INFO 221-10
Government Information Sources
Spring 2017 Syllabus

Mr. Michael McCaffrey
Other contact information:
Office location: n/a (not on campus)
Office Hours: I aim for a 24 hour turnaround for emails and, with 12-24 hours notice I can arrange for meetings via Skype or Collaborate.

Syllabus Links
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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

Government information sources, their bibliographic organization, use in all types of libraries and information centers, issues of access, availability, dissemination, and preservation of federal, state, and local sources; and aspects of depository and non-depository collections.

Course Requirements

There are four assignments for this course. To simulate, as far as is possible, a work environment, the assignments will be released on a schedule as indicated in the course outline. The instructor expects the students to hone their workplace prose skills and to keep their work succinct and to the point.

  • Reference Questions Exercise I (CLOs 1,2,3)
    Students will be given a list of questions to which they must find the answers using government information sources.
  • Reference Questions Exercise II (CLOs 1,2,3,4)
    Students will be given a list of questions to which they must find the answers using government information sources. The assignment will be similar to Reference Question Exercise I but will be slightly more challenging and will require the use of international governmental organization (IGO) resources and statistical (aggregated data) datasets and tools. 
  • Research Guide/Service Proposal (CLOs 3,4,6)
    Students will prepare a research guide or research service proposal to meet the needs of a defined clientele. The submission may take the form of a written report or a web based guide. The instructor will provide a list of pre-approved topics and scenarios but students are encouraged to create their own with a view toward developing their skills and knowledge in areas of interest to them and adding to their own professional portfolios.
  • Agency Report (CLOs 1,5)
    Students will select a federal agency from a list provided by the instructor. They will describe the information output of the agency and will evaluate it in terms of its presentation, ease of access, and the degree to which it meets the needs of its clientele. Students will select their agency early in the term and will monitor any changes stemming from the new administration.

Class Participation
A portion of the grade will be based on ongoing class participation. The instructor will suggest topics for discussion from time to time but students are strongly encouraged to bring their own topics to the table. A significant number of changes in the way the federal government operates may be expected beginning January 20th, 2017. The class will have an unprecedented opportunity to monitor these changes in terms of information policies and there will be no shortage of topics for discussion.

Course Calendar

Jan. 30 (Week 1) Introductions. Course Overview. Intro to Government Information and Government Information Librarianship
Agency Report Assignment Distributed
Feb. 6 (Week 2) General Reference: Tools, Tricks, and Techniques. Government Printing and Distribution. Basic Bibliography
Feb. 13 (Week 3) Congress
Reference Questions Assignment I Distributed
Feb. 20 (Week 4) The Executive Branch, part I: Overview, Organization and research and reference techniques
Feb. 27 (Week 5) The Executive Branch, part II: The President and Executive Office of the President
Mar. 6 (Week 6) The Judicial Branch
Research Guide/Service Proposal Assignment Distributed
Mar. 13 (Week 7) Laws I: Legislation and Statutes
Reference Questions Assignment I Due, Reference Questions Assignment II Distributed
Mar. 20 (Week 8) Laws II: Regulations
Mar. 27 (Break) [no modules]
Apr. 3 (Week 9) State and Local Information
Research Guide/Service Proposal 
Apr. 10 (Week 10) Statistics I: General
Apr. 17 (Week 11) Statistics II: The Census
Apr. 24 (Week 12) Foreign and International Government Information
May 1 (Week 13) Statistics III: Foreign and International Statistics
Research Guide/Service Proposal Assignment Due
May 8 (Week 14) Service Delivery Models and Issues in Collection Development
May 15 (Week 15) Wrap-up
Reference Questions Assignment II Due, Agency Report Assignment Due


  • Reference Questions I (15%)
  • Reference Questions II (15%)
  • Research Guide/Service Proposal (35%)
  • Agency Report (25%)
  • Participation (10%)

Assignments will be submitted in digital form via CANVAS by 11:59pm (PST) of the due date. Students who cannot meet the deadline for personal or other reasons should contact the instructor as far in advance as possible to make other arrangements. If arrangements are not made in advance, late submissions will be subject to a 5% per day penalty.

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 221 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Identify, locate, and use effectively, core government reference tools.
  2. Use reference tools to locate and retrieve government publications and information, both current and historical, in a variety of formats.
  3. Provide competent, professional, and timely reference and research assistance to users of government information.
  4. Provide research and reference services at a very high level of competence in core areas, for instance, statistics, legislation, federal statutes and regulations.
  5. Discover and critically engage government information policies.
  6. Design and provide services to users of government information and to identify and acquire the skills needed to provide these services.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 221 supports the following core competencies:

  1. F Use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information items.
  2. I Use service concepts, principles, and techniques to connect individuals or groups with accurate, relevant, and appropriate information.
  3. O (for students entering from Spring 2015) identify ways in which information professionals can contribute to the cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being of our global communities.


Required Textbooks:

  • Hartnett, C. J., Sevetson, A. L., & Forte, E. J. (2016). Fundamentals of government information: Mining, finding, evaluating, and using government resources (2nd ed.). ALA Neal-Schuman. Available as free Ebook through King Libraryarrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Recommended Textbooks:

  • Hernon, P., Relyea, H.C., & Dugan, R.E. (2002). United States government information: Policies and sources. Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1563089793. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Morehead, J. (1999). Introduction to United States government information sources (6th ed.). Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1563087359 (paperback). 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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