LIBR 210-06
Reference and Information Services
Fall 2009 Greensheet

Michelle Holschuh Simmons, Ph.D.
Phone: (336) 854-3034; call as needed
Office Hours:
Virtually via weekly Elluminate sessions (see ANGEL for schedule), by e-mail, and by phone

Greensheet Links
Textbooks and Readings
Course Requirements
Angel Tutorials
iSchool eBookstore

I will send the access code for the ANGEL site via the MySJSU messaging system to those enrolled in the class on Saturday the 22nd of August. Please enroll in the ANGEL site no later than Monday, August 24th.

Course Description

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

  • The history of reference service
  • Information seeking behavior
  • The reference process (including the reference interview)
  • Evaluation of reference interactions
  • Information sources and their use (including effective search strategies)
  • Collection and evaluation of reference sources (both paper and electronic)
  • Reference service to diverse populations
  • The role of instruction in reference service
  • Reference ethics and reference policies
  • Trends in reference and information services

Catalog 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.

Course Objectives

At the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • Use basic reference tools and searching techniques to answer a wide range of questions;
  • Conduct effective reference interview;
  • Make the connection between user needs, information resources, and the relevant information technology;
  • Assess the quality and usefulness of new reference sources;
  • Evaluate reference services that address the needs of a diverse and changing society;
  • Understand the relationship between reference service and information literacy instruction;
  • Begin to develop a personal philosophy of reference service.

LIBR 210 supports the following SLIS core competency:

  • 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:

  • Retrieve, evaluate and synthesize scholarly and professional literature for informed decision-making by specific client groups;
  • Recognize the social, cultural and economic dimensions of information use;
  • Evaluate programs and services on specified criteria.

Course Requirements

Mode of instruction
This course will be entirely asynchronous. We will use ANGEL for online discussions, for the submission of assignments, and for accessing readings and course materials. Attendance at the synchronous office hour in Elluminate 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 will benefit, I will post the question and my respond to our ANGEL site.

For due dates, detailed requirements, and grading rubrics for each of the assignments, please see documents in ANGEL.

  • Observation analysis
    Your understanding of reference work will be enhanced if you are able to connect the theory that we discuss and read about in class with the real-world practice. Therefore, you will formally observe reference work and participate consciously in two types of reference interactions (live and digital). You will submit an analysis about these two experiences. Please see the Observation Analysis assignment sheet in ANGEL for detailed information and a grading rubric. (25% of total grade)
  • Exercises and wiki
    You will complete exercises designed to give you practical experience examining and using some of the reference sources and search techniques we are studying. Additionally, we will have a class wiki on which all members of the class will contribute annotations for important reference resources. Please see more detailed information about these exercises in ANGEL. 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. Online sources may be used, but they will not be sufficient for all questions. (25% of total grade)
  • Pathfinder
    Being a reference librarian requires one to understand your patrons’ information needs and help them locate appropriate resources. In order to hone these skills, you will compile a pathfinder designed to assist a user with a particular information need. Please see the Pathfinder Assignment sheet in ANGEL for detailed information and a grading rubric. (25% of total grade)
  • Online Discussions: Because this class is entirely asynchronous, the online discussions are an integral part of this course. These will be structured, and participation is mandatory. For each week’s class material, one substantive, thoughtful initial post and two responses to other people’s posts are required. Please see the online discussion expectations sheet in ANGEL for detailed information. (25% of total grade)

Textbooks and Readings

We will be reading articles from the professional literature each week; these readings will be available in the ANGEL site.  The textbooks listed below are not required, but they are seminal texts in the field of reference librarianship.  If you are considering buying one or more of the textbooks, please email me for a brief summary of each so you can make your selection wisely.

Recommended Textbook:

  • 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
  • Cassell, K. A., & Hiremath, U. (2006). Reference and information services in the 21st century: An introduction. Neal-Schuman. Available through Amazon: 1555705634. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Janes, J. (2003). Introduction to reference work in the digital age. Neal-Schuman. Available through Amazon: 1555704298. 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

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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