March 18; Report 1 (traditional reference encounter) due April 1
  • Unit 4 (Weeks 11 through 13, April 2-April 22): Evaluation/Sources, part 3
    • Evaluation: sources
    • Evaluation: services
    • Evaluation: ROI
    • dictionaries
    • geographical sources
    • government documents
    IMPORTANT DATES: Deadline for posting instruction packages April 8; Exercise 3 due April 15; Vendor letter and peer assessment of bibliographic instruction package due April 22
  • Unit 5 (Weeks 14 through 16, April 23-May 13): Trends/Sources, part 4
    • Trends: your website as a reference tool
    • Trends: collaboration
    • Trends: virtual reference
    • statistics
    IMPORTANT DATES: Exercise 4 due April 29; Bibliographic instruction package (final assessment) due May 6; Report 2 (virtual reference encounter) due May 13


  Topic Sources/Techniques Deadlines Due Date
Week 1
January 22
History and Overview none none  
Week 2
January 29
Philosophy of Service Reference Interview I Establish working groups February 4
Week 3
February 5
Ethics Reference Interview II BI subject February 11
Week 4
February 12
Policies Popular internet sources none  
Week 5
February 19
Issues bibliographies Exercise 1 [5%] February 25
Week 6
February 26
Staffing models indexes none  
Week 7
March 5
Staff training encyclopedias Case study [10%] March 11
Week 8
March 12
Bibliographic Instruction almanacs/directories Exercise 2 [5%] March 18
Week 9
March 19
Special populations biographies    
Week 10
March 26
READING BREAK   Report 1 [5%] April 1
Week 11
April 2
Evaluation: sources dictionaries Post BI packages April 8
Week 12
April 9
Evaluation: services geographical sources Exercise 3 [5%] April 15
Week 13
April 16
Evaluation: ROI government documents Vendor letter [10%]/BI package (peer assessment) April 22
Week 14
April 23
Trends: website statistics Exercise 4 [5%] April 29
Week 15
April 30
Trends: collaboration none BI package (final assessment) [30%] May 6

Week 16 May 7

Trends: virtual reference none Report 2 [5%] May 13

Textbooks and Readings

Required Textbooks:

  • Katz, W. A. (2002). Introduction to reference work vol. I, (8th ed.). McGraw Hill. Available through Amazon: 0072441070. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Katz, W. A. (2002). Introduction to reference work vol. II (8th ed.). McGraw Hill. Available through Amazon: 0072441437. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Recommended Textbooks:

  • Bopp, R. E., & Smith, L. C. (2001). Reference and information services: An introduction. (3rd ed.). Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1563086247. 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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