Message from the Chair

MARS: Update from the Emerging Technologies in Reference Section

Cathy Larson, Editor
Join the discussion at



We are fast approaching the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Seattle from January 25-29, 2013. For winter of 2013, MARS will again use a modified system of meeting. Most committees, other than the Executive Committee, will not meet in person during Midwinter. Committees are meeting virtually prior to Midwinter, and submitting a report of committee activities to the Executive Committee by email. The Executive Committee will meet in person during Midwinter and will refer to committee reports to conduct business. The Planning Committee, and members of those groups hosting discussion forums will be present as well. Last year was the first time we tried this approach, and with the challenges many of our members face in finding funding for two conferences per year, we are continuing this approach this year.

Please let us know how you feel about this change. I will note from my perspective that we don’t seem to be able to get as many committee volunteers with the new format. Committee appointments, which typically begin July 1 of each year, are generally made between the Midwinter and Annual meetings and without interested volunteers attending our Midwinter committee meetings, it has been more of a challenge to identify those interested in working with our committees. I welcome your thoughts on ways we can increase our ability to identify willing and interested volunteers.

For those who are able to attend in person, the scheduler is up! Please visit to see all the activities along with their times, locations and descriptions.

The RUSA Membership Social will be held on Saturday, January 26 from 6:00-8:00 PM at the Grand Hyatt Seattle. This event allows RUSA members and prospective members to meet and mingle while learning more about RUSA. I encourage you to attend if you are able to do so. The social is a highlight for RUSA during the Midwinter Meeting and it is a great place to encourage others to join us in MARS and to volunteer to serve on committees.

The Professional Development Committee of MARS in collaboration with the RSS Education and Professional Development for Reference Committee will host a free preconference workshop at the University of Washington’s Odegaard Library Friday, January 25, 2013, 1:00-5:00 PM. New Tech for Reference: From the Reference Interview to Roving Reference, Challenges, Benefits and Best Practice will have presentations on using social media for reference interactions, Springshare’s LibAnswers, and models for roving reference services. For more information about the workshop and transportation to the University of Washington, see the full description at or contact Stephanie Alexander (

MARS will also be hosting some very interesting discussion forums during Midwinter. Please show your support if you are attending the Conference.

We have a new committee this year: the User Experience Design Committee. This group will host a discussion on Sunday, January 27 from 4:30-5:30 PM, in the Washington State Convention Center Room 203, titled “Putting U in UX Design.” See the committee update for more details on this discussion.

The Virtual Reference Discussion Group will host a discussion forum on Saturday, January 26 from 4:30-5:30 PM in the Washington State Convention Center, Room 619, focusing on how transitioning from Meebo presented challenges and opportunities to retool virtual reference services.

The Hot Topics Discussion Group will host a discussion forum on Saturday, January 26, from 1:00-2:30 PM in the Washington State Convention Center, Room 213.

Please note that ALA has a new meeting policy this year. As a result, you will note that two of our discussion forums are shorter – only 60 minutes instead of the usual 90. This new meeting policy is ALA’s response to feedback from members who requested shorter meeting times. See for more details on the change discussion.

Highlighting some of the work going on between conferences:

The Nominating Committee has been hard at work over the fall and they have prepared a slate for the upcoming elections. Watch your emails in March for the new ballot. And be sure to make your vote count!

The Planning Committee is working on two important projects. The group is undertaking a review and update of the MARS Manual. This is a classic work, full of valuable information, and we’re excited that the committee has agreed to begin making it an even better resource for us all. We are also preparing for Section Review, led by the Planning Committee in conjunction with the members at large. This is a regular event, whereby each of the Sections in RUSA review their activities, structures and plans for the future. The review helps us to formally document where we’ve been, evaluate what changes may be needed, how we relate to other sections and divisions within ALA, to create a roadmap for continual improvement in the section, and to provide information back to our parent division—RUSA.

The Local Systems and Services Committee is working on a virtual program we hope will be delivered early in the year—watch your email and our website for more details.

Lastly, don’t forget to nominate someone for the MARS Achievement Recognition Award this year! See the Call for Nominations for information on award criteria and deadlines for nominations.

Debbie Bezanson
Chair, Emerging Technologies in Reference Section (MARS) 2012-2013