Reference Research Forum 25th Anniversary


Twenty-five years ago the Research and Statistics Committee, then part of Management and Operation Of User Services Section (MOUSS), sponsored the first Reference Research Forum. The Reference Research Forum has continued through the years even as RUSA sections changed and transformed. For many years the Research and Statistics Committee of the Reference Services Section (RSS) has had the honor of vetting our peer’s reference-related research.


This year “New Discoveries in Reference: The 25th Annual Reference Research Forum” will take place on Monday, June 24th, 1:00 to 2:00 pm in the Convention Center, Room 149A-B.  Also, to celebrate the silver anniversary of the Forum, RSS will devote time during our Sunday morning Open House and Breakfast to mark this special occasion. As part of the festivities, we look forward to welcoming past and current Forum participants and hearing a few words from Marie Radford, who has presented multiple times at the Reference Research Forum. If you have presented at one of the Forums, served on a past Reference and Statistics Committee, or enjoyed attending the Forums, please come help us celebrate this significant achievement for reference research!


Why does the Reference Research Forum still attract researchers and attendees? Reference services in almost every type of library have changed with the times: email reference, chat reference, merging services points, changes in who staffs a reference point and answers the majority of questions. Along with these changes come questions about training, evaluation, and the overall quality of the services we provide. But one underlying theme remains the same in glancing over the titles of presentations over the last 25 years – understanding and improving how reference librarians can help patrons with the research process. Below is a sampling of a few of the presentations from previous Forums:


  • The Impact of the Wisconsin-Ohio Reference Evaluation Program on Reference Service in Eleven Libraries: Did Collecting All That Data Really Make a Difference?” presented in 1998 by Michael Havener and Marjorie Murfin
  • A Comparison of Questions Asked in Face-to-Face, Chat, and E-mail Reference Interactions” presented in 2002 by Charlotte Ford
  • “CSI Cyberspace: A Multiple Case Study Investigation of the Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services” presented in 2005 by Marie L. Radford  and M. Kathleen Kern
  • “Research Assistance Interactions: Exploration of Users’ Motivation and Perceptions” presented in 2012 by Alison Graber and Caroline Sinkinson
  • Reference on Demand: Testing an ‘Uber Reference’ Service in an Academic Library” presented in 2018 by Brian Moss

The research presented at the Reference Research Forums demonstrates that while we continue to rethink how we can best help our users, we also continue to explore what works and what doesn’t work by evaluating the quality of the service we provide. The continuing popularity of the Reference Research Forum illustrates that helping users navigate the physical and virtual information landscape remains vital to our profession.


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