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Reference Service Policy

June 2001

Table of Contents

  1. Service Philosophy
  2. Purpose of this Policy Statement
  3. Position Statements
  4. Goal of Reference Services
  5. Specific Objectives of Reference Services
  6. Service to Non-University patrons
  7. Services for Persons with Disabilities
  8. Types of Reference Service
  9. Restrictions on Reference Service
  10. Ask A Librarian Service
  11. ILL/Document Delivery Service
  12. Library Instruction and Orientation Service

I. Service Philosophy

The mission of the TMU Library states,

The Library is the primary academic information resource for the University. It promotes learning, supports teaching, and enhances scholarly, research and creative activities by building collections and providing expert services and innovative access to information.

Reference service at the Library is one of the most vital and visible expressions of the Library’s purpose and mission and is key to the Library’s service roles: to serve as a centre for information, formal education, research and independent learning. In addition, since more users are accessing the Library from home or office, which the Library has encouraged, it is imperative that reference services address this new trend. The Library’s building shall not be a boundary to its information services. By emphasizing real-time reference service, the library’s goal is to offer service to information seekers at the place where they are when they have a question.

II. Purpose of this Policy Statement

The purpose of this policy statement is to provide the staff with a compendium of information policies that promote a uniform standard of service of the highest possible quality consistent with available resources.

The statement is designed both to orient new staff members and to be an information resource for more experienced staff.

The statement may be made available to any library patron if s/he has a question concerning the service policy of the Department.

The Head of Reference will endeavour to review the statement biennially for currency, accuracy and completeness. Individual changes will be made throughout the year as the need for them arises.

III. Position Statements

The Library subscribes to the Canadian Library Association’s Code of Ethics, and the Statement on Intellectual Freedom.

IV. Goal of Reference Services

The general service goal of the Department is to meet the information/research needs of library users (faculty, students, staff and other patrons) accurately, efficiently, and pleasantly. An additional goal is to provide instruction so that patrons may become more independent in their use of library resources.

V. Specific Objectives of Reference Services

  1. It is the policy of the Library to consider each individual information query to be of equal merit regardless of the age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual preference or English language proficiency of the library patron. The Library’s intention is to accord equal attention and effort to each inquiry, although the time spent by staff on a question may vary in response to the perceived needs of the patron, the information resources (both staff and collections) available and the method of receipt of the inquiry. There are some limits to service for non-university patrons (see appropriate section below).
  • To maintain an up-to-date, relevant and readily accessible working collection of reference materials, (electronic and paper) relating primarily to the University’s programs. The reference collection includes general and research-oriented dictionaries, encyclopedias, biographies, bibliographies, indexes, directories, almanacs, handbooks, and statistical sources.
  • To give appropriate reference assistance to the Library’s clientele in real-time (i.e., when it is needed, regardless of where the patron is). In helping patrons, the reference staff determine the need of the patron, the exact information requested and try to find sources appropriate to the level of knowledge and interest of the patron. This service is provided regardless of whether the patron has come to the library, telephoned, e-mailed or engaged in an online chat session.
  • To provide instruction in Library use by the most effective means and with suitable cooperation with other Library units.
  • To provide access to remote bibliographic, numeric and full-text databases.
  • To actively publicize the scope, nature, and availability of the information services we offer. We shall employ those media most effective in reaching our entire clientele or selected segments of that clientele.
  • To facilitate access to library materials which are not available in the Library.
  • To create an environment for and a tradition of good service within the Department and to promote the effective utilization of the staff and materials at our disposal.
  • To cooperate with other Library units by providing them with information about user needs derived from ongoing contact with our users.

VI. Service to Non-University Patrons

Access to library buildings and hard-copy collections will be available to all who require it, whether or not they are members of the University community. Electronic resources will be available according to the individual terms of product licensing agreements, and thus access may vary. Non-TMU patrons may be eligible for library cards that allow them to borrow material (except Reserves), for a fee. Interested patrons are referred to Access Services regarding external borrower cards.

No distinction is made between University and non-University patrons when giving routine reference service, but priority will be given to TMU patrons if funding, space or staffing is inadequate to meet demands for reference service either at any given time or over a prolonged time.

As a general rule, patrons with time-consuming inquiries who are not affiliated with the University, may be referred to public libraries or their own organizations, if appropriate. In cases where the TMU Library has special resources in staff or materials and the needs of the user seem to warrant it, assistance beyond the routine may be given.

VII. Services for Persons with Disabilities

It is the mission of the TMU Library to provide equal access to information to all who request it. For persons who are disabled, the Library will make special provisions insofar as feasible to permit the patrons to examine sources and conduct research, in cooperation with the Access Centre. See the Library’s page on Services for Persons with Disabilities.

VIII. Types of Reference Service

  • Assistance in finding the answer to specific reference questions.
  • Assistance in developing research strategies for reports, term papers, theses, and dissertations.
  • Instruction in the use of the Library and its resources.
  • Verification of Library holdings and referral to institutions which have materials this Library lacks.
  • Orientation to the Library through tours, tutorial sessions, subject specific workshops, etc.
  • Compilation and production of various instructional aids.
  • Online search service.
  • In-depth reference appointments for faculty and grad students engaged in research based endeavors.

IX. Restrictions on Reference Service

  • Interpretation of Material
    Reference staff do not interpret information, such as legal, medical, financial, statistical information or class assignments.
  • Recommendations Regarding Library Patrons’ Purchases of Sources
    Reference staff refer patrons to standard reviews of the work in question and advise the patron to examine the library copy, if available; generally, staff members do not make recommendations regarding such purchases.
  • Appraisal of Books and Artifacts
    Reference staff do not appraise the private property of patrons. Patrons are advised to consult a professional appraiser, but specific appraisers are not recommended.
  • Genealogical Questions
    Genealogical searches are not undertaken by reference staff. Catalogue assistance and help locating standard reference sources are offered. Genealogical questions generally are referred to the Public Archives of Ontario and the Toronto Reference Library.
  • Bibliographies
    The reference staff do not normally compile or check bibliographies. Staff do assist patrons in the use of bibliographical tools.
  • Answering Quizzes, etc.
    No searching is done for answers to puzzles, quizzes, TV contests, etc. Assistance is limited to advising individuals about where they might locate such information. ·
  • Lending Reference Materials
    Reference materials generally do not circulate, however in some circumstances where special copying or a class presentation warrant, special loans of two hours may be issued by the Access Service staff.
  • Class Assignments
    Staff members help patrons locate information for class assignments. When a class assignment creates a concern, the subject librarian is responsible for seeing that the instructor is contacted about the present and possible future class assignments. Subject librarians will also give background information to reference staff to efficiently handle assignment related queries.As with in-house patrons, many factors enter into decisions concerning the amount of service that can be given to individuals, and judgment must be exercised. If unsure, reference staff should consult the Head of the Department.

X. Ask A Librarian Service

The Ask a Librarian service on the Library’s web site, includes an email reference link, Ask A Librarian Live (real time chat) and information about our telephone reference service.

Email Reference Service

The Email reference service is normally managed by the Head of Reference. Statistics are kept on the number of enquiries, the type of questions asked and the department/program of the user. These are compiled on a monthly basis.

The Head of Reference and the Part time Evening/Weekend librarian monitor the email “box” on a daily basis and will answer the questions or refer to the appropriate librarian. Email reference enquiries are to be responded to within 24 hours of receipt.

Ask a Librarian Live Policies

Who may use Ask a Librarian Live?

Ask a Librarian Live is intended for the TMU community of students, faculty and staff.

What kinds of questions can be asked?

The Ask a Librarian Live chat reference service will entertain any questions relevant to the teaching and learning needs of the TMU community, including TMU Library policies and procedures.

Most virtual reference sessions will last about 15 – 20 minutes. If after 20 minutes of searching the Library Reference Staff Member does not find anything authoritative to answer the patron’s question s/he will refer the user to an appropriate resource or contact or offer to email an answer later. We may also advise the patron to come in to speak with a member of the reference staff.

Types of questions we won’t answer.

We reserve the right to refuse to answer questions we find offensive and inappropriate (profanity, racial epithets) and intrusive personal questions.

XI. ILL/ Document Delivery Service

The Interlibrary Loans (ILL) service supplements the resources of the TMU Library materials by borrowing or obtaining materials from other libraries. The service is available free to all TMU students, staff and faculty who have a valid library card. This service is not extended to Direct Borrowers, Alumni or External borrowers or Corporate clients.

The following materials are excluded from ILL : Materials owned by TMU, even if on loan, reference materials, entire issues of periodicals, some AV materials and computer disks or CDROMs, and clippings or vertical file items cannot be requested through ILL.

A loan may be requested by filling out a form in person or electronically via a form on the Library’s web page. Turnaround time for requests vary and selected rush requests are possible. Patrons are notified when material is available and items are picked up at the Circulation Desk.

Loan periods are generally 2 weeks with no renewals.

All materials must be returned to ILL staff and NOT THROUGH the book drops. Materials returned overdue are subject to fines.

AV materials (films, videos, etc.) are borrowed through the Audio Visual Library located next to the ILL area on the 2nd floor.

XII. Library Instruction and Orientation Service

  • GENERAL ORIENTATION: Library staff orient new students to the facilities, collection and services on a walking tour of the library. Faculty can arrange for their classes through the Subject Librarians .
  • INFORMATION SKILLS WORKSHOPS: These workshops introduce students to the research process and to the use of the Internet, CD-ROM and on-line databases such as Lexis/Nexis Academic to locate and retrieve information. Workshop dates and times are posted near the Reference Desk. Bookings may be required.
  • COURSE-SPECIFIC INSTRUCTION: Staff also provide subject or course-related orientations on request. Faculty are encouraged to contact their Subject Librarian to arrange special library instruction for their students.
  • RESEARCH SEMINAR: These sessions are conducted jointly by librarians, counsellors and faculty, using the research paper assignment as the focal point. Sessions must be arranged at the beginning of each semester.
  • RESEARCH CLINIC: These consultations are geared to the needs of individual upper year students who have begun their major research paper under the direction of their professor, but who require some research assistance from a subject librarian. Students/professors must make an appointment in advance with the appropriate Subject Librarian.