From the Chair

The Emerging Technologies in Reference Section, aka MARS, had a series of productive meetings at the Midwinter conference in San Diego, and we are looking forward to a number of exciting new initiatives.

We held four well-attended discussion forums at the conference. The Hot Topics discussion group sponsored a forum on QR codes and augmented reality. The Local Systems & Services committee continued their series of discussion forums on discovery services, focusing this time on how discovery layers are changing library websites. The Management of Electronic Resources and Services and Public Libraries committees co-sponsored an open discussion on the assessment and evaluation of virtual reference, and the Virtual Reference Discussion Group hosted a discussion on the latest in virtual reference.

Several new projects are also in the works. The Products & Services Committee is working on a new initiative to provide timely reviews of the latest products and technologies available for reference and user services. These reviews would be published on a new MARS blog being developed by our Publications Committee. The Education, Training and Support committee is planning a webinar on screencasting based on their successful program at ALA Annual 2010, while our Professional Development committee is working on guidelines for future MARS webinar offerings.

Programming for the 2011 Annual Conference in New Orleans is underway. We are working with the Reference Services Section to plan a preconference on reference/IT collaborations. MARS will also offer an exciting program on the relevant topic of User Experience Design; see details of both of these events below. The MARS/RSS Virtual Reference Committee will sponsor a program on the human side of virtual reference, and we’ll sponsor our usual Hot Topics discussion group and Virtual Reference Discussion Group on Saturday. The MARS Happy Hour will move to Saturday night and, thanks to a generous sponsor, will include some tasty food at a famous local venue, as well as the usual cash bar. Watch for more details of these events as the conference approaches.

In another important initiative, we are currently reassessing our presence at Midwinter. Given that many committees now do their work virtually, and that many MARS members can no longer afford to travel to conference, we are considering whether in-person Midwinter meetings are necessary. In the near future, a survey about Midwinter will go out to MARS members. The survey will be of special interest to MARS committee members and to anyone who has considered or is considering volunteering for a MARS committee, but all are welcome to respond. Among other things, we would like to know the value our members place on in-person meetings, how many of our members are able to travel to conference, and how many have the technology available to participate in virtual meetings. The announcement of the survey will go out to MARS-L and everyone is invited to respond.

If you are interested in getting more involved with MARS—either in person or virtually—we would love to have your participation! MARS members are encouraged to volunteer for committees. Volunteering is easy; just go to the form on the RUSA web site. Opportunities to volunteer for MARS Committees appear at the end of the form. Dianna McKellar, the MARS Vice-Chair, will be appointing MARS committees for next year soon after the Midwinter meeting. If you have any questions about committees, fell free to contact me or Dianna (

Anne Houston, MARS Chair