RSS Committee Reports

Communication and Teaching at the Point of Need Committee
Please join us in San Francisco for a discussion forum on Challenges and Opportunities for Reference and Instruction at the Point of Need. The results of a survey conducted by the committee earlier this year will be briefly discussed followed by a short presentation and breakout sessions on related topics.

When and Where:
Sunday, June 28th, 3-4 pm, HIL – Franciscan A/B
Colleen Seale, Chair 2014-2015

Discovery Services Committee (Formerly Catalog Use Committee)
We will be holding an RSS Discovery Services Discussion Forum June 28th, 3:00-4:00 PM in the Convention Center, MCC-133 (N). This year’s theme is titled “Examining Discovery Platforms within the New Framework of Information Literacy.” We have three speakers selected to start the discussion and look forward to an informative discussion.

Anne Larrivee, Chair 2014-2015

Education and Professional Development for Reference
The committee has been focusing on developing programming for three upcoming conferences:

At ALA Annual 2015, we will host a discussion forum titled “What Should be the Future of Reference Education for Libraries?”​ That session will be held on Saturday, June 27 from 1pm-2:30pm in the Hilton San Francisco at Union Square in the Continental 3 room. Committee member Laura McClanathan has recruited Michelle Simmons to be our kick-off speaker. Michelle comes highly recommended as an outstanding reference instructor at San Jose State University’s MLIS program. Add the session to your conference planner:

For ALA Midwinter 2016, we are partnering with MARS’ Professional Development Committee and MARS’ User-Experience Design Committee to host a 3 hour workshop on strategies and principles for user testing. These three groups have worked together to recruit several user-experience design experts to develop the content of the session. Our committee will provide logistical support. We have submitted a draft proposal to RSS’ Executive Committee and to MARS’ Executive Committee.

For ALA Annual 2016, we are partnering with ALISE’s Curriculum Special Interest Group to host a panel presentation at ALA 2016 on the topic of aligning library school’s reference curriculum with the needs of libraries and patrons. We have submitted a draft proposal to RSS’ Executive Committee.

Between now and ALA Annual 2015 we plan to write a brief article summarizing what we have learned from phase 1 of our State of Reference Education Project.

​If you are interested in learning more about our projects or are interested in joining us in our efforts, please drop by our business meeting at ALA Annual 2015, which will be part of RSS’ All Committee Meeting on Saturday, June 27 from 8:30am-10am. That meeting will take place in the Market Street room at the Parc 55 hotel. Add the meeting to your conference planner:

Jason Coleman, Chair 2014-2015

Evaluation of Reference and User Services
The committee led a discussion session at Midwinter titled “Reference Services in Transition: Changing Models and Assessing Success,” based on a survey distributed in January 2014. The results from the survey were distributed as a handout and were used as a jump starter for the discussion. ERUS will be looking at using the results for further analysis.

Jason Kruse, Chair 2014-2015

Health and Medical Reference Committee
The Health and Medical Reference Committee will offer a Discussion Forum entitled “Get to Know the New RUSA Guidelines for Health and Medical Reference Services: on Sunday, June 28th, from 3-4 pm in Parc 55 San Francisco—Mason, at ALA Annual 2015. At this forum we will introduce the new Health and Medical Reference Guidelines, slated to replace the Guidelines for Medical, Legal, and Business Responses (2001). While the new Guidelines will unlikely be available online at that time, the RUSA Board expects to approve the new Guidelines during its meeting at ALA, and post them online soon after. We look forward to presenting the new Guidelines, and opening a discussion on the opportunities and challenges that arise during health reference interactions.

HMRC continues to work on content to add to the Health and Medical Reference Committee’s Website. The Committee aims to add top-level resources that all ALA members who provide health or medical reference services to patrons will find useful. The focus will be on large-scale information sources and best practices, and is seen as an extension of the Health and Medical Reference Guidelines. Since our last report, member Ann Glusker has presented the Committee with a draft website of health and medical reference sources that features 2 sites each for a variety of categories such as consumer health, scholarly research, online tutorials and more. The Committee is discussing this draft via email, will make any necessary changes, and hopes to upload the content to the Health and Medical Reference Committee’s web space on the ALA site by fall 2015.

The Health and Medical Reference Committee will also meet during the RSS All-Committee Meeting and Open House on Saturday, June 27th from 8:30-10 am in Parc 55—Market Street at ALA Annual in San Francisco. This is a great chance to stop by, meet members of the HMRC, and find out more about us. Please join us!

Laura Louise Haines, Chair 2014-2015

Library Service to an Aging Population
Library Services to an Aging Population nears completion of a draft of the guidelines Best Practices for Library Services with Midlife and Older Adults to submit to the Standards and Guidelines committee for their review at ALA Annual. Library Services to an Aging Population will meet twice at Annual: at the RSS Open House on Saturday, June 27 from 8:30-10am (Parc 55 Hotel), and for a working meeting on Saturday, June 27 from 1-2:30pm (Marriott Marquis).

Angela Fortin, Chair 2014-2015

Library Services to the Spanish-Speaking
The Library Services to the Spanish Speaking Committee will be meeting during the RSS All-Committee Meeting at Annual. Please join members of the committee to discuss goals for the coming year.

Crystal Lentz, Chair 2014-2015

Management of Reference
On March 10 and 11, the Management of Reference Committee held their Spring E-Forum. The theme was Reference as Outreach.

Overall discussion stats:
Day 1 was a total of 8 threads and 70 messages with 12 people contributing (4 moderators and 8 others)

Day 2 was a total of 4 threads and 48 messages with 12 people contributing (3 moderators and 9 others)

The total number of unique librarians was the 4 moderators and 12 others (or 16 unique people)

Day 1 main discussion threads:
Desk placement

Most institutions in the thread had some type of merged desk structure

Most were also using some type of statistics tracking to mark both quantitative data (such as number of transactions) but also satisfaction and qualitative feedback

Chat reference

Institutions reported varying degrees of success with chat, especially when staffed internally with limited hours.

There simply was not enough traffic to justify having the service

Other still see it as an important extension of reference services and have encouraged faculty and students to utilize this service or have joined a consortium that allows for 24/7 support albeit from librarians at other institutions

The spectrum between teaching how to find the answer and giving the answer during the desk/reference interaction

Some institutions are making efforts in working with faculty to design better assignments and make things like scavenger hunts more research based

Others try to spend as much time as possible with research questions and turn them into teachable moments

Day 2 main discussion threads:
Gaining faculty buy-in

Explaining the benefits of library services during meetings

Joining them on Linkedin or other similar social media venues

Simply trying again-many faculty were not aware of existing library services so going to departmental meetings or inviting departmental chairs to one might be helpful

Marketing research assistance as much as instructional collaboration and encouraging students to come in after a class can be just as valuable and knowing when students might be better served by an appointment as opposed to a one-time session. Some are using the idea of Research Coaches as a way to market this

Scalability is always an issue especially for smaller institutions, there seems to be no good solution for how to do it all and still be effective other than to make a case for hiring additional staff

Use of an on-call system

For those institutions who had the model where staff were on the desk, librarians had an on-call system where they had “office hours” when they could be reached. They would have similarly scheduled shifts as when on the desk but devote more time to in-depth research assistance

Others brought librarians back to the desk because they found it more effective

Others still offer on-call during certain times of the semester but there is the question of how to balance being available with having enough time off the desk to pursue the other activities

Staffing with non-librarians (full or part time staff and students) and when/how the request is passed to a reference librarian

Most institutions with merged desks had them staffed by non-librarians with librarians concentrating on outreach work to departments and instruction in addition to consultations

Training is a key issue especially for staff and students knowing when to make referrals

Cinthya Ippoliti, Chair 2014-2015

Marketing and Public Relations for Reference Services
The Marketing & Public Relations for Reference Services committee will be meeting virtually instead of an in-person meeting for ALA Annual 2015. Since the last Review, the committee has continued to work with the presenters for our ALA Annual 2014 session, “The Soft Sell: Sales Skills for Librarians,” to create a proposal for possible future webinars.

Elizabeth DeCoster, Chair 2014-2015

Research and Statistics Committee
The Research & Statistics Committee has chosen the presenters for the Annual Reference Research Forum, which will take place during the Annual on Sunday, June 28th from 10:30-11:30 am in the Moscone Conference Center, room 2014 (W). There were a number of strong proposals and the committee employed a blind review process to select proposals that would provide a variety of research foci. Here are the presenters and their topics:

“Information Behavior of Foreign-Born Students at Brooklyn College,” City University of New York, Frans Albarillo

This presentation reports the results of a survey of immigrant and international students at Brooklyn College, a large public liberal arts college with a diverse campus that serves many foreign-born and first-generation immigrant students. The survey gathers data on students in these communities to investigate common patterns and explore how these students experience the academic library with a focus on language and culture. This exploratory study was funded by a grant from the PSC CUNY and further developed at the 2014 inaugural Institute of Research Design in Librarianship.

“Understanding the Research Needs of Mid-level Undergraduate Students,” Reed College, Marianne Colgrove and Annie Downey

How do sophomores and juniors learn to do independent research and what services, resources and curriculum strategies would help? As part of a larger Mellon-funded initiative, the Reed College Library and IT departments collaborated on a needs assessment in order to understand the gap between faculty and student perspectives on the research process. Using both focus group discussions and a student survey, the needs assessment showed that faculty characterize research as a complex, multi-faceted process and emphasize the importance of a researchable question that drives the process. Many students aren’t sure what faculty expect and often invest so much energy in gathering resources that they run out of time to conduct analysis and integrate their assignment into a unified whole. This study also exemplifies how IT and the library can collaborate to conduct a low-cost self-study that informs the development of new research curriculum and services.

“Library as Endangered Species in the Information Ecosystem, Borough of Manhattan Community College,” Jean Amaral

When students and faculty need information, where do they go? A year-long ethnographic study at an urban community college suggests it may be anywhere but the library. Amaral will present the results of this study, which call for engaging in a creative reassessment of library services in community colleges.

Ava M. Iuliano Brillat, Chair 2014-2015

Virtual Reference Tutorial Subcommittee
The Virtual Reference (VR) Tutorial Subcommittee held its most recent meeting (virtually) on Tuesday, April 7. The discussion was about ways of keeping up with the literature on virtual reference in order to keep the Virtual Reference Companion current and helpful.

The Subcommittee continues to work toward changing its name to the Virtual Reference Companion Subcommittee. Though the approval process for this name change is not difficult, actually making the change in all the places where the name appears (e.g. the RUSA committee appointment database; ALA Connect) will be painstaking.

Co-Chairs Christine Tobias and Laura Friesen shared information about the VRC at the annual meeting of the consortial VR group “Research Help Now” in Ann Arbor, Michigan on April 17, 2015. In addition to the presentation about the Virtual Reference Companion, this was an opportunity to solicit tips and best practices for the VRC from librarians who are very involved in providing virtual reference services, and to potentially find new members for the Subcommittee.

The Subcommittee continues to ask for input from all librarians who provide virtual reference to submit tips and best practices to be incorporated into that section of the Virtual Reference Companion. RSS members may submit suggestions for this 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
The YARS co-chairs had a conference call with YALSA’s with Beth Yoke and Carrie Kausch to discuss our initiative to publish the In-House Homework Help Best Practices. They provided suggestions for how to how to re-arrange and improve the document to better align with the Future of Library Services for and with Teens. After the committee reworks the document, it will be sent through the RUSA S&G process.

The committee selected three well-qualified librarian panelists for our Annual Program, “The Core: A Year (Or More!) In, How Does This Affect Librarians?” which will provide information and discussion points on how to improve resources and service for the common core curriculum.

Allyson Evans Malik, Chair 2013-2015

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.