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Reference Services

A guide that describes Pfeiffer Library's reference services policy.

Reference Services Policies

Pfeiffer Library's reference services aim to serve all students, faculty, and staff of Tiffin University by empowering our campus community to navigate the library's resources. These services uphold Tiffin University's mission and guiding principles so that patrons can confidently conduct independent research. Reference questions and inquiries are processed within 24-48 hours and are typically delivered in the format in which the library is contacted. This applies to reference inquiries via email, chat, or over the phone. If a reference question is sent during an observed holiday or during an unexpected closure, the response time may be longer than 24-48 hours.

In compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Pfeiffer Library keeps all personal information received via reference services confidential in accordance with university policies. Private information, when communicated electronically, will typically route to the user's university email rather than to a personal email address, even if the contact originated from a personal email address. Pfeiffer Library's reference services also follow the expectations outlined by the Reference and Users Services Association (RUSA) as well as the American Library Association's Bill of Rights.


While we aim to provide the best services to our patrons, there are some limitations to what we can provide:

  • Professional librarians are typically on campus from 9:00AM to 5:00PM. However, due to the nature of our building operations, professional librarians may not always be in the building during these hours. This may be due to professional staff obligations, including class visits, faculty meetings, and consortium events. Student workers can answer simple reference and circulation questions but may need to refer you to the librarian inbox for those questions they cannot answer.
  • Librarian availability may differ from the library's hours of operation to accommodate students' needs. We try to offer evening appointments, conducted remotely online, throughout the week. Appointments can be scheduled here.
  • Pfeiffer Library will utilize all available outlets to accommodate a patron's request for materials. This includes borrowing materials through OhioLINK and Interlibrary Loan per our circulation policies. If a resource is not available, the library will offer alternatives to fulfill the patron's request. Please keep in mind that there are limitations for print borrowing for patrons located outside of Ohio.
  • Reference services are designed to help patrons help themselves in finding the information that they need. For that reason, librarians do not proofread/edit papers, provide assignment assistance where research is not required, interpret an instructor's course materials, provide academic consulting (tutoring), or interpret any legal, financial, and/or medical documents. We can lead you to resources, where available, to assist you with these things. One of the best resources available for writing and academic consulting is University Academic Support. You can read more about their services on the UAS website.
  • Some reference questions may be answered by directing a patron to information on outside websites.  Pfeiffer Library is not responsible for content that is located outside of the library's network.  It is the patron's responsibility to evaluate information that they retrieve from any outside sources.
  • Reference questions are handled on a first-come, first-served basis.  In the event of a phone inquiry that may take extensive staff time, librarians may wish to schedule a meeting with the patron (virtually, over the phone, or in person) at a more appropriate time. This will give library staff the proper time to fully address the inquiry.
  • Some reference questions take longer than others to process, especially if they are related to research. Time-sensitive questions should be sent far enough in advance of the assignment deadline to allow adequate time for the library to respond.
  • All library staff may refrain from answering reference questions if they violate the university's guiding principles or compromise the integrity of the library.

Expectations of the Patron

Pfeiffer Library asks that Tiffin University students, faculty, and staff follow these expectations while using our reference services:

  • Communicate with library staff punctually and professionally. This includes checking your Tiffin University email for any updates regarding your inquiry.
  • Expect to use your university-assigned email for most correspondence, even if you originally contact us from a personal email address. This keeps private information confidential and within the campus network.
  • Phrase your question or inquiry as clearly and specifically as possible. Please include all information that will help us best answer your question. Screenshots for troubleshooting issues are always appreciated and help us to serve you better and faster.
  • Voicemail messages should include your name and contact phone number. This allows a librarian to follow up with your request.
  • If your question is time-sensitive, please contact us with enough time before the assignment, project, or paper is due.  Depending on the question, some reference inquiries take longer to answer than others.
  • Please arrive early or on time for any scheduled appointments with library staff.  This includes in-person and virtual appointments.  Librarians may allow up to 10 minutes past the appointment time to account for traffic or technical difficulties, but that is not always the case. Beyond 10 minutes, the appointment will be canceled and you will be asked to reschedule

The above guidelines are subject to review and change. When this occurs, they will be publicly updated on this page and take effect immediately upon publication.

Expectations of the Librarian

As a library patron, you can expect the following from professional librarians:

  • References services are completely free of charge for our users. Where the acquisition of a specific resource, such as through InterLibrary Loan request, is necessary to support the information and where there is an associated fee for that material, whether it be for a printed copy or shipping costs, this information will always be disclosed to the user and, where applicable, alternative materials may be located to substitute for the item for which there is a charge.
  • Reference questions are typically answered within 24-48 hours during the standard Monday thru Friday work week 9AM-5PM. In the event of a federal holiday, weekend, or university closure, the response time may be longer.
  • All patrons who contact the library via email will receive a message acknowledging receipt of their email even if it takes longer to fully answer the questions posed in the original message. This is an automated response set in the library's inbox, but provides some extra assurance that your message has been received and is in the queue.
  • A librarian may follow up on a reference question several times if it is complex in nature and/or requires time to answer completely. This may include posing additional research questions, checking on requested materials and, were applicable, electronically delivering item requests.
  • Reference questions that are asked during live webinar sessions may be answered during the live session and therefore become a part of the recording of the session. If a question is more detailed in nature, the librarian may follow up with further explanation via your university email account after the conclusion of the session.