From the President

Annual Conference 2014 Wrap Up and a Look Ahead

Although some of us may have gone in with concerns or even trepidation about what an ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas might turn out to be like, many of us found the conference content and overall experience to be on par with the best. I’d like to begin this RUSA Update with a review of some of my stand-out experiences at ALA Annual 2014. I’ll then turn to the future, with a look ahead at online learning being offered by RUSA this fall and a review of some activities going on right now that will take us into RUSA’s next strategic planning process.

Before going any further I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Elizabeth Stephan for serving RUSA as the RUSA Update Editor for over 5 years. Elizabeth was responsible for moving this newsletter, RUSA Update, to a completely electronic publishing platform and for positioning RUSA Update to serve as a major online service to RUSA members. With this issue we welcome Carol Schuetz as our new RUSA Update Editor. Carol comes to us after previously serving as the editor and production editor of the Library Instruction Round Table (LIRT) Newsletter and most recently as the editor of BRASS Notes.   We appreciate her now sharing her skills with us at RUSA Update. Welcome, Carol!

I also want to thank our over 900 volunteer members who serve as chairs and members on all of our committees at the section and division levels. Every member who prepares agendas, takes minutes, participates in discussions, and responds to emails with ideas is directly responsible for the success of the division. We are all pulled in many directions by a plethora of commitments, but our member volunteers each find a way to make an individual contribution that benefits us and the larger profession. Among our volunteer members I absolutely must recognize are my immediate predecessors, Kathleen Kern and Mary Popp, who have responsibly guided RUSA and contributed innumerable hours in support for the association and our members. I’m especially grateful to our past presidents for their time, dedication, and for always caring about doing the best job possible. Thank you.

Annual Conference 2014 Wrap Up

It is very hot in Las Vegas, that’s true. Once you’re indoors, it can be confusing to navigate through the smoky seas of slot machines on your way to a meeting. That said, those will be the memories that I know I will selectively forget. What I won’t forget are the people, the programs, and the RUSA events. In this issue of RUSA Update you will see reports from many of our division and section committees on their activities. Though I wish I could have attended them all, here I’m only going to focus on those that I was lucky enough to attend.

I’d like to first highlight some of the important social opportunities – those places where people interested in joining the division have the chance to informally connect with established members. The first notable event was Friday afternoon’s RUSA 101. We welcomed over 100 people who wanted to know more about RUSA. Each of our six sections had representatives stationed around the perimeter of the room and were able to make personal connections. I want to especially thank RUSA Membership co-chairs Ann Brown and Alicia Ahlvers, as well as Marianne Braverman and Leighann Wood from the RUSA office for pulling the event together. One highlight for me was getting to meet four reference librarians from Nigeria who came to ALA specifically to attend our RUSA events and programs!

Did you know that the STARS section is now 10 years old? The members planned a great celebration and networking event at the local Bahama Breeze on Friday evening. It was a blast getting to talk with people that I’d served with previously on committees and meet new people. Almost all of the STARS chairs — past, present, and future– were in attendance able to be photographed together.

Saturday offered multiple opportunities for making connections with RUSA colleagues. Bright and early were the RSS Open House and All-Committee meeting, where I was able to meet with my RSS colleagues, including members of the Young Adult Reference Services Committee (“YARS!” – say it like it’s “Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day”). YARS is our first joint committee with YALSA. The members are already doing great work delivering programs and discussions that delve into the methods we use to connect young adults with reference services. On Saturday evening MARS offered their signature social event, the MARS Happy Hour. I really want to commend the organizers of this long and successful series. It was another great opportunity to connect with fellow “MARStians.” BRASS, CODES, and History also held great networking events, but I’m sorry I missed them this time around. There’s always Midwinter and Annual next year! In addition to being a lot of fun, one thing that all of these social events have in common is that they provide our members who attend conference excellent opportunities to talk informally about their work in RUSA, to share personal experiences across library types, and make connections that could lead to the next career advancement.

Among the headline RUSA events was Kathleen Kern’s RUSA President’s Program, Our Values, Ourselves: Examining Our Values and What Others Value About Us. The “Waynes” (Wayne Bivens-Tatum and Wayne Wiegand), Lisa Carlucci Thomas, and Jeanne Goodrich each provided personal reflections on the development of the modern library service structure and influence of past precedents on libraries today.

RUSA again offered great opportunities to meet authors and hear from them directly. Held on Saturday evening, this was the third year for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction and also the third year that Nancy Pearl chaired the selection committee. You can find out more about the 2014 winning titles Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism at I’m now on page 45 of The Bully Pulpit and making steady progress! Though this was Nancy’s last year as chair, the 2015 award committee is in great hands for the coming year. It will be chaired by Brad Hooper of ALA Booklist and has a membership representing both RUSA and Booklist. Then, on Sunday morning, I saw some of the same people from the night before at the Literary Tastes Author Program: Celebrating the Best Reading of the Year. Though I ran late from a very early morning meeting I was able to slip into the back of the room to hear two out of three of our authors speak. You can find out more about their books at

On Sunday afternoon we held our annual RUSA Awards Reception, where we were able to honor the achievements of our colleagues who have excelled in the field of reference and user services. See the RUSA Blog at for details about those who were recognized.

The RUSA Board met twice, on Saturday and Monday afternoons. Key accomplishments included the passage of the FY2015 operating budget and reserve fund proposal as recommended by RUSA’s Budget and Finance Committee. The allocations from the reserve fund will allow RUSA to continue its efforts related to member recruitment and retention, which includes funding for a high-profile speaker at the 2015 Annual Conference, growing the Just Ask campaign, and contracting for strategic planning consulting services. Approved expenditures also provide support for History section’s visit to Angel Island on the Friday of Annual Conference 2015 in San Francisco. RUSA members will be able to learn about the island’s role as the Ellis Island of the west. The Board also approved the slate of 2015 RUSA programs for San Francisco as presented by the RUSA Conference Program Coordinating Committee.

A Look Ahead

Our RUSA Committees are now at work making plans for the 2014-2015 year. I’d like to first recognize the members of the RUSA Professional Development Committee for reviewing proposals and coordinating the process for approving our slate of fall 2014 online courses. You can find these at Over at the RUSA Membership Committee, they will be involved in supporting RUSA’s member recruitment efforts through monthly RUSA 101 orientation webinars and by connecting our sponsored student members with experienced RUSA members who will be available to serve as mentors.

Our current RUSA strategic plan will come to a conclusion in June 2015. Therefore, the upcoming year will offer us a great opportunity to reflect and define how we will move forward providing our members the experience that they desire. A key focus for us will be on the value proposition for our members. Over the long term, what are those experiences that RUSA offers our members that make each person want to continue as a member? Equally important, what are those experiences that encourage new members to join? How can we show that nobody else can provide this same value proposition?

Important member data that will help to inform the strategic planning process is being compiled through the work of the RUSA Review Task Force. I especially want to thank the co-chairs Chris LeBeau and Diane Zabel for their leadership and for preparing a preliminary report for the RUSA Board for the ALA Annual Conference 2014. Their work continues through an online survey. From mid-June through late July the RUSA Review: Summer 2014 Survey of our Members was posted with 406 members completing the survey. The Task Force members are currently reviewing the results.

The next steps for strategic planning are to bring together members of RUSA Board and RUSA Organization and Planning Committee to create a Strategic Planning Coordinating Task Force. The group will work with the RUSA office staff to contract for strategic planning consulting services. In addition to using the data that has already been gathered, we are tentatively planning on using the face-to-face opportunity that ALA Midwinter 2015 in Chicago will offer for a facilitated discussion with the members of the RUSA Board. A targeted online survey of all RUSA members during the process will provide us with additional information about what our members desire from their RUSA experience. This timeline will allow us to complete a new plan before the ALA Annual Conference 2015 in San Francisco.

What’s next? If you are able to attend both ALA Midwinter 2015 in Chicago and ALA Annual 2015 in San Francisco, you’ll want to mark your calendar for September 9th when bundled registration for both conferences opens. See Regular registration for the ALA Midwinter Meeting opens on October 1. What does RUSA offer at ALA Midwinter you may ask? Though we don’t offer formal programs, we do provide attendees many opportunities to network and share ideas through the RUSA Social, RUSA Book and Media Awards, and Discussion Forums organized by the RUSA sections.

Best wishes to all of our RUSA members for a fantastic fall!


Joseph Thompson
RUSA President 2014-2015