From the President

President’s column

Were you there in Chicago for the great ALA Midwinter blizzard of 2015? The Sunday of Midwinter was an event that few of us will forget. The snow blew sideways and it was recorded as one of the city’s top ten most intense snow storms! Through it all however, the relentless librarians forged on. We walked through swales of snow four feet deep. The cabs and shuttle buses even kept running. So, we hearty folk went on with our meetings, discussions, and awards events. Our RUSA membership demonstrated their dedication and the overall experience was awesome.

Strategic Planning Update

Before the storm, those of us on RUSA Board began ALA Midwinter 2015 with a full-day strategic planning session on Friday. This was the first time (in recent memory) that we had allocated this much time to focus on the future direction of the association. Our session was facilitated by Paul Meyer of Tecker International Consulting.

Paul began the day by helping us understand the process for planning, and how to think strategically in order to make progress toward an envisioned future. In our first activity we broke into five groups to do an environmental scan of our member libraries and the larger world that we’re operating. Each group identified current conditions, trends, and assumptions about the future. This next led to work defining our Core Purpose – the organization’s reason for being – and our Core Organizational Values – those essential and enduring principles that guide the behavior of an organization. By the end of this activity we agreed upon the Core Purpose (a.k.a. Mission) statement: “RUSA is a member community engaged in advancing the practices of connecting people to resources, information services, and collections.” This activity also led us to develop the following three Core Organizational Values statements:

  • We believe in the benefits of a shared experiences that comes from connecting members from all types of libraries
  • We believe in promoting excellence in library services and resources
  • We believe in innovation to support and advance to the needs of our members and communities

It is possible that this language could change as RUSA’s Strategic Plan Coordinating Task Force and the Board continues its work, but this should give you a good sense of the priority values that were identified at this early stage. The final hours of the day were dedicated to starting the process of developing Goals and Objectives that will move RUSA toward its envisioned future. Flexibility, Member Engagement, Leadership Development, and Training came forward as priorities as we began to develop the Goals. Some rough Objective statements were also developed. By the end of the day the broad feeling in the room was one of great accomplishment, and the effort that had been put forth showed on almost every face in the room. It was indeed a tiring but productive day!

As of this writing in early March, the Strategic Plan Coordinating Task Force has met three times by telephone conference since returning from Midwinter to continue the work. Chaired by Anne Houston, the task force has reviewed what we accomplished in Chicago and is incorporating member priorities that were identified in the RUSA Review Task Force survey of summer 2014. The next step is to clean-up and revise the draft Goals and Objectives that came out of the planning meeting. Two goal areas that we have identified are the need for RUSA to have a flexible structure and the need for membership in RUSA to have clear measurable values. We anticipate having a revised draft plan for review by the RUSA Board before the end of March. I very much want to thank Anne for her leadership through this process, as well as RUSA Secretary Erin Rushton, who is serving above and beyond by taking comprehensive notes at each of our strategic planning meetings. The demand on her time is much more than could be expected during a normal year for a RUSA Secretary, and we appreciate all of the efforts she is putting forward. Our process is still on track to have a new RUSA Strategic Plan in place before ALA Annual 2015 in San Francisco.

ALA Midwinter 2015 Wrap-Up

Did I earlier mention awards? Yes, I’m specifically referring to the RUSA Book and Media Awards Ceremony. At the height of the snowstorm and while many across the country watched

the Superbowl, about one hundred of us came together at the Hilton Chicago to recognize the best in adult fiction, nonfiction, reference, book reviewing, and websites. This year we also tried

something new. We were very happy to have highly acclaimed Chicago author Margaret Hawkins kick-off the event by sharing some of her thoughts about the craft of writing, including insight into why she has set some of her scenes in libraries. The event then went on without a hitch. For a comprehensive list of the selections, including the Notable Books, Reading List, Listen List, and the Best Free Reference Web Sites, see Also, catch up on what attendees and others have been saying by following the hashtag #literarytastes.

I do have one more item to share about RUSA Awards. Though January 2016 might seem far in the future, I want to give you the early news that we will have even more to celebrate while we’re in Boston for ALA Midwinter next year. Not only will we announce all of our Book and Media Awards, but we will be announcing the winners of the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Fiction and Nonfiction while in Boston as well! Be on the lookout later this year for news about what may evolve into a combined event at Midwinter 2016 and how it is shaping up. We have a rare crossover in place right now, as the members of both the 2015 and 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medal Award committees are currently at work reading and preparing to make their selections! The 2015 Andrea Carnegie Medals winners will be announced during ALA Annual 2015 in San Francisco.

Among other noteworthy events at Midwinter in Chicago included the first ever RUSA Speed Mentoring Session, organized by our Leadership Development Task Force. Many thanks go to Gary White for serving as the event’s lead organizer, and to Diane Zabel for opening the session with words of experience regarding the importance of mentoring. About fifteen mentees attended, with more than that number of mentors available to pair-up. Immediately following this session we walked down the hall to the RUSA Membership Social, which received an excellent turnout of both new and familiar faces. The Social again served as a great informal opportunity to talk to others about our work in RUSA. I want to especially thank Ann Brown of the RUSA Membership Committee for serving as emcee for the event.

2015 RUSA President’s Program Planning Committee and the RUSA Just Ask Task Force joined forces in Chicago to host a discussion about some of the themes in danah boyd’s book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (available for free download at One of our key discussions involved the collapsing of contexts, specifically relating to the modern reality that an online post made by an individual in one place might take on a very different meaning when interpreted in another. It was a dynamic discussion and we truly could have used more time than the hour that had been allocated!   I want to thank Peter Bromberg for organizing the discussion and Cathay Keough for taking notes and posting these on our Facebook event page. You can find these at

Are you planning your schedule for ALA Annual 2015 in San Francisco? The RUSA President’s Program with danah boyd, It’s Complicated: Navigating the dynamic landscapes of digital literacy, collapsing contexts, and big data” will take place on Saturday, June 27, 2015 from 4:00 to 5:30. If you haven’t read danah’s work before, you can learn more by taking a look at her blog, where she focuses on the intersection between technology and society at danah is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research and is a 2008 PhD graduate of the School of Information (iSchool) at the University of California-Berkeley.

Great learning opportunities abound – at conferences and online!

Remember that RUSA’s opportunities for learning are available year-round online. Our upcoming online courses include the ever-popular Business Reference 101, Genealogy 101, and Health Information 101. Xtreme Bibliographic Searching for Interlibrary Loan & Reference as well as Introduction to Spatial Literacy and Online Mapping with both be offered this spring. Make sure to find these courses and our upcoming and archived webinars at

If you are new to RUSA please also be aware that Ann Brown and I are continuing to offer free RUSA 101 webinars (orientations to all things RUSA) normally on the second Thursday of each month at 4:00 pm ET / 3 pm CT. We are also offering a free RUSA 201 webinar on the third Thursday of each month at 4:00 pm ET / 3 pm CT. The topic of each RUSA 201 is geared to current members and addresses how to get the work of the association accomplished. For the January and February sessions we had Don Boozer, chair of RUSA Conference Program Coordinating Committee, address how to propose a RUSA conference program, preconference, or institute for Boston or Orlando in 2016. Topics for upcoming RUSA 201 sessions will be announced on the rusa-l listserv.


Are you looking to get involved in RUSA this year? Now is the time! RUSA’s Vice President/President Elect Liane Taylor and the RUSA Section Vice Chairs are appointing people to committees now, with terms to officially begin on July 1, 2015. If you are interested in joining a committee, go to and select the link in the upper right, “Volunteer for a RUSA or section level committee.” If you’re not sure which committee is right for you, send Liane an email at to let her know your interests. If it’s actually a BRASS, CODES, History, MARS, RSS, or STARS section-level committee you’re interested, she can put you in touch with the right person there.

I want to take this opportunity to again thank all of our fantastic RUSA member volunteers across the association, with special thanks to everyone working in the BRASS, CODES, History, MARS, RSS, and STARS committees who are putting together great programming, developing discussions, reviewing materials, selecting awards, and working on other initiatives that provide our members a valuable RUSA experience. We each have many competing priorities in our lives and you cannot be thanked enough for your time and dedication to our work.

With great appreciation,


Joseph Thompson
RUSA President 2014-2015