Committee Reports

Catalog Use Committee/Discover Services Committee

The RSS Board recently approved a name change to the Discovery Services Committee with this revised charge:

The RSS Discovery Services Committee focuses on the use of catalogs and other discovery tools in reference service, including such aspects as communicating, evaluating, improving, studying, and teaching the use of such tools; monitors and communicates significant continuities and changes in the use of such tools; identifies and examines critical issues and problems in the use of such tools; provides opportunities for librarians to propose and discuss innovative solutions to discovery problems; joins with librarians in other specialties to produce improvements in library service.

The Committee will hold a discussion forum at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas on Sunday, June 29 from 3:00-4:00 PM, opening with a few brief presentations as discussion starters.

Colleen Seale, Chair 2013-2014

Communication and Teaching at the Point of Need

The Communication and Teaching at the Point of Need committee conducted an online meeting on January 21 to check in on progress members have made with various tasks. One of those tasks is a survey to find areas of need within our community and the resources related to communication and teaching strategies. The survey questions were reviewed and finalized and we determined the venues we plan to send the survey out to initially. We also discussed the length of time the survey should remain open. We are currently working on getting the questions transferred and formatted into the survey software so that we can send it out soon. The results from the survey will be used plan programs, forums for discussions, and professional development opportunities.

Julie Housknecht and Holly Wilson, Co-chairs 2013-2014

Discussion Forums Coordinating Committee

The Discussion Forums Coordinating Committee sponsored two exciting forums at Midwinter. A standing room only crowd of roughly 140 people attended “Skype? FaceTime? Why Has Face-to-Face Not Been the New Wave in Digital Reference?,” which was facilitated by Benjamin Andrus, Binghamton University. The focus of the discussion was on how camera-to-camera reference has been implemented at different institutions. Most use Skype, but other platforms and course management systems were also discussed. The conversation then moved to emerging trends in digital reference and how emerging technology will shape the future of the reference interview. The take home lesson for the group was that all institutions are different and that a one size fits all solution for video based reference service has yet to be found. Many of attendees agreed that there is great value in offering these services, but they are underutilized by patrons. The hope is that as the next generation of library users come of age, they will not be hesitant to use services like Skype or FaceTime that they have grown up using.

Our second forum, “Patron-Centered Reference Librarianship: Using Patrons’ Interests to Motivate Information Literacy Learning,” was facilitated by Kevin Michael Klipfel, California State University, Chico, and it drew over seventy-five attendees. After discussing what is involved in student-centered teaching and agreeing that teachers are more Socratic facilitators than experts telling students what to think, focus shifted to how this would transfer to the reference desk. Attendees discussed the successes and difficulties that may be encountered when one tries to engage in patron-centered reference by tying students’ interests to their schoolwork. They also discussed how the traditional reference interview is not often patron-centric. Strategies for connecting with patrons as people and providing patron-centered reference in the virtual realm were also discussed.

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

Crystal Lentz, Chair 2013-2014

Education and Professional Development for Reference

Education and Professional Development for Reference co-sponsored events, a webinar with CODES Reference Publishing Advisory Committee and the in-person workshop before Midwinter Meeting with MARS Professional Development. The committee is currently engaged in gathering information on assessing the state of reference education. We hope to share our preliminary finding of phase one and two of the study by ALA Annual. Stay tuned for more information. If you are interested in helping us with this study, please contact the committee chair.

Joseph Yue, Chair 2013-2014

Evaluation of Reference and User Services Committee

A group made up of members of ERUS and the Virtual Reference Services Committee created a survey to assess the state of the profession in the provision of virtual reference services, and will be moving into the analysis stage. At the end of January 2014, ERUS sent out a survey looking at reference service models and evaluation of service. At the close of the survey, we received a very large number of responses. Analysis of the results, as well as decisions on the best way to disseminate the findings will begin in the next few months. The committee is considering proposing a discussion forum for Midwinter 2015 on the same topic, with the hope that the survey results can be incorporated.

Jason Kruse, Chair, 2013-2014

Library Service to an Aging Population

The committee met virtually in January. Committee member Janet O’Keefe represented us for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration at ALA Midwinter.

Continuing our work on the Guidelines for Library Services to Older Adults, we have begun drafting new standards for programming, outreach, and technology. We generally use the phrase “midlife and older adults” to recognize the spectrum of ages and life-stages represented by adults over fifty years of age. We are finalizing speakers and format for our ALA presentation in Las Vegas.

We are an active and enthusiastic group, with participation from librarians from across the country. Please consider joining us!

Abigail Elder, Chair 2013-2014

Marketing and Public Relations for Reference

We met in person at Midwinter and finalized plans for our discussion forum proposal. The discussion forum will begin with a presentation by two librarians who are using a sales framework that helps them ask questions of their patrons and show how the library can help meet their needs. We’re exploring options for hosting a follow up open meeting for discussion forum attendees to discuss whether they have been able to use the framework in their daily work.

We’ve also been in touch with the Just Ask committee to see if there are areas where we could collaborate. We expect more discussion on this in the coming year.

Jessica Hagman, Chair 2013-2014

Virtual Reference Tutorial Subcommittee

The Subcommittee continues to work on the Virtual Reference Companion (VRC) with the goal of completion by ALA Annual 2014. The group meets monthly (including our recent Virtual Midwinter Meeting on January 31st) and works in subgroups between meetings.

To date, five modules have been completed and we are in the finishing stages of the Assessment and Professional Development modules. Once complete with those, we will begin the final two modules: Staffing/Partners and Information Literacy.

The VRC is accessible at this link; it is also linked under the Hot Links section of the RSS Virtual Reference Committee page, and the Professional Tools section of the RUSA Resources page, the VRC is now linked in the Web Resources section of the ALA Library Fact Sheet 19: Virtual Reference: A Selected Annotated Bibliography.

One section of the VRC has Tips & Best Practices and we continue to seek input from RSS members. If anyone has words of wisdom to share on any topics related to virtual reference, please send them to Jared Hoppenfeld at or Christine Tobias at

Stay tuned to hear about a possible forum where you can hear more about this resource at ALA Annual in Las Vegas.

Jared Hoppenfeld, Chair 2012-2014

Christine Tobias, Chair 2013-2014

Young Adult Reference Services Committee

Young Adult Reference Services Committee (YARS) held a face-to-face committee meeting during Midwinter to finalize its discussion forum that was taking place later that afternoon on how adolescent brain development affects teen information seeking behaviors. The results of that discussion forum will be publicized in the upcoming issue of Young Adult Library Services (YALS). During the meeting, the committee decided that during 2014 ALA Annual, the committee will host a discussion forum on Homework Help in libraries, a controversial topic. Information will gathered on best practices in order to make a recommendation as to what level libraries should expect to offer in-house homework help to their students.

YARS will be meeting in-person at Annual during the RSS All-Committee Meeting.

Allyson Evans, 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.