RSS Committee Reports

Communication and Teaching at the Point of Need Committee
Our initial plans are to carry on work started last year with the distribution of a survey to gather information to aid in planning programs, discussion forums, and professional development opportunities. Once survey results have been gathered and analyzed, the committee will brainstorm activities to implement over the coming year.

Colleen Seale, Chair 2014-2015

Discovery Services Committee (Formerly Catalog Use Committee)
The RSS Discovery Services Committee welcomed over 120 attendees and 4 great speakers during this year’s ALA Annual Conference RSS Discovery Services Forum, held on Sunday, June 29th, from 3-4 pm.

Forum speakers included Mireille Djenno, Gwen Gregory, and Ling Wang of University of Illinois at Chicago Library presenting “What We Discovered About Discovery: Comparing Two Discovery Systems at One Academic Library,” Emily Keller of University of Washington Libraries presenting “Dumbing down or drilling down? Librarians’ perspectives on discovery tools,” Van Houlson of University of Minnesota presenting “Alma in the Morning: The Impact of a Next Generation Discovery System on Patrons and Staff at a Research Library,” and Rosalind Tedford of Wake Forest University presenting “Future of Discovery: Analytics, Meet Instruction.” The first half of the forum included lightning round style presentations from each of the speakers and the second half allowed participants to discuss important topics that revolved around the forum’s theme of Discussing Discovery Services: What’s working, What’s not, and What’s Next?. Feedback from the evaluation forms rated the forum from ‘very good’ to ‘excellent.’ To review the PPT slide presentations from the forum visit the RSS Discovery Services Committee’s ALA Connect page (

After the forum some attendees suggested possible ideas for future forum topics such as how to use discovery systems within the threshold concept instructional themes, discussing the grey literature, or collaborating with LITA to think about what reference librarians can learn from systems. More brainstorming ideas are sure to will follow over this upcoming year.

In addition to planning this year’s forum, the committee has also been actively maintaining a bibliography of materials concentrating on catalog and other discovery services. To view the bibliography visit:

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Anne Larrivee, Chair, 2014-2015

Discussion Forums Coordinating Committee
The Discussion Forums Coordinating Committee hosted two popular discussion forums at Annual:

“Extreme Customer Service: Reference at Its Finest!” was facilitated by Jeanne Holba Puacz, from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. A scenario was provided to kick off the discussion and it flowed freely from there. Over 60 participants asked questions and discussed ways to create a customer service culture. Training strategies were discussed as were suggestions for dealing with grumpy patrons (and even for dealing with grumpy staffers!). Non-traditional concepts in customer service, such as traffic flow and signage were also considered. Among the tips that were shared were – don’t read at the desk, acknowledge patrons with open faces and attitudes; lead by example; smile while on the phone; and show interest in all questions.

“Readying Reference: Training for Public Service Reference Providers” was facilitated by Geoff Johnson and Joe Dobbs from the University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas at Austin. After sharing information about the training program at their library, Geoff and Joe had the approximately 35 attendees divide into small groups to discuss training at everyone’s libraries. Discussion questions were provided to help guide the discussions. The discussion began with focusing on what training looks like – who is responsible for training, who gets trained and are there refreshers or ongoing training. The discussion then touched on service standards and developing competencies. After the small group discussions the large group reconvened and people shared what they had discussed.

Crystal Lentz, Chair 2013-2014

Education and Professional Development for Reference
On Monday, June 30, the committee sponsored a discussion forum at ALA Annual titled “The State of Reference Education: What We Have Learned and What Would You like to Find Out?” The 15 attendees participated in a lively discussion centered around four questions:

  • With Google, do we still need reference librarians?
  • Do working librarians find that new hires have the requisite reference skills?
  • What changes, if any, have you observed in reference work in recent years?
  • Based on your own view of the future of reference, what reference education should library schools provide?

Bryna Coonin, Rayette Sterling, and Jason Coleman created a summary of the discussion (attached to the comments at As the summary indicates, there was a consensus that the skills and expertise of reference librarians are still needed. While WebScale discovery simplifies some aspects of research, it also creates a significant need for information about what the services lack. Some noted that library schools should continue to provide subject-specific reference knowledge, but should augment that with customer service skills and hands-on experience through internships and practicums.

The committee will use the insights gained from this discussion to inform its decisions about next steps to take in its ongoing investigation into the state of reference education. One likely next step is dissemination of the results from the committee’s preliminary examination of the slate of reference courses library schools are currently offering and what topics those courses are addressing. Another likely next step is discussions with members of the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) and further discussion forums with practicing reference librarians.

Jason Coleman, Chair 2014-2014

Evaluation of Reference and User Services
A group made up of members of ERUS and Virtual Reference Services Committee distributed a survey in August/September 2013 with the goal to assess the state of the profession in the provision of virtual reference services. The analysis stage was completed and initial results were reported to ERUS at our ALA Annual meeting. Results will be shared more broadly, and recommendations for regular surveys on this topic will be explored. ERUS also conducted 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. Initial analysis of the results has begun and the goal is to disseminate the findings broadly. The committee will submit a proposal for a discussion forum at Midwinter 2015 on this topic, with the hope that the survey results can be incorporated or used to inform the discussion.

Jason Kruse, Chair, 2013-2014

Health and Medical Reference Committee
The Health and Medical Reference Committee has been hard at work completing the new Health and Medical Reference Guidelines to replace the Guidelines for Medical, Legal, and Business Responses (2001) currently on the RUSA website. Outgoing Chair Karen Vargas met with the Standards and Guidelines Committee on Sunday June 29 during the ALA Annual Meeting. The Health and Medical Reference Guidelines have to be approved by the Standards and Guidelines Committee, then they go out for public review, and finally to the RUSA Board. When the board approves them, they are good for 7 years. During the meeting on June 29, the Standards and Guidelines Committee had positive feedback about this draft of the new guidelines. Since they work entirely online, it is possible the process of adopting these new guidelines will be completed by Midwinter 2015.

The Health and Medical Reference Committee welcomes new member Ann Gluske, BST Librarian from The Seattle Public Library, as well as new Chair Laura Haines, Health Sciences Librarian from the Dana Medical Library at the University of Vermont. Welcome!

The Committee looks forward to completing a few different projects this coming year: the completion of the Guidelines; creating a web site for the committee; and getting medref-L, a listserv focused on health and medical reference topics, up and running.

Laura Louise Haines, Chair, 2014-2015

Job and Career Reference Committee
Most recently, at Annual, The RSS Job & Career Reference Committee held a discussion forum entitled “Community Needs, Reference, & Assessment in Job & Career Reference.” Its description stated “Large and small libraries hold a variety of programs for job seekers – regular classes, one-shot sessions, traditional reference services, reference appointments and others. How do libraries and information providers determine needs of the community and which services & programs to offer? How do they assess outcomes?” The discussion was pretty informal and intimate—it seems that while some libraries have in-house-designed systems for monitoring success rates and outcomes at the job seeker level, many of us are still struggle with assessing how much we help each job seeker and where we fall short. As a result, we are hoping to create a conference program, possibly inviting professionals from Queens Library which seems to succeed at assessment, for a future conference.

Another possible topic we would like to investigate is possible collaboration on a program on assisting and facilitating youth entrepreneurship. As many jobs traditionally held by this age group are being taken by adults, leaving youth to develop service businesses on their own, channeling the knowledge of entrepreneurship librarians with a program designed for teens and using the expertise in this patron group of YALSA or YARS seems worthy of exploration.

Our new chair is Nicolette Warisse Sosulski, though Kate Oberg is still going to be fully involved in the committee.

Nicolette Warisse Sosulski, Chair 2014-2015

Library Service to an Aging Population
Library Services to an Aging Population Committee held two meetings at ALA-Annual in Las Vegas and worked through the current draft of the Guidelines for Library Services with Midlife and Older Adults: Best Practices with the goal of finishing the draft by the end of 2014. The committee also decided to discontinue the recommended websites that was created years ago, and to fold particularly excellent websites into the OLOS Keys to Engaging Older Adults @ Your Library.

Committee members organized and presented the program “Creative Aging @ Your Library,” highlighting successful arts programs at public libraries. Approximately 150 people attended, and several signed up to learn more about the committee and its projects.

Abigail Elder, Chair 2013-2014
Angela Fortin, Chair 2014-2015

Marketing and Public Relations for Reference Services
The Marketing and Public Relations for Reference Services Committee coordinated a discussion forum entitled, “The Soft Sell: Sales Skills for Librarian.” Nathaniel King, Director of Library Services, Nevada State College and Jacqueline Solis, Coordinator of Liaison Services for Subject Librarians, University of North Carolina presented on the SALES technique as it applies to library services. After the presentation, the 44 attendees were walked through a case study utilizing the technique, and broke into small groups to workshop additional examples.

Elizabeth DeCoster, Chair 2014-2015

Research and Statistics Committee
This year, the Research & Statistics Committee hosted the 20th Annual Reference Research Forum on Sunday, June 29th at the Las Vegas Convention Center. After a double-blind review process, the committee selected 3 research teams to present their results. Ixchel Faniel, Lynn Connaway, and Kendra Parson from OCLC presented “Building Relationships for the Effective Development and Delivery of Research Data Services,” which related the results of in-depth interviews conducted with librarians on the topic of data management. Curt Friehs presented the survey results on the use of technology by college students gathered by himself and his research partner, Jason Kaloudis, in “College Student Tech Usage: A Recent Survey of Trends.” And finally, Jenny Bossaller and Guinevere Lawson presented their survey results of libraries and their involvement with the Affordable Care Act, revealing interesting trends in “Libraries and the Affordable Care Act”. Each presentation garnered a number of interesting questions. The committee also reviewed and posted an annotated bibliography of articles relating to reference research for the Reference Research Review: 2013.

Ava M. Iuliano Brillat, Chair 2013-2014

Virtual Reference Tutorial Subcommittee
The VR Tutorial Subcommittee has almost completed work on the Virtual Reference Companion (VRC). Content has been created for the eighth and final module, Staffing/Partners, but the subcommittee still needs to finalize a few details before it can be made available. The committee will meet in August 2014 to complete the VRC.

Although we did not meet our goal of completion by ALA Annual 2014, some members of the subcommittee presented the VRC at the MARS VR Discussion Group meeting on Sunday, June 30, in Las Vegas, NV. The presentation included information about the history of the subcommittee, the process of creating the VRC, and the content and organization of the VRC. Meeting participants offered input and feedback to help populate the Tips & Best Practices section of the VRC, which is now available. We encourage RSS members to submit suggestions for additional content by leaving a comment on ALA Connect ( ) or by sending an email to Christine Tobias ( ) or Laura Friesen ( ).

In addition to being accessible from , 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 (

Laura Friesen, Chair 2014-2015
Christine Tobias, Chair 2014-2015

Young Adult Reference Services Committee
YARS hosted the ALA Annual discussion forum, “Of *Course* It’s Due Tomorrow: What is the Appropriate Level of Homework Assistance in Libraries?” held on Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 10:30am. Among the topics discussed were the following:

  • What are the obstacles to offering HW in libraries?
  • How do we offer in-house HW without the use of library resources (funding, staffing)?
  • How should we evaluate alternative tutoring services?
  • What would be the most help to you to provide HW help in your library?
  • Should ALA officially encourage libraries to provide in-house HW?

As a result of the ideas that emerged from the discussion, YARS will compile a resource of best practices, contacts, and templates for libraries that wish to offer in-house homework help or tutoring services to their student community. Details on the location of that resource will be decided shortly. The committee met at the All-RSS meeting at the Conference where we discussed ideas for next year’s conference program. A subgroup will work to plan that program, which will focus on issues surrounding library participation in Common Core standards, and will continue its search for panel speakers.

Allyson Evans Malik, Chair 2013-2015