MARS: Update from the Emerging Technologies in Reference Section (MARS)

Chanitra Bishop, Editor


MARS: Emerging Technologies in Reference Section

MARS: Emerging Technologies in Reference Section is a busy group of folks dedicated to the intersection of technology and library services. There is a place for everyone in MARS and we hope that you will join us at conferences or engage in our online offerings. Below are some highlights from this past year of MARS happenings, as well as some announcements on things to come!

News from the Planning Committee

This year’s ballot will bring you not only a slate of well qualified candidates for the Vice Chair/Chair Elect position and a Member at Large position, but also, for the first time in a number of years, a number of bylaws changes on which to vote. First, we’re voting to change the acronym from MARS, which we have known and loved for 37 years, to ETS, for Emerging Technologies Section. Although the MARS acronym has a good history and holds significance for many of us who have been in the profession a while, we’re finding our newer colleagues are confused by the lack of alignment between the MARS acronym and the name we choose in 2010: Emerging Technologies in Reference Section.   By aligning our acronym with our name, we hope to eliminate a lot of the confusion. Additional bylaws changes are being made primarily to clean up language and bring the handbook up to date with current practices. Please take a look and remember to vote this Spring. The Planning Committee and the Executive Committee recommend you vote YES on all six (6) items.

A brief summary of the Bylaws changes can be found below:

  1. To amend Bylaws Article I, Name, Section 1 by changing the acronym from MARS to ETS.
  2. To Amend Article II. Objectives, to delete the unneeded acronym
  3. To amend Article V. Nominations and Elections to add the procedure of online balloting for       elections in accordance with current ALA practice.
  4. To amend Article VII. Executive Committee to delete references to positions which no longer   exist.
  5. To amend Article IX. Discussion Groups to remove the acronym and to clarify roles.
  6. To amend Article XII. Adoption and Review by adding language to include the ALA balloting process.

Submitted by Debbie Bezanson, Chair Planning Committee

From the Nominating Committee

Votes for New Officers

For the 2015 Spring ballot, the Nominating Committee has identified four well qualified candidates for the positions of Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect and Member at Large.

They are:

For Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect: Shannon D. Jones, and Courtney Greene McDonald.

For Member at Large: Jason Coleman, and Beth Boatright.

Be sure to check out their biographies when you receive your ballot. Eligible members will be sent their voting credentials between March 24-27, 2015. Votes must be received by May 1, 2015. For more on the ALA 2015 election cycle, including a link to the video of the ALA presidential candidates forum, please see:

Submitted by Debbie Bezanson, Chair, Nominating Committee

Volunteer for MARS: Emerging Technologies

Are you interested in the great work that MARS is doing? Interested in participating in committee work? Take a look at the variety of committees available as part of the MARS: Emerging Technologies Section: If you see one that interests you or you have questions about a particular committee, please contact me, Donna Scanlon (, MARS Vice Chair, for additional information or to volunteer for a MARS committee.

MidWinter Conference Wrap-Up

MARS hosted some great discussion groups at ALA MidWinter 2015 in Chicago. Despite the blizzard, lots of folks came out to discuss how they are using technology to help their library users.

Our Virtual Reference Discussion Group met on Saturday, January 31st for an opportunity to share ideas about front-line virtual reference services and best practices.

On Sunday, February 1, 2015, the Management of Electronic Resources and Services (MERS) Discussion Group held a well-attended discussion group.   They focused on assessment of library resources embedded in course management systems. Participants heard from several panelists, as well as sharing experiences from their libraries.

Also on Sunday, February 1st, the Hot Topics group hosted a discussion forum on Augmented Reality. Participants explored how augmented reality was being applied in libraries.

Sunday night, MARS Best Free Reference Web Sites presented their list of award winners at the RUSA Book & Media Awards Ceremony. For a list of this year’s winner, see

Annual Conference is Coming

Check out the great MARS programming that is coming your way during the Annual Conference 2015 in sunny San Francisco.

Saturday, June 27
1:00 – 2:30 — MARS Chair’s Program: (Library Guides in the Era of Discovery Layers)
3:00 – 4:00 – Management of Electronic Resources and Services (MERS) Discussion Forum (Join     us to talk about libraries in Course Management Systems)

Sunday, June 28
1:00 – 2:00 – MARS All Committee Meetings (Visitors interested in MARS are welcome to join us and learn)
3:00 – 4:00 — Hot Topics (Come hear about the use of drones and robotics in libraries)
4:30 – 5:30 – Virtual Reference Discussion Group (Come hear about the latest developments in virtual reference)

MARS Management of Electronic Reference Services

Midwinter Discussion Update

The Midwinter MARS Management of Electronic Reference Services Discussion Forum, Assessing Integration of Library Services into Course Management Systems, was a follow-up to the MERS Forum at Annual 2014. We began with a short panel presentation moderated by Lily Todorinova (Rutgers). Beth West (Linfield College), Lindsay Johnston (University of Alberta), and Matt Torrence (University of South Florida Tampa) described assessment activities that they are planning and have undertaken at their institutions. This was followed by a lively discussion with the 40 participants on the challenges that academic librarians face when undertaking to integrate library services into content management systems. Four themes emerged during the course of the discussion:

  1. Despite the variation among our institutions, efforts to integrate library services into Course Management Systems involve negotiating a combination of technical and political challenges. Relationship-building, leveraging existing relationships, and acting as liaison between different campus partners must be combined with learning the technical possibilities and constraints of CMS architecture.
  2. Analytics are extremely important for the placement of links to library resources and services anywhere in the institutional online presence, including within the CMS. We need to work together to explore ways to demonstrate the impact of library resources and services on student success. The ACRL Assessment in Action Program was cited as an avenue that could provide support in proposing this type of research to campus partners and overcoming privacy issues.
  3. Opportunities: services that we already provide, such as Reserves and Reading List Services (which we should start rebranding as Resource List Services to indicate that we are not limited to the printed word) are examples of services that translate naturally into the CMS environment. Once this type of service is established within the CMS, relationships with campus IT and Learning colleagues are established, and the library presence within the CMS can be expanded. Course Management Systems provide us with the opportunity of pushing relevant library content within the appropriate context and at point of need for students.
  4. Quality & Sustainability: what library staff resources does it take to successfully integrate library services into the CMS? With CMSs such as Canvas, the architecture is available to automatically embed relevant library guides into individual courses by subject, course code, etc. When we push our content, it must be of excellent quality and continually maintained. Common issues such as libguide tab-mania and out of date guides must be managed and avoided. There pushed content, such as library guides. These guides are learning objects, which should adhere was general consensus on the importance taking a minimalist approach in the creation of to information literacy principles.

Thanks to everyone who attended and participated. Look for our final Forum on CMS Integration at Annual 2015 in San Francisco!

Submitted by Lindsay Johnston