RSS Committee Reports

Catalog Use Committee
A new committee name and updated charge will be proposed at the next RSS Board meeting. The Catalog Use Committee will continue to update a bibliography of materials on the current and future state of the library catalog available at

Colleen Seale, Chair 2013-2014 

Discussion Forums Coordinating Committee
The Discussion Forums Coordinating Committee sponsored two exciting Forums at Annual. “Keeping it Real in a Virtual World: Managing and Promoting Your Online Reference Collection,” was facilitated by Sara Memmott from Eastern Michigan University, and April Levy from Columbia College Chicago. The eleven attendees were from a variety of types of libraries, including academic, community college, and public libraries, plus there was one non-librarian in attendance. Discussions took place in small groups, with ideas reported back to the entire group. Suggestions included: correlating recommended reference sources with events in the news, for more information, via Twitter and Facebook; featuring a “highlighted” reference resource or tool on the library’s home page; QR codes in the stacks to connect users with online resources that relate to those in print (or those recently removed and sent to storage); building on the QR codes idea, having librarians assisting users model the behavior we want to encourage by taking a smartphone or iPad/similar device to the stacks and using it to connect to and demonstrate an online resource; and using infographics to share/summarize information for users (resources available, cost of subscriptions, etc.).

Our second Forum, “Technology Competencies for Reference Librarians,” facilitated by Tina Chan from the State University of New York at Oswego, had a total of twenty-one attendees from academic, public, school, and other libraries. The very lively discussion touched on topics including what to look for in interviewees, how changing technology affects staff, what should go into a staff manual, and whether resistance to change is age-related.

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

Crystal Lentz, Chair 2013-2014

Education and Professional Development for Reference
The RSS Education and Professional Development for Reference Committee is co-sponsoring a webinar on promoting reference products. The webinar is organized by the Reference Publishing Advisory Committee of the Collection Development and Evaluation Section in RUSA. The webinar will be held before the end of the year; look out for further announcement on this online event and other professional development opportunities related to reference service. The committee will commence our data gathering phase on assessing the state of reference education in the next few months. We are in the process of finalizing the various facets of this topic we want to explore in this initial phase of the project.

Joseph Yue, Chair 2013-2014 

Evaluation of Reference and User Services Committee
Evaluation of Reference and User Services Committee (ERUS) has partnered with Virtual Reference Services Committee to form an ad hoc team to survey the current state of virtual reference. The questions have been drafted and the goal is to have the survey out by the end of this summer. ERUS is currently working on a survey looking at reference service models and evaluation of service. The committee is reviewing a first draft of questions that came out of discussions from Midwinter and Annual 2013. The goal is to have this survey ready to send out to listservs by the end of this year.

Jason Kruse, Chair, 2013-2014

Health and Medical Reference Committee
Approximately sixty people attended the ALA Annual Conference program, “Different Strokes: Serving the Health Information Needs of a Diverse Community” held on Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 1:00 PM. The committee met at the All-RSS meeting at the Conference. Ideas for a discussion forum at next year’s conference were discussed. The committee is planning a free RSS webinar, “Tried and True and Even Something New: Best Old and New Medical and Health Information Resources.” Details will be announced shortly. A subgroup to rewrite guidelines for medical reference continues to meet to discuss guidelines planning. The committee has established a listserv where librarians can discuss issues regarding medical reference. The email address is The link to subscribe is Plans are being made to promote this listserv.

Karen Vargas, Chair 2012-2014

Job and Career Reference Committee
The Job and Career Reference Committee met at ALA Annual. The Job and Career Reference Committee is moving forward with a wiki open to interested librarians and a listserv for librarians interested in Job & Career reference. Contact Kate Oberg ( if you have further questions.

Kate Oberg, Chair 2013-2014

Library Service to an Aging Population
Library Services to an Aging Population hosted “Boomers to Seniors: Library Models for Serving and Engaging Older Adults” that highlighted programs in California and Georgia, along with current research studies. Committee member Alan Kleiman moderated the panel. The presentation was enthusiastically received by the attendees; there was a strong sense among the group that this area of librarianship is being reinvented and many different models need to be tried.

In that same vein, the committee had an excellent meeting in which members decided that the current Guidelines for Library and Information Services to Older Adults no longer reflect current best practices. Committee members agreed that overhauling the Guidelines is the top priority this year. If you would like to be involved in this process, please follow us on ALA Connect or contact Abigail Elder (

Abigail Elder, Chair 2013-2014

Library Services to the Spanish Speaking
The Services to the Spanish Speaking Committee met Saturday morning with only a few interested parties. The discussion group on Arizona libraries had twenty-five in attendance and seemed to be well received. Many of the speakers were also members of REFORMA who helped promote and support this program. ASCLA also has programs and webinars of interest to services to the Spanish Speaking. A few of the current and potential members suggested a change in the direction of this committee, perhaps in more dedication to services to immigrants. Rather than one specific group, this would include a broader spectrum of services libraries provide and potential expansion to include more libraries and government agencies interested in supporting these groups. Over the past few years, the Services to the Spanish Speaking had discussion groups for a limited audience. Consideration of changing the direction would enable more growth. I was not able to obtain a chair for the future. A few expressed potential interest and I am in contact with them to make their wishes known for your consideration. We were indeed fortunate to have the presentations on Sunday afternoon, but, as always, the programs often conflict with other broader interest programs such as this case with the Digital Public Library presentation.

The Committee hosted a discussion group on Sunday, June 30, 2013 3:00-4:00 PM, “Arizona Libraries: Spanish Services and Community Outreach.” As a border state, Arizona has historically always had a large Spanish Speaking/Latino community. Paulina Aguirre-Clinch, Marissa Alcorta, Paula Maez, Emily Scherrer, and Cecilia Tovar shared examples of successful programming and provide strategies for making connections to your own Spanish Speaking communities.

With the contemporary increase in recent immigration from Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries, library services and outreach to these communities is needed now more than ever. Two library systems in Southern Arizona, Yuma County Library District, and Pima County Public library, have used their resources, staff skills, and community building to provide relevant services and programming to these ever growing communities.

Finally, the Guidelines for Library Services to Spanish-Speaking Library Users may be due for an update.

Stephen Marvin, Chair 2012-2013

Marketing and Public Relations for Reference
The Marketing & Public Relations Committee hosted a free webinar on the Slam the Boards concept in May. Attendees learned about the idea from Bill Pardue, who shared tips for finding questions on social question and answer sites, and tips for those who are new to the practice.

We also hosted a workshop at Annual in Chicago where Slam the Board participants shared their experiences. Thanks to Bill sharing his knowledge with us and to those who attended. If you’d like to continue participating in the Slam the Boards project, you can join a Facebook group to connect with others who’ve been caught by the Q&A bug.

We’re currently exploring ways to collaborate on event planning with other ALA groups interested in marketing and public relations. At our Annual committee meeting, we also discussed what we might learn from non-library marketers and public relations specialists, such as Jonah Sachs, author of Winning the Story Wars and social media experts who can help us learn tools and strategies for better telling our library stories.

Jessica Hagman, Chair 2013-2014

Recognition Committee
The RSS Recognition Committee chose Larayne Dallas as the RSS Service Achievement Award recipient for 2013. Larayne has had a long career in the Reference Services Section and is widely regarded as one of the most hard-working RSS members, having served on/chaired numerous committees and mentoring new and incoming chairs. Her involvement in RSS includes:

  • Served four years (2005-2009) as a member of the RSS Organization Committee.
  • Chair (2006-2007) of the RSS Management of Reference Committee, while continuing as a member (2003 -2007)
  • 2002-2004 first chair of the ALA/RUSA Hot Topics in Front Line Reference Discussion Group
  • Chair and RSS member of the RUSA RSS 2010 Nominating Committee
  • 2003-2004 member of the MOUSS Nominating Committee
  • RSS Honor Roll (2009)

Emilie Smart, Chair 2013-2014

Research and Statistics Committee
Over the 2012-2013 year, the Research and Statistics Committee solicited and selected proposals for the 19th Annual Reference Research Forum. This year’s forum included “Research Guides Usability Study,” by Angela Pashia, Instructional Services Outreach Librarian, 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.

The Forum was held Saturday, June 29 from 1:00-2:30 PM at McCormick Place in Chicago. Approximately 180 people attended the event.

The committee also went through the literature from the past year to select exceptional articles detailing research in reference. The full Reference Research Review is available here.

Lynda Duke, Chair 2012-2013

Virtual Reference Services (MARS/RSS)
The partnership with the RSS Marketing and Public Relations Committee for the Slam the Board series (webinar: May 2013; “Slamming”: June 10; in-person discussion forum: June 2013 @ Annual) was a success. The participants were treated to both background on the Slam the Boards initiative itself and also practical ideas on marketing reference services for their own institutions.

The partnership with the RSS Evaluation of Reference and User Services (ERUS) Committee is on-going. The ad hoc virtual reference survey team presented a preliminary draft at our committee’s meeting at Annual. They are planning to continue to revise it (and the draft was also shared with incoming MARS chair, Sam Stormont).

The informal drop-in Wikipedia Edit-a-thon was held in the Networking Uncommons area of the McCormick Place from 11:00 AM-2:00 PM on Sunday at Annual. Although only fourteen people stopped by, there was a lively discussion on Wikipedia’s potential uses by libraries as a tool to provide access to resources and to promote libraries’ collections.

One participant shared the article (Honan-Allston Branch of Boston Public Library) she created from scratch as a library school student (including photos she took). One participant who had never edited Wikipedia articles before signed up for an account and edited her first article during the Edit-a-thon. Additionally, during the Joint RSS/MARS Executive Committee Meeting, attendees were intrigued by the idea of the Edit-a-thon and discussed ways something similar could be incorporated into section activities in the future.

Also at Annual, outgoing RSS Co-Chair, Don Boozer, introduced incoming RSS Co-Chair, Cathay Crosby, who most recently was Chair of the RSS Marketing and Public Relations for Reference Committee. Cathay and Alisa Gonzalez (MARS Co-chair) will chair the committee beginning directly after ALA Annual 2013.

Don Boozer, Chair 2012-2013

Virtual Reference Tutorial Subcommittee
The Subcommittee is excited to continue working on the Virtual Reference Companion (VRC) with the goal of completion by ALA Annual 2014. The group continues to meet monthly and works in subgroups between meetings. A fifth module will be complete by the end of summer, leaving four more to go.

One section of the VRC has Tips & Best Practices and we are looking for ideas from RSS members that may help those new to the world of virtual reference. Our modules include Planning, Skills, Information Literacy, Technologies, Staffing/Partners, Marketing, Assessment, and Professional Development. If anyone has words of wisdom to share on any of these or other topics related to virtual reference, please send them to Jared Hoppenfeld at or Christine Tobias at

Although the VRC has been accessible to anyone with the URL, it will be going live by the end of summer as we will request that takes the place of the previous resource, as it is linked from its current RSS location(s).

Jared Hoppenfeld, Chair 2012-2014
Christine Tobias, Chair 2013-2014


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.