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Reference Policies



This document gives guidelines and departmental policies for providing reference services in order to promote a high-quality uniform standard of service. It is intended for both Library staff and patrons. 

Definition of Reference



Reference Work includes reference transactions and other activities that involve the creation, management, and assessment of information or research resources, tools, and services. 


Reference Transactions are information consultations in which library staff recommend, interpret, evaluate, and/or use information resources to help others to meet information needs. Reference transactions do not include formal instruction or exchanges that provide assistance with locations, schedules, equipment, supplies, or policy statements.1  (RUSA Definition of Reference ) 

Mission and Purpose


This department's purpose is to: 

  •  facilitate access to resources to support the information needs of students, faculty, and staff, 
  • provide instruction on the use and potential of those resources to patrons pursuing information, or 
  • inform patrons of alternative sources of information, and  
  • ultimately connect the patron with the information they seek.

Whom We Serve


Reference services are for the following groups: 

  • Texas Wesleyan community including students (distance, dual credit/early college high school) faculty, staff, and administration (priority).  
  • Texas Wesleyan University alumni.
  • Members of the Community at large 
  • Patrons at other institutions that are members of our chat Co-op.  

Points of Reference Service


  • Desk -- In-person reference assistance is available during all hours of library operation. 
  • Phone - Assistance is available at 817-531-4802 during all hours of library operation. Voice mail is available for after-hours calls. Voice mail calls will be returned the following business day. 

  • E-mail - Email assistance is available at Library staff will reply to the patron by the end of the next business day. Emails received during weekend hours may take longer. 

  • Chat – Chat reference service is available 24/7. 

  • Other points—in the library building, other locations on campus  

Services and Service Philosophy


The service philosophy of Reference Department relies on principles and guidelines of library organizations plus university policies in the following areas: 

  1. Intellectual Freedom, diversity & inclusion, and Ethics 

The American Library Association’s (ALA) documents on intellectual freedom, diversity &  inclusion, and ethics.  This includes, but is not limited to,  

  1. Behavioral Attributes of Reference Librarians 

The Reference Department adheres to the behavioral attributes of reference librarians, as identified in RUSA’s Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers

  1. Professional Competencies for the Reference Department 

Reference staff follow the ALA’s Professional Competencies for the Reference & User Services Librarians and the Library Code of Ethics.

  1. Privacy Policies

The Reference Department staff adhere to all privacy policies of the University in the following documents. 

In addition to the above University policies, the library staff adhere to the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association regarding privacy. All reference sessions are kept confidential. Reference transactions are maintained for use by library staff for reporting purposes and improving service.

  1. Distance Learning  

West Library supports the Distance Education policy of the University, located in the All-Faculty Blackboard Organization, by offering virtual reference services. Contact CETL (817-531-6563) or  to read this document. 

Additional tenets of the Reference Department’s service philosophy include: 

  1. Virtual Reference Services

  • Virtual reference is reference service initiated electronically for which patrons employ technology to communicate with public services staff without being physically present. Communication channels used frequently in virtual reference include chat, videoconferencing, Voice-over-IP, co-browsing, e-mail, instant messaging, and text

  • While online sources are often utilized in provision of virtual reference, use of electronic sources in seeking answers is not of itself virtual reference. 

  • The target population for virtual reference encompasses the entirety of the Texas Wesleyan community, with a focus on students.   

  • Staff will monitor the virtual chat (LibAnswers) during normal operating hours of the Reference desk.  Staff operate the virtual chat in rotating shifts as assigned by the Head of Reference.  

  • All phone calls and virtual chat are expected to be answered by staff ASAP.  If chat or phone calls occur during closed hours, they will be answered within the next 24 hours.  All email requests should be attended to ASAP, though staff have 24 hours in which to reply.   

  • We will treat users’ and colleagues’ online communication, including stored transcripts or records, as private and confidential except as required by law. 

  • Part of LibAnswers allows for the use of co-op services within the LibApps participant universities.  Staff are allowed, but not required, to participate in the co-op chat during their coverage of the desk.  However, priority must be given to Wesleyan users.  

(see Cooperative Reference Services Policies document) 

  1. Access to Resources 

The reference department facilitates access to digital and print library collections and  content to support the instructional needs of the University.  Users with a current  RamID and password may log-on to use the Library Catalog, electronic databases, the  Internet, or Office365 programs on the library computers.  

A public computer near the reference desk with access only to the Library Catalog and  electronic databases is available to anyone.  

Referral and cooperative reference:  As members of the TexShare and Amigos consortia,  Texas Wesleyan community members may be referred to other libraries and/or services  for resources. 

  1. Reference Services do not include  

  • Interpretation of Material   
    Reference staff do not interpret information, such as legal, medical, financial, tax information or statistical information or class assignments. Anything which requires your interpretation can lead to misunderstanding (e.g., medical, legal, veterinary, and citation help questions). An exception may be made for helping with routine questions involving etiquette, grammar, forms of address, etc. provided you are certain you fully understand the principles involved. In this case, you should be able to locate an example in an online almanac, citation help guide, or similar resource. 
  • Personal Opinions:
    As a general rule, it is not appropriate for librarians to give personal opinions or answer personal questions in a reference setting. Professional opinions, based on training and experience, of course, are appropriate, and should be cited as such.
  • Proofreading/Editing Written material.
    It is not appropriate for librarians to proofread, edit, or otherwise provide feedback on a research paper or other assignment. To find these services, please contact the Academic Success Center at 817-531-4219 or
  • Editing/Creating Citations
    .  Although librarians should not edit or create citations for students, they still can do the following: 

    • Verify the style format (MLA, APA, Chicago, AMA, etc.).  

    • Assist in determining the type of source the patron is trying to cite.  

    • Provide the most appropriate citation style guide, lead the student to the relevant section, and copy/paste the relevant example, if appropriate.  

    • Make a referral if the student needs more detailed guidance (i.e., to the instructor, or to the Academic Success Center tutors,). 

  • See also 24/7 Reference Cooperative Policies & Procedures. Section 3.5 for services that chat reference does not include.