INFO 210-10
Reference and Information Services
Fall 2021 Syllabus

Rosanne Macek
Office location: Campbell, California - Pacific Time
Office Hours: By appointment via Zoom, Facetime, phone, text

Syllabus Links
iSchool eBookstore

Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning August 19, 2021, at 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 course will open on the first day that the class meets.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

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.

Additional Description
This course will introduce you to the exciting world of reference!  We will learn about the major responsibilities of the reference librarian including answering questions, analyzing information sources, teaching information tools, designing programs, and assisting users in finding good books to read. Additional topics will include ethics, managing reference departments, evaluating reference services, providing reference services to special populations, and we'll look ahead to what the future might hold for reference services.

Course Requirements

Course Structure
This course will be entirely asynchronous, using Canvas for all discussions and assignments.  We will follow the textbook fairly closely, with some additional readings to supplement the material in the book. The course will consist of 14 weekly units, each starting on Monday with assignments due the following Sunday by 11:59 pm.


Class Discussions - To help you process the course content, share ideas, and support your colleagues, you will post one analytical response to a question and respond thoughtfully to two other posts for 7 weeks of the semester.  Supports CLO#5, CLO#6CLO#8.  15% of grade.

Practice Questions - To help you learn about many of the standard sources used to answer reference questions, you will practice answering questions using those sources and other sources you find on the Internet. Supports CLO#1, CLO#2.  20% of grade.

Virtual Reference Analysis - To experience the reference interview in a real-world setting, you will analyze virtual reference transactions and write a summary of what you learned related to best practices for reference interviews. Supports CLO#1, CLO#3, CLO#6.  20% of grade.

Multiple Choice Assignment - You will choose one of the following assignments (1, 2, or 3) depending on your interests and career goals:

  1. Readers' Advisory - To help you answer the question "Can you help me find a good book to read?" you will become familiar with some of the tools used in readers' advisory, analyze how the tools can be used, and determine strategies for answering this type of question.  Supports CLO#1, CLO#3.  20% of grade.
  2. Information Literacy - To introduce you to the user education aspect of providing reference service, you will develop a handout or video that details how to use an electronic resource such as the library catalog, a database, an eBook service, or another electronic resource.   Supports CLO#4, CLO#7. 20% of grade.  
  3. Reference by Mail - To further develop your reference skills a limited number of students will have the opportunity to work with local public librarians responding to reference questions from incarcerated individuals. Supports CLO#1, CLO#2.  20% of grade.

Future of Reference - To look ahead to the role of reference in a rapidly-changing world, you will read several recent articles about the future of reference and write a short paper describing your personal view of how you think reference service will need to evolve to support users in the future. Supports CLO#4, CLO#5, CLO#6, CLO#8.  15% of grade.

Quizzes - To demonstrate your mastery of course objectives, there will be occasional short quizzes. 10% of grade.

Course Calendar
Here is the detailed weekly calendar, subject to change with prior notice:

8/19 Welcome to class! Orientation & Introductions View introductory videos & Unit 0 information
8/22 Assignment Personal introduction, syllabus quiz
8/23 Unit 1 - Introduction to reference & the reference interview Chapters 1-2, ALA Code of Ethics, RUSA guidelines
8/27, 8/29 Unit 1 - Assignment Discussion posts due Fri & Sun by 11:59 pm, quiz
8/30 Unit 2 - Basic search techniques & using the Internet as a research tool Chapters 3 & 13

9/3, 9/5

Unit 2 - Assignment Discussion posts due Fri & Sun by 11:59 pm, quiz
9/6 Unit 3 - Bibliographic resources & encyclopedias Chapters 4-5
9/12 Unit 3 - Assignment Practice questions due Sunday by 11:59 pm
9/13 Unit 4 - Ready reference & dictionaries

Chapters 6-7

9/19 Unit 4 - Assignment Practice questions due Sunday by 11:59 pm
9/20 Unit 5 - Databases & health/law/business Chapters 8-9
9/26 Unit 5 - Assignment Practice questions due Sunday by 11:59 pm
9/27 Unit 6 - Geography, Biography, Government Chapters 10, 11, 12
10/3 Unit 6 - Assignment Practice questions due Sunday by 11:59 pm
10/4 Unit 7 - Readers' Advisory Chapter 14

10/8; 10/10

Unit 7 - Assignment Discussion posts due Fri & Sun by 11:59 pm
10/11 Unit 8 - Special Populations Chapter 15
10/17 Unit 8 - Assignment Quiz
10/18 Unit 9 - Ethics Chapter 17
10/24 Unit 9 - Assignment Virtual reference assignment due Sun by 11:59 pm, quiz
10/25 Unit 10 - Programming Chapter 19
10/29,10/31 Unit 10 - Assignment Discussion posts due Fri & Sun by 11:59 pm, quiz
11/1 Unit 11 - Information Literacy & Selecting Chapter 16 & 18
11/5, 11/7 Unit 11 - Assignment Discussion posts due Fri & Sun by 11:59pm; quiz
11/8 Unit 12 - Managing Chapter 20
11/14 Unit 12 - Assignment Multiple choice assignment due Sun by 11:59pm (Readers' Advisory or Information Literacy or Reference by Mail); quiz
11/15 Unit 13 - Assessing Chapter 21
11/19, 11/21 Unit 13 - Assignment Discussion posts due Fri & Sn by 11:59pm; quiz
11/22 HAPPY THANKSGIVING No assignments this week
11/29 Unit 14 - Future Chapters 22 & 23
12/3, 12/5 Unit 14 - Assignment  Discussion posts due Fri & Sun by 11:59 pm
12/6 Last day of instruction  
12/6 Final Assignment Future of reference assignment due Monday by 11:59 pm

Writing Standards

You are expected to produce assignments that meet writing standards appropriate for graduate-level work. Papers must be clearly written, free of grammatical and punctuation errors, and follow a logical flow of ideas. There will be an automatic 20% deduction for assignments that do not meet this standard. The iSchool offers support for writing, including tutors who can help review your work. 

Other Relevant Information

Each unit will run Monday through Sunday at midnight. Assignments are due Sundays by 11:59 pm and discussion posts are due on Fridays and Sundays by 11:59 pm. There will be a 20% deduction for late assignments. Late submittals for the practice reference questions cannot be accepted because answers and sources are sent immediately after assignments are due to help students prepare for the next week. The textbook is available for free from the King Library

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. Identify and assess the characteristics and functions of various types of reference sources.
  2. Use basic reference tools and searching techniques to answer a wide range of questions.
  3. Conduct effective reference interviews.
  4. Describe the relationships between user needs, information resources, and relevant information technologies.
  5. Describe current issues and trends in reference services, including the impact of technology on user needs and reference interactions.
  6. Evaluate reference services that address the needs of a diverse and changing society.
  7. Understand the relationship between reference service and information literacy instruction.
  8. Begin to develop a personal philosophy of reference service.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 210 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. N Evaluate programs and services using measurable criteria.


Required Textbooks:

  • Cassell, K.A., & Hiremath, U. (2018). Reference and information services: An introduction (4th ed.). ALA Neal-Schuman. Available as free eBook through King Libaryarrow 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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