Message from the MARS Chair

Messages from MARS: Emerging Technologies in Reference Section
Missy Clapp, Editor


We are looking forward to a wonderful year with MARS, the Emerging Technologies in Reference Section of RUSA! Change seems to be the only constant in reference these days, and MARS is no exception to the rule. As our environment changes, MARS is changing to meet the needs of its members. Before we look at what is ahead, let’s take a moment to reflect on the Annual Conference.

MARS and RSS hosted a very successful preconference, “Strange Bedfellows: IT and Reference Collaborations to Enhance User Experiences.” Guest speakers shared personal experiences to illustrate successful collaborations and overcome obstacles. This was an excellent preconference! Congratulations to all who participated in the planning! Special thanks go to Donna Scanlon and Carolyn Sheffield, the MARS and RSS Co-Chairs of the Preconference Planning Committee.

The MARS Chair’s Program, “It’s All About Them: Developing Information Services with User Experience Design,” was standing room only with 164 in attendance and more than 100 additional people who wanted to attend! Comments were very positive and included requests for a follow-up webinar. Thanks to the efforts of Courtney Greene, chair of the Program Planning Committee, Anne Houston, MARS Chair, the members of the Program Planning Committee, and the panelists—the program was a huge success!

Hot Topics and the Virtual Reference Discussion Group (VRDG) both held very interesting discussions. Hot Topics hosted a discussion forum, “How are We Measuring up? Using New Technology to Schedule, Standardize, and Assess Reference Services.” More than fifty people attended this lively and informative discussion forum. Special thanks to Matt Torrence who chaired the Hot Topics Committee! The Virtual Reference Discussion Group hosted a discussion forum, “Mobile Goes Both Ways: Using the iPad for Virtual Reference.” The session was well attended and very interesting. Many thanks to Amanda Powers who chaired the VRDG committee!

The RSS/MARS Virtual Reference Services Committee also sponsored an impressive program, “Behind the Text: Pulling Back the Curtain on Virtual Reference.” Thanks to the leadership of Ellen Filgo and Donald Boozer, co-chairs of the committee.

The MARS Happy Hour was another highlight of the conference. This year’s gathering was held at Mulate’s Restaurant. It was a wonderful way to conclude the day—great food, and great company! Congratulations and much gratitude to Arlie Sims for chairing the Outreach Committee that planned the MARS Happy Hour.

Each year, we recognize one member of MARS for his/her outstanding efforts and contributions to the section. I would like to acknowledge Linda Keiter for receiving the MARS Achievement Recognition Certificate, otherwise known as the “My Favorite Martian Award!” Linda was recognized at both the MARS Chair’s Program and the RUSA Awards Reception. Congratulations Linda!

Now let’s look ahead at a few upcoming changes for MARS. Two task forces were formed just after the Midwinter Meeting. One task force examined the feasibility of continuing the MARS/RSS preconference in the current economic climate. The other task force examined the presence of MARS during the Midwinter Meeting. The work of the Preconference Task Force resulted in the change of a six-year tradition: MARS and RSS will not continue the practice of hosting the Reinvented Reference Preconference in the immediate future. Instead, MARS and RSS will work together to produce workshops—based largely on the model set by STARS. All of the logistics have not been determined, but more will come in the months ahead.

The second task force examined whether MARS should continue to meet in person during the Midwinter Meeting, or if it would be better to meet virtually during Midwinter.  A survey was drafted and distributed to MARS members and those who are interested in MARS.  The survey revealed that most participants see the advantages of meeting in person while acknowledging that it is becoming harder for members to afford traveling to two conferences each year.  Based on this information, MARS will pilot a new model for Midwinter 2012.  There will be no MARS All-Committee meeting during the 2012 Midwinter Conference.  Only the elected members of the Executive Committee will be asked to attend the conference and attend the ExComm meetings.  Committee Chairs do not need to attend the Executive Committee meetings at Midwinter unless they would like to do so.  Of course, if a committee is hosting a discussion forum during Midwinter, enough committee members to run the discussion forum will need to be present.  If your committee would like to meet for planning purposes, please contact me ahead of time, and a room will be reserved for your meeting.  All committees will be asked to submit a report concerning the committee’s activities prior to Midwinter.  The Executive Committee will use the reports as the basis for ExComm discussions during Midwinter.

More details concerning Midwinter will be sent at a later date. The thing to remember at the moment is that you should not book your travel plans for Midwinter until you speak with your committee Chair and find out if your MARS committee is meeting during Midwinter. This is particularly important for those who attend Midwinter primarily for MARS committee meetings.

If you are interested in joining MARS or learning more about the Emerging Technologies in Reference Section, please contact us. We welcome all members, those who can meet in person as well as virtual members. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at

In conclusion, I would like to thank Anne Houston and Carolyn Larson, past chair, and past-past chair of MARS, respectively, for all of their help during my year as vice-chair. Your guidance was appreciated. I’d also like to thank all of the members of MARS for working together and continually striving to create venues that allow experiences and information concerning emerging technologies in reference to be shared.

Warm Regards,

Dianna McKellar
MARS Chair, 2011-2012