Skip to Main Content

Library Policies

Reference Services Policy

The Reference Services Policy is intended to provide Sheridan library users with clarification regarding the goals and delivery of reference/research services.

This policy was developed in consultation with the ACRL Standards for Libraries in Higher Education and as such, provides Library staff with a resource to encourage a high quality standard of service.

To ensure currency, accuracy and thoroughness, this document will be reviewed on a biannual basis by the Library Administration. If immediate changes are required, they will be made throughout the year and shared with staff to ensure seamless service.

Goals of Reference Services

To assist users in learning to effectively retrieve, evaluate, manage and document information. To encourage users to consider a wider breadth of resources when doing research to best serve their information needs. Through the reference interview, staff will assist users in recognizing information gaps, constructing search strategies, evaluating and retrieving information so that users can adequately organize and apply information in the creation of new knowledge as in accordance with the Essential Employability Skills developed by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

To provide service at point of need in both our physical and virtual environments. Research services are available via telephone, email, chat as well as in high traffic areas of each Library. Additionally, access is available through the Learning Management System (SLATE), and Sheridan Central. Where more in-depth subject specific expertise is required, consultations with liaison librarians are available. Appointments are taken according to the schedule and at the discretion of the liaison librarians.

To employ a user-centred approach to service design and delivery. To achieve this, the library will perform assessment in the form of qualitative and quantitative information gathering in order to better understand users’ information-seeking behaviours and service expectations and anticipate information needs. Services are regularly evaluated so that they also align with Sheridan’s goals.

To provide timely responses and equal effort to all research queries regardless if the query is received in person, by phone, chat or email. Time given to each query will be determined by demands on resources (staff and collections) and the staff member’s perception of the user’s needs.

To support library users with dedicated staff committed to excellence in customer service and committed to providing accurate and complete responses wherever possible, and directing to the correct College resources when needed. Staff responsible for the services shall be competent in using information sources, retrieval techniques, telecommunication methods, and interpersonal communications skills.

To provide tools such as research guides which offer multiple points of entry to information and are tailored to program requirements.

To serve and reflect the diversity of the College in its services. As such, each query is considered to be of equal merit regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, disability or sexual preference of the user. Sheridan Libraries adhere to the Canadian Library Association Statement on Intellectual Freedom.

To design physical and virtual service points to help users retrieve required information, including persons with disabilities. The Library works in cooperation with Sheridan Accessible Learning Services.

To maintain user confidentiality. Queries will not be shared with other users or staff beyond that necessary to the effective administration of library services or if required by law.

To monitor and employ emerging technologies with potential to improve services.

To actively market the range of research services available to the Sheridan community which will include general orientation to library services through tours and workshops.

Reference Services via Chat, Email and Phone

Sheridan Library offers 'Chat with Us' a library chat service. The chat service is available on the Library’s website homepage and is intended for students, staff and faculty currently registered with Sheridan College. Staff will respond to any research question relevant to Sheridan curriculum or Library policy and procedures during Library service hours.

In most instances, chat sessions will last up to 15 minutes maximum in duration. After this time, queries that prove too complex will be continued via email, phone call, web conferencing software (WebEx, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom) or the user will be encouraged to visit the nearest campus library reference desk in person (when available).

Like in-person and chat research questions, telephone and email research assistance is intended for students, staff and faculty currently registered with Sheridan College. Staff will respond to any reserach question relevant to Sheridan curriculum or Library policy and procedures. Staff will also provide referral to other Sheridan departments as necessary.

Telephone and email queries will receive response within 48 hours of receipt during library hours when users provide clear contact information. On occasion, queries received on weekends will receive response on the following weekday when subject specialists and administrators are more readily available.

Limitations on Reference Services

Reference services are intended for use by current students, staff and faculty as well as Sheridan alumni. Students in joint programs with Sheridan and Direct Borrowers will be encouraged to use the research services of their home institution. Members of the public will be referred to the public library system.

Reference Services staff do not provide the following services:

  • Research for non-academic purposes. Such searches may be referred to the public library system;
  • Proofreading. Students will be referred to the Tutoring Centre where English tutors will review compositions for structure and grammar and offer feedback on style and content;
  • Creation of bibliographies. Staff will guide users to the tools necessary to create and compile citations;
  • Interpretation of class assignments;
  • Interpretation of material such as legal, financial, statistical and medical information;
  • Recommendations on course or instructor selection;
  • Recommendations for the personal purchase of resources such as textbooks; and
  • Intermediate or Advanced technical support such as assistance with computer devices and software. When Library staff cannot assist, users will be referred to Sheridan’s ITSC service areas.

We reserve the right to refuse to answer questions we find inappropriate including intrusive personal questions.

All Sheridan students are expected to adhere to the Sheridan Student Code of Conduct.

Questions Regarding Reference Services

Any comments regarding concerns or suggestions regarding services are encouraged.

Please leave comments with Library staff or the Manager, Integrated Library Services ( & Manager, User Library Services ( You will receive a reply if clear contact information is provided.