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Telephone Reference Policy


Statement of Policy & Text

King Reference Unit’s (KRU) telephone reference service provides patrons with brief answers to factual questions, help with search strategies, information on library resources, policies, and services, and/or referrals to a subject specialist or more appropriate source. Telephone reference service is designed to provide quick, ready-reference responses.

Need for the Policy

  • A consistent standard of customer service must be ensured.
  • The scope of telephone reference service available to library patrons needs to be defined.

Requirements & Guidelines


  • Basic search guidance, but not extensive instruction or research assistance, will be provided.
  • Basic telephone reference services include searching the catalog, answering ready reference questions, giving brief definitions or statistical data, explaining library services, reserving computers or study rooms, and searching the Internet for specific, brief information.
  • Complex questions that require formulating search stategies, identifying useful print or electronic resources, and providing reader's advisory service will be answered by Reference librarians.
  • Patrons in need of extensive assistance will be advised to visit the library or will be referred to a subject specialist.
  • SJSU students who require in-depth instruction on databases or Internet use will be referred to the appropriate academic subject specialist.
  • Calls will be answered in the order they are received.

Service Parameters

Response to Basic Directional and Skill-based Questions:

  • The caller should not be placed on hold for more than 1 minute without reporting the status of the search.
  • Calls should normally be limited to 5 minutes at most.
  • Due to call volumes and staff time constraints, Reference staff will answer a maximun of 5 queries (e.g. web searches) for each telephone customer per day.

Response to Complex, Strategy Based Questions:

  • The caller should not be placed on hold for more than 3 minutes without reporting the status of the search.
  • Calls should normally be limited to 10 minutes.
  • For questions that require further research, customers will be referred to subject librarians or will be advised to come in person to the library where staff can direct them to additional research sources.

Time Commitment: Receipt of the question will be acknowledged and a timeframe provided if the question cannot be answered immediately.

Applicable Personnel/Departments

King Reference Unit




Reviewed and approved by:Signature/NameDate of Approval

Head, SJSU Academic Services  
Sandra Belanger  

Manager, SJPL Reference & Web Services  
Joan Bowlby  

Ruth Kifer, John Wenzler, Mary Nino, Luann Budd, Anne Cain, Neil Rufino, Sandra Stewart, Katie DuPraw

History & Dates

Category of Policy: User Services
Author(s): Librarian, Gloria Singer (XT-19)
Authorized by: Sandra Belanger & Joan Bowlby
Date Written: 8/1/05
Date Effective: 11/15/05
Date(s) of Revision(s): 1/24/06, 4/14/06, 5/13/09, 6/10/13


A. King Library Reference Unit Services Policy

Supersedes XT-19 Reference Connection (Guidelines)