Guidelines for Reference and Information Services

    1. Statement of Objectives
      University of Texas Libraries reference and information services support the teaching and research programs of The University of Texas at Austin by providing and facilitating access to information, regardless of format or physical location of the resources. While UT Austin affiliates are the primary audience, services are provided for the public as well.
    2. Purpose of Guidelines for Reference And Information Services
      These guidelines describe the levels and forms of reference and information services that are offered by the University of Texas Libraries and are intended to insure a uniform standard of the highest quality in all public service units, despite the diverse size, resources, staff, and clientele of the various units. They are also a source of information concerning library policy and procedures. They are to be used in conjunction with the Reference Collections Policy and other related policies and publications of the University of Texas Libraries.
    3. Use of Guidelines
      These guidelines are for the use of staff members of the University of Texas Libraries who provide reference and information services.
    4. Public Service Units
      Public service units covered by these guidelines include the Perry-Castañeda Library, the Undergraduate Library, the Branch Libraries (including Architecture and Planning, Chemistry, Classics, Engineering, Fine Arts, Geology, Life Science, Marine Science Library, and Physics Mathematics Astronomy) and the Special Collections (including the Benson Latin American Collection and the Wasserman Public Affairs Library).
    5. Review of Guidelines
      The Guidelines for Reference and Information Services are reviewed periodically to incorporate the latest library policies and to reflect current practices and procedures of the units providing reference and information services.
    6. Ethics of Reference and Information Services
      The needs of library users are taken seriously and treated with respect. Under no circumstances is there any discussion outside of a professional context about an individual or a group of users or about any transaction between user and staff member.

      The Code of Ethics 1995 issued by the American Library Association is a standard to be followed (see Appendix 1).
    Students, faculty, and staff of The University of Texas at Austin are the University of Texas Libraries primary clientele. However, the University of Texas Libraries also provides reference service to many non-university users when giving routine reference and information services. In the case of a time-consuming inquiry or of a request for special services, the question of the user's affiliation may have to be raised. For categories of library users, see Appendix 2.
    The environment is arranged to help users feel at ease in requesting assistance and while using library resources. Reference and information service points should be easy to locate. Clearly worded signs, conspicuously posted, should indicate where users are to go for assistance.
    1. The reference desk should be located away from heavy traffic areas and sources of extraneous noise, e.g., photocopiers.
    2. Whenever possible the reference area is arranged so that conversation between library users and staff members can be private.
    3. Seating at tables or carrels is provided near the reference collections.
    1. Reference and information services in the public service units of the University of Texas Libraries serve the present information needs of the academic community at The University of Texas at Austin and anticipate future needs.
    2. Reference and information services are available to individuals who come to the library and to those who request assistance over the telephone; through written correspondence; through the library catalog comments screen; through Ask a Librarian, the library's electronic mail reference service; or through electronic mail.
    3. Reference and information services are publicized utilizing all appropriate forms of communication media.
    4. Reference and information services are evaluated periodically.
    Units of the University of Texas Libraries which provide reference and information services vary in size from a unit with one staff member responsible for all activities, to a unit with many staff members whose primary responsibility is to provide reference and information services. The diversity of these units makes it impossible to include in this document the detail sometimes found in unit reference manuals. It is expected that each public service unit offering reference and information service will add the detail applicable to the unit.
    1. Basic Services
      The provision of basic services is common to all units, but extended searching is dependent upon the public service staff and resources of a unit. Staff members consult other library staff, when necessary, for assistance in answering any question.
      1. Most questions are answered while the requester waits. Extended reference, telephone, electronic, and written correspondence questions are answered as time allows.
      2. Informal instruction is provided as needed in the organization and use of both print and electronic resources, including the Libraries web site, the library catalog, electronic databases, and other reference materials, regardless of format. More extensive individual instruction in library methodology and bibliographic research, e.g., explaining the organization of literature in a field, is given at the desk as time permits or by appointment.
      3. Bibliographic verification of materials is provided.
      4. For those items not available on campus, assistance is given in obtaining them through Inter-Library Service, or through referral to off-campus collections or agencies.
    2. General Guidelines for Service Points
      Staffing patterns and hours of service for each public service unit of the University of Texas Libraries should directly reflect, within budgetary limitations, the needs of the users. Whenever possible a member of the reference staff is available to assist users during all hours that a unit is open. A regular schedule of reference service is maintained. The first priority of reference staff is to provide reference and information service to users who come to the library.
      1. Staff Attitude
        Individual assistance is the primary responsibility of those on desk duty. This is reflected in the attitude and behavior of staff. Staff members should be alert, interested, and willing to help. They should apply well-developed communication skills to ascertain the needs of users and respond to all requests with courtesy, patience, sensitivity, and tact. Staff members should watch for users who appear to need assistance and offer to help them.
      2. Staff Level
        It is also desirable that at least one additional staff member be on-call and available to assist the person on desk duty.
      3. High-Use Periods
        When users are waiting for assistance, staff members offer help first to the individual who has been waiting the longest. If this inquiry will be time consuming to answer, staff members answer first the briefer questions of other users who are waiting, or seek assistance from other staff members.
      4. Low-Use Periods
        During low-use periods staff members on desk duty may work on other assignments, examine new reference materials, or read professional and subject related literature, as long as these activities do not interfere with the provision of desk service. Staff members must not become so engrossed in other work that they fail to see users in need of assistance or appear to be "too busy" to be interrupted by a user's questions.
      5. Leaving the Desk
        Absences from the desk or desk area should be as brief as possible. If it is necessary to leave the desk for more than a few minutes and a replacement is not available, a sign stating when the person on duty will return is placed in a visible position on the desk.
      6. Messages for Desk Staff
        Messages providing the answers to recurring questions, to difficult questions, or about materials being held for users are left for other staff members on desk duty.
      7. Paging Users
        Library users are not paged by reference staff.
      8. Personal Telephone Calls
        Except for emergencies, staff members do not make or accept personal telephone calls while on desk duty.
      9. Public Use of Library Telephones
        Telephones at the reference and information desks are for official library use only. Users are referred to the nearest pay phone for off-campus calls or the nearest on-campus phone for campus calls.
    3. Level of Desk Service
      Efforts are made to provide basic reference service at all times the unit is open. However, when service must be limited, e.g., night or weekend hours, these guidelines are followed:
      1. Staff in each unit should be able to give assistance in the use of the Libraries web site, the library catalog, and databases and major reference sources relevant to that unit's subject area. Staff should be able to provide basic information about the University of Texas Libraries and be familiar with library policies.
      2. If a user needs more extensive Assistance, the staff member should suggest when and how the user may contact a member of the reference staff for in-depth assistance. In some units users are invited to complete a form describing their reference problem and are later contacted by a member of the reference staff.
    4. Guidelines for Handling Inquiries
      Directional questions, questions about library policies, questions about holdings, and general reference questions are answered at the time of the inquiry whenever possible. Staff members should follow up on questions to ensure that a user's information needs are satisfied. Questions received at closing time are handled to completion if they can be answered quickly. Time consuming questions are deferred to the next working day; the staff member may offer to continue working on the question or may ask that the library user make a fresh start on the next working day.
      1. General Inquiries
        Sources, including electronic resources, within the reference collection are used whenever possible to answer general reference inquiries. They are supplemented by other resources, e.g., staff members at government agencies, as appropriate. Staff members cite or show the source of information.
        1. Directions
          Staff members use printed aids (e.g., maps, stack guides, etc.) to assist users. When necessary, staff members accompany users to the needed information sources.
        2. Library Policies
          Policies are explained, using the appropriate policy statement. Questions regarding the interpretation of policies are referred to the appropriate unit head.
        3. Library Holdings
          Assistance is given in verifying University of Texas Libraries holdings. Up to three titles are checked in the library catalog for telephone inquirers. In-library users are instructed in the use of the library catalog.

          The user is never told that an item is not in the collection until the title has been verified and all appropriate sources have been checked, including the library catalog and relevant databases. When an item is not available on campus, staff members assist the user in using online databases to check other library holdings. Users are referred to Inter-Library Service for materials not available in nearby libraries. Requests for books and other materials not in the system are referred to a subject bibliographer for possible purchase.
        4. Informal Instruction
          Each reference encounter should be regarded as an opportunity for instruction. Library staff provide instruction in the use of library resources when users are researching a topic or when they express an interest in learning library research methods.
      2. Special Inquiries
        1. Class Assignments
          Staff members help users locate information for class assignments. When a class assignment creates a problem for students and staff, the appropriate subject specialist is responsible for contacting the instructor about the present and possible future class assignments.
        2. Bibliographies
          Although staff members do not prepare bibliographies for individuals, they do assist users in compiling their bibliographies.
        3. Interpretation of Material
          Staff members do not interpret legal, medical, financial, or statistical information.
        4. In-Process Materials
          Users are not referred to Technical Services departments.

          Staff members may use the online acquisitions database to check order and receipt status for books, serials, and other library materials. For more information about in-process materials, staff members contact the appropriate Technical Services section. When these areas are closed, questions are deferred until the next working day. Users are contacted as soon as the information is located.
        5. Circulation of Reference Materials
          Reference materials are for library use only. Permission to borrow them is given only at the discretion of the reference staff member on duty following guidelines set by the specific library unit.
        6. Recommendations to Users on Personal Purchase of Books
          When asked for recommendations, staff members refer users to standard reviews of the work in question or advise the user to examine the library copy, but they do not make recommendations.
        7. Appraisal of Books and Artifacts
          Staff members do not appraise items. Users are advised to consult appropriate reference materials or a professional appraiser, but specific appraisers are not recommended.
        8. Genealogical Questions
          Genealogical searches are referred to the Texas State Library and Center for American History, as appropriate. Staff members offer help in locating standard genealogical sources in the University of Texas Libraries and through the Libraries web site.
        9. Contests, Puzzles, and Scavenger Hunts
          Staff members, when they have evidence that a contest is behind a question, suggest appropriate sources but do not locate the information.
        10. Proctoring Exams and Signing Attendance Forms
          Reference staff do not proctor exams. The Division of Continuing Education Testing Center provides an exam proctoring service. For more information, call 512-471-6030 or visit the web site at

          Staff do not sign attendance forms, provide certificates of completion for library classes, library tours, or other library-sponsored events, or track or verify visits to library locations for class credit or other purposes.
      3. Extended Reference Questions
        When it becomes apparent that a question will require extensive searching, staff members on desk duty may offer to search further and make arrangements for reporting results. Reference staff members work on extended reference questions as time permits and consult other staff in their own or other units as necessary.
      4. Referrals
        Staff members should recognize their own limitations and ask colleagues within the unit for advice and assistance as necessary. They also refer users to others who are better qualified to serve particular needs. Staff members confirm that other units, libraries, or special collections can be of assistance before referring users to them. Staff members do not recommend specific fee-based information services. They refer users to standard directories. Referrals to other libraries or agencies off campus are made whenever appropriate.
      5. Services to Students with Disabilities
        Users with disabilities may need assistance in using library resources such as using reference tools. For those tools that are available on computer, a simple accommodation, like setting the display to large print, may be the solution. Other disabilities may require more extensive help. Whenever possible, such users are helped in the course of normal desk work. If a user with a disability requires more help than can be provided at the time, the staff member should attempt to locate another staff member who can help provide the service. If the person's need goes beyond one instance, as in the case of an extended project, he/she is referred to the Office of the Dean of Students, Services for Students with Disabilities Office, SSB 4.100 (471-6259 or TTY 471-4641). They may provide training in the adaptive equipment, volunteer readers, or an interpreter for the deaf.
    5. Reporting and Handling Problems
      Staff members should be prepared to respond to both routine maintenance needs and various emergencies involving either physical hazards or questions of human relations. Staff members should understand the limits of their responsibilities and when to refer problems to either their supervisor or other units. Written emergency policies and procedures should be readily accessible to desk staff. See also Appendix 4: Dealing with the "Problem Patron"; Appendix 6: Guidelines for Staff Response to Inappropriate Use of Libraries computers ; Computer and Network Use Policy.
      1. Complaints
        If possible users with complaints are conducted to a private room for discussion. Complaints concerning library policies are referred to the appropriate department head.
      2. Collection Maintenance
        Staff members report missing reference books, shelving disorder, catalog corrections, and outdated reference sources to the proper individuals.
      3. Routine and Emergency Repairs
        Staff members should be familiar with unit, University of Texas Libraries, and University policies on reporting the need for repairs in both routine and emergency situations. The home page of the University of Texas Libraries Administrative Services Division is a helpful aid.
      4. Emergency and Evacuation Procedures
        Staff members should be familiar with the emergency plan or evacuation procedures for their particular unit in case of fire, damaging weather, or bomb threat. The emergency and/or evacuation procedures manual for each unit is available at all times and all staff members should read this manual carefully. Supervisors should have all staff read the manual once each year. Staff members are responsible for reporting fire and other emergencies, such as water leakage, theft, illness, injury, and deviant behavior.
    Telephone reference service is an integral part of reference and information service; however, priority is given to users who come to the library for assistance.

    Information given over the phone is limited to short, factual answers, such as directory entries, or statistics quoted directly from the source; information about UT Austin library holdings; or information about UT Austin. Callers needing assistance with long or complex research questions are urged to come to the library for in-person assistance.
    1. Training
      The unit head is responsible for assigning and training staff members to answer the telephone. Staff members who answer the telephone should be courteous and efficient. Staff members should be familiar with University of Texas Libraries policies for telephone reference.
    2. Priorities
      General information calls which can be answered quickly are responded to as they are received. When telephone calls come at a busy time or when questions will take more than a few minutes to answer, staff members take down the question and the name and telephone number of the caller. Staff members identify themselves and inform the individual that the call will be returned, giving an approximate time.

      In-person priority is given to calls from staff in other library units who are assisting waiting users.
    3. Types of Questions Not Answered
      Library staff members should not interpret statistical, medical, or legal information for patrons either over the phone or in person. No more than three titles are checked in the library catalog. Staff in a unit may find it necessary to set limits on telephone assistance relating to special materials held only in that location.
    4. Long Distance Calls
      If an inquiry received by long distance cannot be answered immediately, arrangements are made to respond at a later time. For out-of-state telephone calls, the individual may be asked to call back. The name and telephone number of the staff member handling the inquiry as well as an approximate time to call back are given. In the event that it is difficult to estimate the time needed to prepare a response, the staff member will return the call.
    5. Photocopying
      A maximum of eight pages may be photocopied from hard copy without charge when answering a long distance telephone call. If photocopying exceeds eight pages, the citations are given to the inquirer with instructions to request the items through his/her local library from Inter-Library Service or to request the item through the University of Texas Libraries Document Express service.
    6. Telefacsimile
      Telefacsimile may be used when time is of utmost importance, particularly when information is for another state agency. A maximum of eight pages from hard copy materials may be sent by telefacsimile without charge.
    Electronic reference service, which utilizes electronic mail for both inquiry and response, is comparable to telephone reference and correspondence.
    1. Priorities
      Electronic reference service is available to current UT Austin students, faculty, and staff. Students enrolled in UT Austin distance education programs are also eligible to use this service. Other users should expect an answer only about unique resources of the University of Texas Libraries.

      Priority is always given to persons who come to the library for service.
    2. Types of Questions Answered
      Questions requiring short, factual answers or requests for information about UT Austin library holdings or information about UT Austin are appropriate for this service.

      Assistance is provided in the use of electronic resources accessible from the Libraries web site, including brief explanations about search techniques and connection questions. Users may be directed to online search help or to appropriate offices for more specialized technical assistance.
    3. Types of Questions Not Answered
      Users with long or complex research questions, including term paper research, receive brief guidance in the selection of resources and are invited to visit the library or a library near them for more in-depth assistance.

      Users requesting URLs for non-UT Web sites may be referred to search engines.

      Electronic reference service is not appropriate for general Internet instruction. Local users should be encouraged to attend University of Texas Libraries electronic information classes.
    4. Response
      All responses are made by e-mail, usually within 48 hours during the regular work week. Non-UT affiliates receive a standard reply restating the service policy, along with brief suggestions for finding the needed information using online resources.
    5. Electronic Information Sources
      Staff are familiar with and honor license agreements regarding use of online databases when providing electronic reference service to non-UT Austin affiliates.
    Correspondence is an integral part of reference and information services and every effort is made to answer written requests for information within a week of receipt.
    1. Routing Incoming Correspondence
      1. All units of the University of Texas Libraries route letters to the appropriate library unit for reply.
      2. The unit head is responsible for correspondence reference service. The responsibility for answering letters may be delegated.
      3. Referral form letters may be used when sending an inquiry to another unit on campus for the information requested. One copy of the form letter is sent to the inquirer; one copy of the form letter and the original letter requesting information are sent to the unit receiving the referral and one copy of the form letter is retained as a record of the referral.
    2. Types of Questions Answered
      1. Letters requesting bibliographic information about University of Texas at Austin theses and dissertations are answered in detail. If the number of titles concerned is large, e.g., theses concerning Mexican-Americans in Texas, a printout from the library catalog or photocopies of the thesis catalog cards involved should be made.
      2. Letters requesting information about publications written by UT Austin faculty or staff members, sponsored by UT Austin departments or institutes, or published by campus bureaus are answered as completely as possible.
      3. Letters requesting broad subject information require only a brief indication of sources with an invitation to visit the University of Texas Libraries for personal assistance or with a referral to a library near the correspondent.
      4. The Perry-Castañeda Library uses form letters to refer requests for genealogical searches to appropriate libraries. Requests for information about Texas residents are referred to the Center for American History and the Texas State Library.
    3. Photocopying
      A maximum of eight pages is photocopied from hard copy without charge when a letter is being answered. If photocopying exceeds eight pages, the citations are sent to the inquirer with instructions to request the items through their local public library from our Inter-Library Service.
    4. Telefacsimile
      Telefacsimile may be used when time is of utmost importance, particularly when information is for another state agency. A maximum of eight pages may be sent by telefacsimile without charge.
    5. Reply
      Most replies are by mail. However, an electronic response is appropriate if the requestor includes an e-mail address.
    6. Record of Correspondence
      Each letter received and a copy of the reply are retained in the unit for one year.
    Whenever possible reference services and materials are provided without direct charge to the user. Also, whenever possible and effective, reference staff members use prepaid services. Sometimes, however, the most appropriate service does involve a direct charge, either to the library user or to the University of Texas Libraries.
    1. Full-service Searching
      Searchers conduct full-service searches for UT Austin students, faculty, and staff on databases available through DIALOG, STN, and other systems. Searching is done by appointment. The direct costs are passed on to the user. Those not currently affiliated with UT Austin are referred to other libraries or agencies as appropriate.
    2. Online Ready Reference Searching
      Library staff who are trained searchers also search online databases to answer reference questions which cannot be easily answered in printed or prepaid electronic sources and which are likely to be answered through online services such as DIALOG. This service is done to answer specific questions, not to produce extensive bibliographies. The library's Ready Reference budget subsidizes costs. (See Appendix 3.)
    3. "Self-service" Searching
      The U-Search service offers "self-service" searching of a wide range of databases for UT Austin students, faculty, and staff. The user pays a fixed charge for use of online time; other costs are subsidized by the library. Those not currently affiliated with UT Austin are referred to other libraries as appropriate.
    Library instruction activities are intended to enhance the ability of University of Texas Libraries patrons to understand and use information sources whether they are accessed within the libraries or from remote locations.
    1. Administration of Library Instruction Programs
      Library staff members contribute to library instruction activities by preparing materials and giving presentations, as well as contributing to the overall instructional mission of the University of Texas Libraries.

      Unit and department heads are responsible for overseeing and reporting on library instruction activities in their units, as well as participating directly when appropriate. The AdministrativE Assistant in the Library Office will collect the instruction statistics from each unit at the end of each semester.

      The Publications Coordinator will provide assistance with the technical aspects of preparing and producing printed materials in support of library instruction throughout the University of Texas Libraries.

      The Head of Library Instruction Services is responsible for the coordination of library use activities, which includes promoting communication among library staff and instructors, soliciting suggestions from staff on instruction needs and methods, and reviewing ideas for major new ventures.
    2. Referral of Requests
      Requests for library instruction classes, tours, and presentations should be referred to the appropriate bibliographer. Bibliographer directories and lists are available from the Collection and information Resources web site. Occasionally the subject bibliographer does not participate in instructional activities and another staff member will take on this role. Requests which do not clearly fall to a specific bibliographer may be directed to the Head of Library Instruction Services. The Head of Library Instruction Services will seek out an appropriate staff member to instruct the class.
    3. Problematic Class Assignments
      Some assignments designed by instructors cause enormous problems for staff members assisting students. These assignments may require large numbers of students to look for one piece of information, work with incomplete or incorrect information, use materials the library does not own, or hunt for answers to obscure questions. It is the responsibility of the appropriate library staff member to contact the instructor and discuss possible alternatives to the assignment. Additional information about "Designing Effective Library Assignments" is available from the Digital Information Literacy Program web site.
    4. Services Offered
      The University of Texas Libraries offers a variety of services designed to support library instruction. All instruction programs endeavor to increase user awareness of the library as a primary source of information and as an agency to which users may turn for assistance with their information needs. Orientation activities are intended to make users familiar with facilities, printed materials, electronic resources, service points, and procedures of the University of Texas Libraries. Library instruction classes, or "bibliographic instruction", is designed to enhance user ability to make effective use of information sources, regardless of format, and to suggest strategies and methods for organizing research.
      1. Orientation Tours
        The University of Texas Libraries provides scheduled general orientation tours as well as course-related tours when requested by instructors or other University personnel.

        The University of Texas Libraries does not generally provide tours for groups outside of the University. Some pre-visit preparation is highly desirable. A staff member may meet with the group leader prior to a visit to identify appropriate library resources and to explain library services and policies. As an option, library handouts containing similar information may be mailed to the group leader. In addition, the leader can be directed to University of Texas Libraries information found on the the Libraries web site.
      2. Library Instruction Classes
        General instruction presentations, such as the Electronic Information Classes, are provided by University of Texas Libraries staff at scheduled times each semester. A UT ID card is required to attend hands-on classes; all other classes are open to everyone.

        Course-related bibliographic instruction presentations are provided by library staff either in response to requests for such classes or other indications of the need. Class presentations may be held in library lecture rooms, hands-on training rooms, or classrooms located within specific colleges and departments. Staff may prepare appropriate instructional materials such as handouts, slide shows, computer presentations, or Web "pathfinders".
      3. Self-Paced Instructional Materials, Guides, and Bibliographies
        General instructional materials for use by individual library patrons, such as point-of-use guides or online tutorials, are designed and produced by library staff as needed, within budgetary limitations. Efforts should be made to share materials between libraries.

        User aids such as the Library Directory, a campus map with library locations and phone numbers, A Guide to the University of Texas Libraries, unit brochures and bookmarks are available to assist users in locating resources in the University of Texas Libraries.

        The University of Texas Libraries provides bibliographies covering a wide range of subject areas through the "Selected Reference Sources" and other series. Each series is maintained by the appropriate staff member. These are distributed at appropriate University of Texas Libraries service points and electronically from the Training and Publications web site.
      4. Signs, Graphics, and Exhibits
        Clearly-worded signs and graphics are used in all units to aid users in locating information sources. The unit or department head is responsible for assessing the needs for and initiating requests for signage.

        Exhibits of library or library-related materials are designed to increase users' awareness of the services, resources, and unique features of the University of Texas Libraries. Exhibits are handled by the Exhibits Committee.
    1. Reference Collections
      The reference collections of the University of Texas Libraries are developed to meet the needs of the academic community at The University of Texas at Austin, and to meet the demands made on the University of Texas Libraries as a major resource center in Texas and the Southwest.
    2. Reference Collections Policy
      The Reference Collections Policy (Policies and Guidelines No. 10) provides guidelines for the development, location and maintenance of the collections needed to provide reference and information services in the University of Texas Libraries. The reference collections of the University of Texas Libraries cover the sciences, social sciences, humanities and fine arts and provide materials to support the academic teaching and research programs of The University of Texas at Austin. Basic reference materials in law and theology are available in the University of Texas Libraries; more comprehensive law materials are in the Tarlton Law Library; more comprehensive theology materials are in local theological libraries.
    3. Reference Collection Development Responsibility
      The immediate responsibility for the selection and maintenance of the various reference collections belongs to the head librarian and members of the Reference and Information Services Department and the head librarian and bibliographers of other units which maintain reference collections.
    4. Reference Collection Organization
      The reference collections are organized in the manner most appropriate to the nature of the materials and with a view toward efficient and effective retrieval.
    5. Multiple Copies
      Materials are available in multiple copies when needed to meet user demands.
    6. Reference Collection Maintenance
      All reference materials should be examined for condition, usefulness, and timeliness, and then either retained, withdrawn, or replaced. At the same time, needed items not available in the reference collection are ordered, subject to budget limitations.
    7. Related Policies
      Other library Policies and Guidelines which relate to the maintenance of the reference collection are: Policy on Transfer of Materials between Library Units (No. 14); Withdrawal Policy (No. 18); Reinstatement Policy (No. 20); Replacement Policy (No. 21); and Perry-Castañeda Library Stack Reference policy (No. 23).
    The measurement and evaluation of reference and information services is the responsibility of reference staff and the library administration.
    1. Statistics
      Statistics provide a basis for the quantitative review of reference and information services. Each public service unit keeps statistics on inquiries received. Each reference staff member is responsible for accurately recording all such inquiries.

      In library units where both reference and circulation transactions are handled at a single desk, circulation questions (e.g., book renewals, tracing of missing books, fine questions) are excluded from reference statistics.

      Informal library use instruction that occurs in the course of a transaction at the reference desk is included in reference statistics. Separate statistics are compiled for formal library use instruction. (See X.A)
    2. Procedure
      Each question is counted once, regardless of the number of sources consulted. Separate questions, including follow-up questions and new topics, asked by the same user are counted separately.
    3. Definitions to Be Followed for Recording Statistics
      Statistics are collected daily for the following categories:
      1. Directional Questions
        Directional questions are concerned with physical locations (library materials, offices, rooms, or campus buildings); information about library policies and procedures; and technical assistance with library equipment. Such questions usually do not require the use of reference materials.

        Time: Less than 10 minutes
      2. General Reference Questions
        General reference questions are those answered through the use of or instruction in the use of information resources. Such questions require specialized knowledge and use of information resources.

        Time: 15 minutes or less
      3. Extended Reference Questions
        An extended reference question involves in-depth assistance in the identification and use of information resources. A staff member may continue to work on such a question after the patron has left and arrange to report the results later.

        Time: More than 15 minutes
      4. Correspondence
        Electronic mail, UTCAT comments, and letters received through US or campus mail requesting information which are answered by reference staff should be listed as correspondence.
    4. Monthly Summary of Reference Statistics
      1. The subject content of questions in the Extended Reference and Correspondence categories may be recorded and retained in the units.
      2. Monthly Summary sheets are sent to the Assistant for Public Services Operations, PCL 3.200, by the fifth of the following month.
    5. Special Surveys
      Special surveys may be conducted periodically to determine the relevance and effectiveness of the reference and information services offered. Proposed surveys are submitted to the Assistant Director for Public Services for approval.
    1. Selection
      Staff members are chosen with consideration given not only to their experience and knowledge, but also to their communication skills and their interest in user education. When possible, staff in the general reference departments in PCL have educational background or experience in various subject fields. When possible, staff in the branch libraries or special collections have educational background or experience in the appropriate subject fields.
    2. Orientation, Training, and Evaluation
      1. The immediate supervisor is responsible for the orientation and training of a new staff member. The supervisor introduces other staff members and explains the policies and procedures of the unit, the duties of the job, and standards of performance.
      2. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to give each new staff member on-the-job training appropriate for the position. This training includes orientation to the location, personnel, and special resources of other public service units. This training should be completed prior to assigning the staff member sole responsibility for reference and information services, e.g., on nights and weekends.
      3. Each new staff member receives orientation to the University of Texas Libraries. This includes introduction to other library staff members and the library administration whenever possible.
      4. The supervisor reviews the new staff member's work as it progresses and conducts performance evaluations within the framework of University of Texas Libraries personnel policies.
    3. Staff Development
      Continuing staff development is the shared responsibility of the individual, the supervisor, and the library administration and is encouraged. Staff members should participate in activities which will contribute to their continuing education and improve their job performance. Staff development includes in-house training programs, course work, conferences, lectures, and the reading of professional and subject related literature. Some of these activities may require work released time. Since the needs of the unit must be balanced against requests for released time, authorization for an absence must be obtained. Information on released time is in Guidelines for Travel/Released Time (Policies and Guidelines No. 16). Information on taking or auditing courses is in the Policy on Requests to Take or Audit Courses (Policies and Guidelines No. 3 ).

Discussed at Department Heads Meeting: March 30, 1977
Reviewed by Administrative Staff: March 24, 1977,and April 21, 1977
Approved by Merle N. Boylan: April 22, 1977
Revised and approved by Reference and InformatioN Services Committee: May 13, 1982
Reviewed and approved by Public Services Council:September 8, 1982
Approved by Administrative Group: October 20, 1982
Approved by Harold W. Billings, Director of GeneralLibraries: October 20, 1982
Approved by Harold W. Billings, Director of GeneralLibraries: June 24, 1990
Revised and approved by Reference Policy Review Committee,September 17, 1998 and October, 1999.
Approved by Harold W. Billings, Director of GeneralLibraries: April 5, 2000



Code of Ethics 1995*

I. We provide the highest level of service to all libraryusers through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responsesto all requests.

II. We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom andresist all efforts to censor library resources.

III. We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.

IV. We recognize and respect intellectual property rights.

V. We treat co-workers and other colleagues with respect, fairness and good faith, and advocate conditions of employment that safeguard the rights and welfare of all employees of our institutions.

VI. We do not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or our employing institutions.

VII. We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representations of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.

VIII. We strive for excellence in the profession by maintaining and enhancing our own knowledge and skills, by encouraging the profession development of co-workers, and by fostering the aspirations of potential members of the profession.

*American Libraries, v. 26, no. 7, July/August1995, p. 673.



Categories of Library Users1

In terms of library checkout privileges, for users with multiple statuses, UT Austin status takes priority over non-UT Austin status, and if a user's primary role at UT Austin is a student role, then UT Austin student status takes priority over UT Austin faculty or staff status.


UT Austin Students

Undergraduate or special students (Borrower code 7) - Fourteen-Day loan Graduate Students (Borrower Code 5) - Semester loan

UT Austin Employees

These borrowers may check out general collection materials on Semester loan:

Current and retired faculty (Borrower code 3)*
Current and retired administrative and professional staff (Borrower code 4)*
Formally appointed Visiting Scholars (Borrower code 4)*
Current and retired classified staff (Borrower code 6)


Special Borrowers

These borrowers may check out general collection materials on Semester loan:

UT Regents (8)*
UT System administrative and professional staff (Borrower code 4)*
Other UT System component institution faculty and professional staff (Borrower code 8)
Other faculty and staff of institutions with which the University of Texas Libraries has established lending agreements (Borrower code 8)

*These categories of borrowers are eligible for the Proxy Borrower privilege. An eligible Borrower may arrange to have a Proxy Borrower check out materials for use by the sponsoring Borrower. Information on the Proxy Borrower privilege is available in a separate publication at circulation desks.

Courtesy Borrowers

These borrowers may check out general collection materials on Fourteen-Day loan:

Adult Texas residents not included elsewhere (Borrower code 9)
UT institute or workshop participants (Borrower code 9)
UT Extension Division students (Borrower code 9)
UT Austin Ex-Students' Association members (Borrower code 9)
Spouses or domestic partners of UT Austin faculty, administrative and professional staff (if not enrolled as students) (Borrower code 9)
UT non-student temporary staff (appointed for less than 20 hours per week or less than 4-1/2 months) (Borrower code 9)
Students at other Texas institutions of higher education, patrons of libraries and members of groups, business, agencies, organizations, etc. with which the University of Texas Libraries has lending agreements (Borrower code 9)

Members of the general public not included in the categories noted above may use materials from the open shelves within the library.


1Lending Code, September 1, 2000, Section 15, "Categories of Library Users"
2 Borrower Codesare defined in Lending Code, Section 9, "Definition of Loan Periods"



Online Ready Reference Policy

Databases such as DIALOG or STN may be searched at the discretion of trained reference staff to answer read reference queries. Online ready reference searches may be conducted to (1) verify citations or (2) answer factual questions when answers cannot be located in UT Library Online databases or printed sources because of timeliness or inaccessibility of materials.

Before verifying a citation online, the searcher should determine:

  1. that the appropriate printed or electronic search tools are unavailable or inaccessible;
  2. that information about the title is insufficient for a manual search;
  3. that printed and/or library databases have been checked first; or
  4. that a database covers the years of publication and the topic needed.

Before searching a ready reference question online, the searcher should determine:

  1. that the question is chiefly factual -- a current topic, a hot topic, a topic for which there are no good descriptors -- requiring a factual answer or a few (up to 10) citations as a starting point for further research;
  2. that printed and/or library databases have been checked first;
  3. that the answer is likely to be found in a database;
  4. that the search strategy can be quickly and simply formulated and executed.

Ready reference queries may be directed to the most appropriate search location:

  1. social sciences, humanities, and business: PCL or Public Affairs Library;
  2. science and/or applied science: Chemistry, Engineering, Geology, Physics-Math-Astronomy, or Life Science Libraries;
  3. fine arts or architecture: Fine Arts or Architecture and Planning Libraries

An online ready reference query will not be performed:

  1. to provide an extensive bibliography;
  2. to verify more than three citations per requester;
  3. to provide information for individuals doing a general class assignment (although a single ready reference search may be run and made available to all class members).



Dealing with the "Problem Patron"*

Every staff member who deals directly with the public knows that library users exhibit a wide range of behavior and that not all of it is placid or pleasant. While cases of violent or physically threatening behavior are relatively rare on this campus, an encounter with a "problem patron" is always possible. This term is applied to a variety of individuals including irate complainants, suspicious characters prowling the stacks, and people whose bizarre words or actions are caused by mental disturbances.

Four categories of problem patrons and suggestions for dealing with them were reported in Reference and Selection News, no.14, January 28, 1982, issued by the Library, University of California, Berkeley. They are adapted for the University of Texas Libraries below:

  1. The Verbally Abusive Patron
    1. Acknowledge the patron's problem. (He/she could be correct; the Library may have made an error.)
    2. Explain the steps which can be taken to solve the problem; perhaps an alternative solution is available.
    3. A nearby colleague may have additional pertinent information; at the least, this additional effort may defuse the patron's anger.
    4. The patron may accept your offer to investigate the situation and report back to him or her as soon as possible.
    5. If the patron remains obdurate, and you feel unable to resolve the situation satisfactorily, refer the patron to your supervisor.
  2. The Demanding or Difficult Patron (Who feels entitled to take exception to Library rules)
    1. Explain or clarify rules pertinent to the situation. Circumstances such as budget or staff shortages may make rules necessary. If it is readily available, hand out the pertinent written policy.
    2. Volunteer any available alternative service.
    3. If the patron remains unsatisfied, refer her or him to your supervisor.
    4. Staff members should be aware that, while supervisors have the prerogative of making exceptions to rules due to special circumstances, non-supervisory staff should not feel apologetic about refusing to make such exceptions themselves.
  3. The Disturbed or Bizarre Patron
    1. Ask the patron directly if you can be of asistance.
    2. If the patron's behavior is annoying to others or otherwise disruptive of normal library service, state this fact to the patron, with the request that he or she stop that behavior.
    3. If the annoying or disruptive behavior continues, ask the patron to leave the unit.
    4. If the patron remains unruly and refuses to leave the unit, call for help.
    5. Non-threatening situations or routine disturbances:
      • Call the guard station at 5-4285 in the Perry-Castañeda Library.
      • Call the guard station at 4-4432 in the Undergraduate Library.
      • Call University Police at 471-4441 in other library units.
    6. Serious or threatening situations:
      • Press the emergency button (available in every library unit).
      • Call University Police at 911.
  4. The Suspicious Character
    1. The person whose appearance or behavior seems unusual, or any person in an unauthorized area, should be regarded as a potentially "suspicious character".
    2. Ask such a person directly if he or she needs assistance.
    3. Pay obvious attention to this person.
    4. If continued suspicion seems justified, call Library guard stations or the University Police at the numbers given above.

During past presentations to library staff, University Police have stated that the police much prefer to investigate several instances of suspicious circumstances in which the "suspect" proves to be innocent, if by doing so they could prevent violence or theft or apprehend a perpetrator. University Police officers can and do quickly and quietly investigate such incidents without undue embarrassment to the "suspect", staff members, or other patrons.

Public service supervisors have given the following general suggestions for dealing with unsatisfied, upset, or angry patrons.

  • Make a concerted effort to understand the real problem or issue involved.
  • Respond in a calm, relaxed voice; do not escalate the confrontation by using angry or excited words or tones of voice in reply.
  • If possible, conduct the patron to a less public space or room, if the situation is or threatens to become disturbing to others.
  • Avoid the physical appearance of pontifical authority; if the situation allows, ask the patron to sit down. The staff member should place herself or himself so as to be at approximately the same height as the patron.
  • Use other body language to avoid the appearance of hostility, rejection or put down of the patron.
  • Do not hesitate to call in a backup, preferably the supervisor, if the situation seems to be getting out of hand.
  • Remember that it is not necessary to accept verbal abuse or the threat of physical abuse.

We cannot satisfy every patron; we can make it apparent, however, that we have done our best.



Downloading of Online Data

Downloading is the capture of data from an online database on to a local storage device (e.g., a microcomputer disk drive, fixed or removable). The captured data can be used in various ways; for example, the user can print data, download and save it to floppy disk, or send it to a remote location using electronic mail.

The following guidelines apply to downloading by end-users and library staff from online and CD-ROM databases (networked and stand-alone) provided by the University of Texas Libraries in accordance to vendor license agreements.


University of Texas Libraries policy seeks to balance our mission of providing information to users with vendors' legitimate rights under copyright law and license agreements.

Downloading from online and CD-ROM (networked or stand-alone) databases is allowed in accordance with vendor license agreements. Downloading from the library catalog by end-users or library staff is not restricted.

Staff should engage in downloading, or permit end-users to download using library equipment, only in cases where the specific act involved is allowed by law - including "fair use" [see "Fair Use" section below] - and where it is not prohibited by vendor license agreements.

Staff should not store any subset of a database locally to perform subsequent searches for users. Staff should not download online data to send to users via electronic mail, fax machine, or by other means. Such activities are generally prohibited by vendor license agreements.

Fair Use

Authorized, or "fair use" of data generally includes the viewing, printing or downloading of a copy for personal use. See Title 17, U.S. Code excerpted below.

§ 106. Exclusive rights in copyrighted works

Subject to sections 107 through 118, the owner of copyright under this 5itle has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

  1. to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
  2. to prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work;
  3. to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  4. in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly; and
  5. in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly.

§ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use as reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall includes -

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Questions concerning copyright issues involving downloading from online and CD-ROM databases should be directed to Rue Ramirez, Electronic Information Programs Division, 495-4389.


Guidelines for Staff Responses to Inappropriate Use of Libraries computers

Under Texas law (Tex. Penal Code Ann. S. 43.26 (West 1998)), possession or promotion of visual materials depicting child pornography (depictions of a child younger than 18 years of age who is engaging in sexual conduct) is a felony of the third degree. The law includes "allowing an image to be displayed on a computer screen" within the definition of visual materials.

When a staff member observes a user at a library computer viewing and/or downloading what appears to be child pornography, the staff member should respond as follows:

  1. Do not confront the user.
  2. Go promptly to a phone away from the computer and report the incident to University Police at 911. Include in your report the name of the library, the building and room number where workstation is located, the specific workstation which is involved, and a detailed description of the person who is using it.
  3. Notify other staff in the area of the situation and that you are expecting a UTPD officer to respond to your call.
  4. Provide assistance and information to the UTPD officer when he/she arrives. The UTPD officer will ask the user for identification and will take other appropriate actions, such as issuing a criminal trespass warning.
  5. Report the incident to your supervisor or the head of the unit as soon as possible.

Supervisors/unit heads should take the following actions:

  1. Report the incident to your assistant/associate director as soon as possible.
  2. Report the incident to UTPD liaison Drew Racine.

Associate directors should report the incident to:

  1. Microcomputer Services, Digital Library Services Division, at 495-4115.
  2. University of Texas Libraries public service units.
  3. Cameron Beasley, Director, Information Security Office, Information Technology Services, at 475-9242 or email to
  4. Patricia C. Ohlendorf, Vice President for Institutional Relations and Legal Affairs, at 471-1241 or email to