INFO 210-01
INFO 210-12
Reference and Information Services
Spring 2017 Syllabus

Maria Otero-Boisvert, MLS, PhD

BbIM: Maria.Otero-Boisvert
Cell: (630) 865-5195
Office Hours: Office hours by appointment via Blackboard Collaborate. Also available for consultations via email and Bb IM.

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning January 26th, 6 am PT unless you are taking an intensive or a one unit or two unit class that starts on a different day. In that case the class will open on the first day that the class meets.

You will be enrolled into the Canvas site automatically.

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 stressed.

Detailed Description

This course is designed to introduce you to the world of reference and information services. We will explore the history and core values of reference; identify the various methods and models of information service delivery; examine and evaluate key information sources of various types and formats; and discuss current issues and emerging trends in reference and information delivery. Topics will include:

  • The history of reference service
  • Information seeking behavior
  • The reference interview
  • Evaluation of reference interactions
  • Information sources and their use
  • Collection and evaluation of reference sources
  • The role of instruction in reference service
  • Reference ethics and reference policies
  • Trends in reference and information services

Course Requirements

Mode of Instruction
This course will be entirely asynchronous. We will use Canvas for online discussions, for the submission of assignments, and for accessing readings and course materials. Attendance at the synchronous office hour in Collaborate is optional; the office hour is intended for me to answer students' questions, for students to get to know me and each other, and for students who would prefer to interact in a synchronous environment. If students ask questions during the office hour from which I believe the rest of the class would benefit, I will post the question and my response to our Canvas site.


  • Online Discussions (weekly)
    • 15% of total grade
    • Since this class is entirely asynchronous, the online discussions are an integral part of the learning experience. It is the primary way in which we will interact as a class and learn from each other. These discussions will be structured with prompts from the instructor, and participation is mandatory. For each week's class material, one substantive and thoughtful, initial post and one response to another person's posts are required. Students may volunteer to lead the discussion during one week and receive a "pass" on a week of their choice. Please see the online discussion expectations sheet in Canvas for detailed information.

      Supports CLO 5 and CLO 8
  • Description and Evaluation of Reference Resources (Individual)
    • 15% of total grade
    • Reference librarians' duties extend beyond answering questions. They are also responsible for building and maintaining excellent, current collections of resources in many formats to serve their particular community of users. This assignment will introduce you to the practice of evaluating information sources.

      Identify two recently published reference resources (1 print and 1 digital).
      • A. Find published reviews for those resources. Evaluate the reviews, were they helpful? Did they contain sufficient information with which to make a purchasing decision? What was the target audience of the review?
      • B. Write your own review of those sources using the Ohio Reference Excellence Web-based Training, Book Examination Checklist (will be available on Canvas). Make a purchasing recommendation.
      Supports CLO 1 and CLO 2
  • Reference Interview exercise and reflection (Individual).
    • 20% of total grade
    • Experience reference interaction in a real world setting. Employing ethnographic techniques of participant observation, shadow a reference librarian for one "shift" and observe their interactions with customers. Keep a field journal of the observations and then write an analysis of what you observed. Describe how the service is structured. Is it a physical service point (i.e., a reference desk) or is it a series of individual consultations in the librarian's office? In what format did the interactions take place? What was the customer's experience from the beginning of the process to the end result?
      • A. Identify a library to which you can gain access for the exercise. It can be any type of library. Request permission to shadow a reference or public service librarian for a "shift" at the reference desk. After the observation period, interview the librarian about that day's interactions. If possible, interview a customer about their level of satisfaction about the interview.
      • B. Submit the field notes for the observation period along with your analysis and reflections on the experience.
      Supports CLO 2, CLO 3, and CLO 6
  • Reference Exercises and Annotations (Individual and Group).
    • 25% of total grade.
    • The universe of available information is massive and constantly shifting. It is unrealistic to expect to know every resource available. The important thing is to know and understand the different types of resources and how to use them. You will complete exercises designed to give you practical experience examining and using some of the reference sources and search techniques we are studying. Student may choose to work in groups or individually. Gradings will be individual only.
      • A.  A learning packet will be posted on Canvas. It will include an introduction to the assignment, a list of reference questions, a worksheet emplate, and a grading rubric. Each student will choose sixteen questions to which they will locate answers in three different types of resources. Those sources will then be evaluated and compared.
      • B.  The students will also submit an accompanying analysis and reflection of the exercise based on the rpofessional literature and any relevant standards.
      Further details for the assignment will be posted to Canvas.  N.B. You will need to have access to a print reference collection (a large public or an academic library) in order to complete these exercises. Students may also use the online resources offered by the Martin Luther KingLibrary at SJS for this exercise. 

      Supports CLO 1 and CLO 2
  • Research Guide (Individual).
    • 25% of total grade.
    • Being an excellent reference librarian requires one to understand (and sometimes anticipate) your customers' needs and help them locate appropriate resources. You also have to know the best way in which to present the information to meet their needs. In order to hone these skills, you will create a research guide designed to assist a user (or community of users) with a particular information need.
      • A. Identify a topic of interest on which you would like to build a research or library guide. Carry out the process of identifying appropriate resources, analyzing them and describing them for the user/s in a cohesive manner. Create a guide in whichever format you feel would be most appropriate for your specific setting (i.e., print, web page, podcast, blog post, video, etc.).
      • B. Submit an accompanying document in which you will discuss the research challenges with this particular topic, explain your selection criteria, and annotate the sources. Include, as well, a discussion of those resources you chose not to include and why they didn't make the cut. Describe the process of creating the guide and your reasons for choosing one format over another.
      Further details will be posted to Canvas along with a grading rubric.

      Supports CLO 4 and CLO 7

Course Calendar



Readings and Assignments

Week 1



Course begins

Introductions on Canvas

Post introductions of yourself to this week's discussion forum. Tell us what type of library/information work you might be interested in doing. Respond to classmates' posts. Test technology to be sure everything is working properly.

Luo, "Stories of Reference Librarians"

Learning Packet for Reference Practice Questions Assignment released.

Week 2



History of Reference

C&H Introduction ; Supplementary readings

Luo, "Stories of Reference Librarians"

Post response to readings (see discussion forum for prompts) and one response to a classmate's post.

Week 3



Purpose of Reference and Major Terms

B&S Ch. 1; Supplementary readings

Professional Guidelines (RUSA, ARL, NCES, etc.)

Post response to readings (see discussion forum for prompts) and one response to a classmate's post.

Week 4



Evaluation and Selection of Sources

Bibliographic Reference Sources

C&H Ch. 3 (Basic search techniques); Ch. 4 (Bibliographic resources); Ch. 17 (Selection and evaluation)

Post response to readings (see discussion forum for prompts) and one response to a classmate's post.

Week 5



Information Sources and Information Seeking Behavior

Ready Reference Sources

C&H Ch. 6 (Ready Reference); Supplementary readings

Post response to readings (see discussion forum for prompts) and one response to a classmate's post.

Assignment Due: Description and evaluation of reference resources

Week 6



The Reference Interview

Encyclopedias, Dictionaries and Biographical Sources

C&H Ch. 2 (Reference interview); Ch. 5 (Encyclopedias); Ch. 7 (Dictionaries, etc.); Ch. 11 (Biographical)

Post response to readings (see discussion forum for prompts) and one response to a classmate's post.


Week 7



Digital Reference and Searching

Geographic, Government Documents and Subject Specific Sources

C&H Ch. 3 (Basic search techniques); Ch. 9 (Health, law, etc.); Ch. 10 (Geography); Ch. 12 (Government)

Post response to readings (see discussion forum for prompts) and one response to a classmate's post.


Week 8



Ethics and Policies

Indexes and Databases

C&H Ch. 8 (Current events and History); Ch. 18 (Ethics in reference)

Post response to readings (see discussion forum for prompts) and one response to a classmate's post.

 Assignment Due: Reference Practice Questions

Week 9



Spring Recess

March 27 -- March 31, 2017


Week 10



Role of Instruction and Information Literacy 

Web Sources and Search Strategies

 C&H Ch. 13 (Internet as tool); Ch. 16 (Information Literacy)

Post response to readings (see discussion forum for prompts) and one response to a classmate's post.


Week 11



Independent Study

Choose a topic of interest in which to read more in-depth (i.e. Service to diverse populations, Readers' Advisory, Reference for YA, etc.) Choose three articles and/or textbook chapters to read.

Post summary and analysis of your readings and one response to a classmate's post.


Week 12



Beyond the Reference Desk: New Roles for Information Professionals

Research Guides / Pathfinders

Supplementary readings

Post response to readings (see discussion forum for prompts) and one response to a classmate's post.

Assignment Due: Reference Interview exercise and reflection.


Week 13



Managing Reference Services

C&H Ch. 19 (Managing reference); Supplementary readings

Post response to readings (see discussion forum for prompts) and one response to a classmate's post.

Week 14



Assessment and Evaluation

C&H Ch. 20 (Assessing and improving reference); B&S Ch. 10 (Evaluation of ref.)

Post response to readings (see discussion forum for prompts) and one response to a classmate's post.

Week 15



Future Trends

C&H Ch. 21(Reference 2.0); Ch. 22 (Future of Information Service); Supplementary readings

Post response to readings (see discussion forum for prompts) and one response to a classmate's post.

Week 16



Course Wrap-up  

Semester ends



Assignment Due: Research Guide and Reflection

Student Responsibilities

  • As a student, you are expected to read and carefully consider all of the readings, participate fully in all activites and discussions during the class duration, as well as turning in assignments by the designated time.
  • Due dates are non-negotiable. If the instructor needs to change a due date, you will be notified as soon as possible. Since due dates are non-neogtiable, procrastination should be avoided. Plan ahead.
  • If you do not understand the assignments, etc., it is your responsibility to inform the instructor. If you are having difficulty, [please contact the instructor early so that we can resolve the problems before your final grade is set. You must complete all assignments to pass the course.

Late Assignments
The instructor has the right to not accept late assigments or to add significant grade penalties. If you foresee any difficulty in completing your assignment on time, you need to contact the instructor at least 36 hours before the due date to request an extension. Only one extension per student per semester will be considered. If granted an extension, your assignment grade will be reduced by 10%.

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 210 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Investigate the current issues in managing reference departments and evaluating reference staff and various types of reference services.
  2. Identify and assess the characteristics and functions of various types of reference sources.
  3. Explore outreach and marketing roles of reference librarians.
  4. Describe current issues and trends on reference departments, including the impact of technology on marketing, outreach, management, and evaluation.
  5. Evaluate reference outreach, marketing, and advocacy services that address the needs of a diverse and changing society.
  6. Use appropriate collection development tools for selecting and evaluating reference sources.
  7. Describe the relationship between information needs, collection development policies, and the evaluation of reference collections.
  8. Describe current issues and trends in selecting appropriate reference sources.
  9. Evaluate reference sources that address the needs of a diverse and changing society.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 210 supports the following core competencies:

  1. D Apply the fundamental principles of planning, management, marketing, and advocacy.
  2. F Use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information items.
  3. I Use service concepts, principles, and techniques to connect individuals or groups with accurate, relevant, and appropriate information.
  4. N Evaluate programs and services using measurable criteria.


Required Textbooks:

  • Cassell, K. A., & Hiremath, U. (2013). Reference and information services: An introduction (3rd ed.). Neal-Schuman. Available through Amazon: 1555708595arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Recommended Textbooks:

  • Bopp, R. E., & Smith, L. C. (Eds.). (2011). Reference and Information Services: An Introduction (4th ed.). Libraries Unlimited. Available as free eBook through King Library. 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 or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — 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 if you wish to stay in the program. 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.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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