Greetings RUSA members!
RUSQ – Turning a New Leaf
I am so pleased to have Kathleen Kern assume the helm of Reference and User Services Quarterly beginning in the summer of 2018. Kathleen has been a long-time member and leader in RUSA, as well as a former RUSA president. We seem to have a wonderful, if unplanned, tradition of former RUSA presidents moving on to serve as RUSQ editors. I have had the pleasure of working with Kathleen, on and off, over the years. RUSQ will be in good hands. Kathleen has big shoes to fill, following on the heels of Barry Trott. We all wait with some anticipation to see what Kathleen brings to the journal.
As happy as I am to see Kathleen arrive, I am very sad to see Barry Trott leave RUSQ. Barry has guided RUSQ with a steady hand, an eye for issues, a keen sensibility for the written word and extraordinary dedication. He has done this with good judgment and in the gentlest spirit. It was under Barry’s leadership that RUSQ moved to Open Access status. Barry also served as president of RUSA from 2010-2011.
Message to the Membership
I would like to give members an update on the situation with our organization. As most of you know, our financial position is not strong. We have suffered a steady decline in membership since the recession. Many members left RUSA out of necessity during the recession and did not return. Due to widespread continued library budget cutbacks, librarians learned to adapt and fill their needs thru a variety of means: grassroots conferences, unconferences, popup conferences, independent listservs, and state library associations that are cheaper and more accessible. Small, friendly niche conferences lure many librarians to new homes of colleagues sharing a specialized professional interest. These conferences require no membership, little to no involvement, nothing more than showing up. By contrast, the need for a long-term relationship requiring membership with a professional association is put into question. Many members also have had to make choices in the divisions they need to join to reduce their own cost of professional memberships. Multiple division memberships are too costly. The idea to bundle multi-divisional memberships has been suggested, but ALA has not addressed this.
So RUSA now finds itself doing some heavy lifting with greatly reduced resources. Over the last year and a half, executive directors have identified ways to make significant cost reductions, often to items that have made RUSA an enjoyable association. We have omitted the awards ceremony and will experiment with new cost-effective ways to recognize awardees. We have changed the Literary Tastes event to a ticketed event and transferred the cost of the RUSA social to supportive sponsors. We have restructured some of our commitments, planned a no cost President’s Program, and we are looking at ways to reduce production costs for RUSQ. Moving RUSQ to OA has added a financial burden to our budget, but the fact is that subscriptions have been on a downhill trend as libraries continue to cut serials budgets. The RUSA office is planning changes to our conferencing software to reduce costs. Some of our expenses are contracted, and we must wait for contracts to expire.
Ultimately to survive we must find a way to bring value and meaning to our members and to the library community. We cannot just say we do it, we must show we do it. If we have a good product, “they” will find us. We can address factors that are in our control, but we must acknowledge there are factors beyond our control. Ann Brown, as chair of Budget and Finance Committee, will be holding a series of meetings this spring to consider budget scenarios.
We can cut costs only to a point, but revenue must grow. Revenue streams consist partly of membership, so we all must help to:
- Retain the members we have. This requires the coordinated efforts of committees on the RUSA and Section levels to provide engaging activities, discussions, webinars, online conferences, skills exchanges, tool kits and whatever other valuable experiences and tangibles you can identify.
- Seek new members; everyone needs to talk up the association to prospective members.
- Promote the association so people know we are here. Word of mouth is the number one method of promotion. Help push out announcements about our webinars and courses to your state and local organizations.
The other revenue stream is our online learning component. This year we have taken a fresh look at the way we identify offerings. Our executive director is considering new twists to online learning, and we have a better idea of the different audiences we can serve. We have a goal to improve quality by being selective in our choices of presenters, developing learning objectives, and developing better evaluations.
Other revenues might come from publications that generate a royalty stream. We need volunteers to actively work on projects like this. These projects can take a lot of time.
Time waits for no man. Now that our administrative office is fully staffed and newly organized, it needs volunteers ready to roll. And we need all our members to advocate for our shared values, a value to which you all contribute.
Response to the Florida Legislation
While I am not certain when this message will appear on RUSA Update, on the top of my mind as I write is the legislation just enacted by the Florida state legislature authorizing the arming of “librarians, media specialists, advisors, coaches and others.” I recently wrote a piece for an upcoming article in RUSQ entitled “Librarians as Target,” but guns were the farthest thing from my mind. I never dreamed legislators would be suggesting librarians and media specialists bare arms on the job. ALA has prepared a statement shared with RUSA members by our division councilor, Sarah Hammill. It is bad enough that so many of us have had to undergo active shooter training in our workplace, this law takes the gun issue to a whole new level. Arming librarians and media specialists hardly constitutes “other duties as assigned.” Of course, to defend our school children, librarians and media specialists must be present in the building. Florida’s school districts have seen double digit declines in the number of librarians with some districts stretching library staff between several locations.1 The Florida legislation begs the question many have asked, what kind of society do we want to live in? I know what kind of society I choose. Now is a time for us to use our talents to promote information about gun violence, mental health, and the range of alternative solutions to our problems.
1. McKinnon, Ryan. “Sarasota Only One of a Few School Districts in the State Without a Librarians.” Herald Tribune, Oct. 15, 2017.
Annual in New Orleans – New Expectations
The program part of the Annual Conference has been posted for some weeks, and the rest of the schedule will be posted soon. Members will notice a greatly scaled down conference in terms of programs and footprint (number of meeting rooms). ALA’s goal is to reduce conference cost for the organization, reduce duplication of similar sessions, and to make the conference experience more manageable and enjoyable for attendees. ALA conference planners will be interested to know what you think, so expect to receive a post-conference survey. In the meantime, RUSA will be implementing some improvements to the program selection process for next year.
You may have heard already, and you will be hearing more, but I am excited to announce that the speaker for the RUSA President’s Program this year is Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden (barring any federal budget actions that prohibit travel). The audience will be treated to a conversational style interview with Dr. Hayden. Courtney Young, former president of ALA, has agreed to serve as interviewer.
As you can see, change is all around on every level at ALA. In closing, I wish to echo a quote Barry Trott shared recently in his piece “Change Must Be Served,”
“They who fear change nest in the now-moment.”2 There is a lot of change going on in our world, in our communities, and in our libraries, and it becomes very easy to do just what [Ruth] Lechlitner describes. We often find it easier to turn away from the relentless and difficult questions that these changes raise than to reflect on what they mean for us as librarians and as members of a community.’3
2. Ruth Lechlitner, “Three Poems,” Poetry: A Magazine of Verse 51, no. 6 (March 1938): 295, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=51&issue=6&page=1.
3. Barry Trott, “Change Must Be Served,” RUSQ 56, no. 4 (2017), https://journals.ala.org/index.php/rusq/article/view/6347/8316