INFO 221-10
Government Information Sources
Fall 2019  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 Zoom.

Syllabus Links
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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning August 21st, 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 in 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 five assignments for this course. To simulate, as far as is possible, a work environment, they 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)
    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 Exercises I but will be slightly more challenging and will involve the use of federal statutory and regulatory material.
  • Reference Questions Exercise III (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 Exercises I and II 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 (CLOs 3,4,6)
    Students will prepare a research guide to meet the needs of a specified 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, scenarios, and possible client profiles 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 have two options: For Option A, they 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. For option B, they will pick a current issue, preferably one under consideration by a deliberative body (Congress, State Legislature, a United Nations organ, etc.) and will prepare a brief backgrounder. The intended audience for option B should be an interested party or stakeholder, for instance, a member of Congress, State Senator, or a UN delegation staff member.

Class Participation
A portion of the grade will be based on ongoing class participation. Topics for discussion will be posted throughout the term but students are strongly encouraged to raise matters of personal or professional interest whenever they see fit.

Course Calendar

Aug 26

Introductions. Course Overview. Intro to Government Information and Government Information Librarianship
Agency/Current Issue Report Assignment Distributed
Sept 2

General Reference: Tools, Tricks, and Techniques. Government Printing and Distribution. Basic Bibliography

Sept 9 Congress
Reference Questions Assignment I Distributed
Sept 16 The Executive Branch, part I: Overview, Organization and research and reference techniques
Sept 23 The Executive Branch, part II: The President and Executive Office of the President
Sept 30
The Judicial Branch
Research Guide Assignment Distributed
Oct 7
Laws I: Legislation and Statutes
Reference Questions Assignment I Due, Reference Questions Assignment II Distributed
Oct 14 Laws II: Regulations
Oct 21
State and Local Information
Oct 28 Statistics I: General
Nov 4
Statistics II: The Census
Reference Questions Assignment II Due, Reference Questions Assignment III Distributed
Nov 12 Foreign and International Government Information
Nov 18 Statistics III: Foreign and International Statistics
Research Guide Assignment Due
Nov 25
Foreign and International Legal Resources (Selected Topics)
Dec 2
Service Delivery Models and Issues in Collection Development, Wrap-up
Reference Questions Assignment III Due, Agency/Current Issue Report Assignment Due


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

The course is divided up into week-long sessions. A week will begin at 9:00 am (PST) on the date indicated (a Monday) and will end the following Sunday. Assignments are due at the end of the week (Sunday) and should be submitted in digital form via CANVAS by 11:59 pm (PST) on 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. J Describe the fundamental concepts of information-seeking behaviors and how they should be considered when connecting individuals or groups with accurate, relevant and appropriate information.
  3. O (For students entering from Spring 2015 onwards) Understand global perspectives on effective information practices that are supportive of cultural, economic, educational, or social well-being.


Recommended 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

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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