RSS Committee Reports

Discussion Forums Coordinating Committee
The Discussion Forums Coordinating Committee sponsored two excellent Forums at Midwinter. “Just Ask: Defining and Advocating for the Reference Librarian,” facilitated by Elizabeth Stephan from Western Washington University, had a total of forty-five attendees from public, academic, and other types of libraries. Lively small group discussions focused on the new or changing role of reference librarians, how it may differ by type of library, and the kind of support needed to make the public aware of the changing role.

Our second Forum, “Unhappy Campers: Coping with Job Dissatisfaction and Burnout on the Front Lines,” facilitated by Virginia Cairns from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, had 48 attendees from many different types of libraries. Discussions took place in small groups, with many great ideas and suggestions reported back to the entire group. Topics included how to approach management for help with burnout, strategies for preventing and alleviating burnout in your peers or subordinates, and ideas for how we as individuals can cope with burnout in our own lives and careers.

The Discussion Forums Coordinating Committee did not meet at ALA Midwinter 2013. The committee’s meeting for Midwinter was conducted via email in October when the winning forum proposals for the meeting were chosen.

Crystal Lentz, Chair 2012-2013

Education and Professional Development for Reference
The RSS Education and Professional Development for Reference Committee (EDPRC), in collaboration with the MARS Professional Development Committee, hosted a free workshop “New Tech for Reference: From the Reference Interview to Roving Reference, Challenges, Benefits and Best Practice” at ALA Midwinter 2013. The workshop was a resounding success with over seventy-five people in attendance. Ninety-five percent of attendees thought they would implement some of the ideas presented at their library. The workshop consisted of three sessions which highlighted using social media to answer reference questions, an iPad roving reference program, and how LibAnswers were implemented as a knowledge base. All presentation materials are available on the ALA Connect. The planning group looks forward to offering a free workshop opportunity at an upcoming ALA conference, and is busy documenting lessons learned so we can improve for the next workshop.

In addition, EDPRC is in discussion with RUSA CODES, who coordinated the Reference Publishing Discussion Forum, “Are Users Finding Our Online Reference Resources,” at Midwinter to see if we could do a follow-up via webinar. Lastly, the group is still developing a process to review library school syllabi for reference themes; this is our spring project.

Kristen Mastel & Joseph Yue, Co-Chairs 2012-2013

Evaluation of Reference and User Services Committee
The Evaluation of Reference and User Services met virtually on January 30 and discussed two upcoming goals. The first is to determine, by survey, what reference models are currently in place (triage, combined desk, roving, etc.) in libraries and how libraries arrived at those models and also how libraries are assessing those models. The second is the formation of an ad hoc committee with the Virtual Reference Services committee to take a snapshot of the current state of virtual reference, get a baseline of services being offered, and ideas for those who haven’t implemented it yet. Much work to do between now and Annual!

Ellen Keith, Chair, 2011-2013

Health and Medical Reference Committee
The Health and Medical Reference Committee (HMRC) has chosen four speakers for the 2013 ALA Annual program, Different Strokes: Serving the Health Information Needs of a Diverse Community. In addition, the HMRC has had a webinar proposal approved by RUSA on the topic of best medical resources. However, as the committee would really like to have a series of free programs on this topic, the HMRC is considering the possibility of doing a quarterly online discussion series which could be free to anyone. The HMRC has also met monthly to work on new guidelines for health and medical reference.

Karen Vargas, Chair 2012-2014

Job and Career Reference Committee
The Job & Career Reference Committee had a lively gathering of ALA members discussing job & career reference at our respective institutions (public, academic, & career colleges) in Seattle. For more information or to get involved with our online wiki efforts, contact the committee chair Kate Oberg:

Kate Oberg, Chair 2012-2013

Library Service to an Aging Population
RUSA RSS Library Services to an Aging Population met on Thursday, January 31st. The committee is considering a change to its charge, with a focus on positive language and broadening the scope to recognize that “Aging Population” encompasses a diverse group with a wide variety of interests and needs.

The committee will be making minor changes to the Guidelines for Library and Information Services to Older Adults, last revised in 2008, and suggesting additional resources for Keys to Engaging Older Adults @ Your Library. The committee hopes to provide input on the Access to Information Wiki under construction by the RUSA Access to Information Committee.

The committee recently lost two members, so is currently seeking new members to join. Please contact Abigail Elder ( if you would like to join us!

Abigail Elder, Chair 2012-2013

Library Services to the Spanish Speaking
Lucia Castillo, of the Vancouver Public Library, provided a very informative and interactive lively session on the program used in Canada to assist young families with social skills and engaging with the Spanish speaking community. Vancouver is thriving with a variety of culture and languages. Less than three percent are Spanish speaking and they all attend the Mother Goose program despite the distance they may need to travel.

A collection of YouTube videos from the session are linked below:

The Services to Spanish Speaking had some discussion in advance of the presentation on Mother Goose about the next step toward revising the Guidelines for Services to the Spanish Speaking. The committee is seeking volunteers for next year.

Stephen Marvin, Chair 2012-2013

Management of Reference Committee
The Committee met virtually on January 30th and discussed a request by an original member of the RUSA Task Force that wrote the Professional Competencies for Reference and User Services Librarians ( to ask that they be reinstated. Discussion revealed that perhaps the Committee previously had acted in haste and the matter will be brought before the RSS Board at its February 7 meeting.

This Committee is also working with the Services to an Aging Population Committee in sponsoring a discussion session at the Annual Conference in Chicago. The session is about “The Little r in Reference .”

Session summary: There is plenty of talk about the new work of “little r” reference, but little detail on how that translates into the daily work of public library reference staff. This program delves into the who/what/where/how of contemporary reference work.


  • Todd Dunkelberg, Director, Deschutes Public Library (Bend, Oregon)
  • Stephanie Chase, Director of Library Programs and Services, The Seattle Public Library
  • Sue Banks, Deputy Director, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

We discussed a request by Sarah Hammill on whether our Committee wanted to work on updating the Competencies for Cooperative Services. With our work on re-evaluating the fate of the Professional Competencies for Reference and User Services Librarians, we have enough on our plate.

Sally Dockter, Chair 2012-2013

Marketing and Public Relations for Reference
RSS Marketing and PR committee met in person at ALA Midwinter on January 26. (Meeting notes are posted on ALA Connect).

During this meeting, we brainstormed the details of the upcoming webinar/discussion event for ALA Annual, “Slam the Boards.” The webinar will be during the week of May 20-24 and presenter Bill Pardue will introduce us to the volunteer program “Slam the Boards,” how it came to be, its mission, how it works, and measuring success. He will also set us up to participate on June 10 so that by ALA Annual, we’ll be ready to take this discussion to a deeper level.

Our discussion of “Slam the Boards” is on June 26. Bill will recap the webinar and our experiences. We’ll then move into how to develop ways like “Slam the Boards,” helping customers where they are with professionalism and friendliness. Our hope is that participants will walk away with specific ideas and plans about extending current or creating new online question-answering, social media, and virtual reference services that they can bring back to their libraries for immediate consideration.

Marketing and PR for libraries is also a major consideration for every aspect of library work. We discussed the newly-reformed “Ask” campaign and other ways libraries can advocate their relevance to their communities.

Current programs such as Ask, Turning the Page, the Geek Campaign and more offer libraries opportunities for marketing and promotion. The RSS Marketing and PR committee is considering the development of a workshop for ALA Annual 2014 to showcase what is available.

Cathay Crosby, Chair 2011-2013

Organization and Planning Committee
The committee met online in January 2013. We reviewed RSS Bylaws and Handbook and thought we might be able to move forward updating both documents. However, upon further review, we discovered some issues/inconsistencies between the documents that require further discussion. We will be holding a joint O&P/Executive meeting in February or March to work out these issues once and for all. Then we will move forward with updating. Our goal is to have a very easy-to-use Chair Orientation Handbook; updated, clear bylaws; and a Handbook for Officers, if needed, which explains duties of each position and other details.

Liane Taylor, Chair 2012-2013

Recognition Committee
Are you eligible for the Honor Roll?

When you hear Honor Roll do you have flashbacks to high school? Maybe you have happy memories of the honor roll or maybe you think could of, would of, should of…

Regardless of your experience in high school, you may be eligible for the RSS Honor Roll.

The RSS has an Honor Roll that gives recognition to active RSS members who have served the section in three different capacities since its inception.

If you have been a member of three or more committees or discussion groups since RSS was established in 2004 and have not previously been added to the honor roll, please send your name and a list of the three ways you have served RSS to Susan Ware at or Virginia Cole

Not only will you become a member of this esteemed group, you will also be recognized at ALA Annual in Chicago!

If you want to find out which honored colleagues you will be joining, see the list of RSS Honor Roll Members.

Virginia Cole, Chair 2012-2013

Research and Statistics Committee
In January, the RSS Research and Statistics Committee selected three presenters for the 19th Annual Reference Research Forum; the program will include the following:

  • Research Guides Usability Study, by Angela Pashia, Instructional Services Outreach Librarian, University of West Georgia and Andrew Walsh, Information Literacy Fellow, University of West Georgia
  • Two Birds, One Stone: Using a Mixed Methods Approach to Measure Service Process and Identify Usability Pain Points in Virtual Reference, by Christine Tobias, User Experience and Reference Librarian, Michigan State University Libraries
  • Query Clarification in Chat Reference: A Visual Transcript Analysis, by Alexa Pearce, Librarian for Journalism, Media, Culture & Communication, New York University Libraries

Lynda Duke, Chair 2012-2013

Virtual Reference Services (MARS/RSS)
The RSS/MARS Virtual Reference Services Committee has a new MARS Co-chair, Alisa Gonzalez, Social Sciences Librarian and Reference Coordinator at New Mexico State University Library.

The committee will be partnering with the RSS Marketing and Public Relations Committee on a webinar in late-May and related discussion forum for ALA Annual. The topic will be active advocacy and promotion of virtual reference services, and the speaker will be Bill Pardue (of “Slam the Boards!” fame).

Investigation of hosting a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at ALA Annual is also in the works. After an informal meeting in the Networking Uncommons at Midwinter, the event has taken on some new and exciting possibilities. These will be being discussed within the committee and with attendees at the Midwinter get-together.

The committee is also in the beginning stages of partnering with the RSS Evaluation of Reference and User Services Committee (ERUS) on a survey to ascertain the current state of virtual reference. Don Boozer (RSS Co-chair) attended a meeting of ERUS in January, and plans are moving ahead on forming an ad hoc team to construct and administer the survey.

More details on each of these initiatives will be forthcoming, so stay tuned to the committee’s ALA Connect space.

Don Boozer, Chair 2012-2013

Virtual Reference Tutorial Subcommittee
The subcommittee continues to meet monthly and works in subgroups between meetings. Our virtual Midwinter meeting took place on February 5. We are finishing up the Training, Interview Skills, and Core Competencies modules and will work on additional modules as we look forward to ALA Annual.

Jared Hoppenfeld, Chair 2012-2013
Jennifer Lau-Bond, Chair 2011-2013

Young Adult Reference Services

We hope to schedule our midyear committee meeting imminently, to discuss the guideline mandate of the committee and directions we are going including perhaps issues such as:

  1. Optimal handling of the “class bomb” and other youth-related quirks in VR
  2. Balancing cooperating with existing media specialist staff/compensating for losses in Media Center staffing and collection budgets while still reinforcing the necessity of each
  3. Publics’ Balancing Act: working with faculty while not impinging on the role of the Media Specialist
  4. Outreach cooperation with Just Ask
  5. Possible cooperation with BRASS/RSS Jobseeker Committee on teen financial fitness/jobs/entrepreneurship

We are also progressing through RSS leadership on the move to becoming a joint YALSA committee.

The committee sponsored a discussion forum at Midwinter entitled “Reference Services to Young Adults: Why Common Core Standards Matter.” Adopted by forty-five of the fifty states and several territories, the Common Core State Standards are impacting the way that students are being taught and information literacy is being judged. The ripple effect from that hits libraries and library services immediately in ways we are trying to evaluate.

The discussion forum, led by Amanda Ellington, Rose Luna, and Margaux DelGuidice, drew an interested crowd of 78 librarians from all types of libraries, from school to public to academic to state libraries. The session received coverage in Publishers Weekly. Meanwhile, the session has a useful wiki.

We hope to see what topics might be useful to those serving young adults for a discussion forum at Annual.

Nicolette Warisse Sosulski, Chair 2012-2013

RSS Review is the newsletter of the Reference Services Section of Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of the American Library Association. Please send suggestions for future issues to Amy Rustic (, editor.