Quarterly Update

Carol Schuetz, editor

From the President


Dear RUSA Members,

I’m thinking of you, our members and colleagues, as we face and cope with the challenges of these unprecedented times.

As we transition to new leadership with the close of the ALA 2019-2020 year, I want to thank all of the volunteers that keep RUSA moving forward. A very special thanks to our Board of Directors and incoming elected leaders.

RUSA’s executive leadership recently sent an email regarding some possible changes to our division. The information is so important and time sensitive that I felt it was important to share in this venue as well. I want to take this opportunity to restate the message and ensure that we’re all aware of future directions for RUSA.

As a professional association, RUSA has always responded to the changing environment of our profession (see the History of RUSA). And it is time once again for our division to look to the future and adapt to maintain our relevance and sustainability. ALA Divisions are not static but rather evolving outlets for our members. For example, you may have heard about the recent successful vote by division members of ALCTS, LLAMA, and LITA to create a single, unified division known as Core: Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures.

As we begin this discussion, there are several concurrent developments that RUSA Leadership has been monitoring:

  • Like all associations nationwide, the effects of the pandemic will likely impact traditional revenue streams going forward, putting budgetary pressure on associations to evolve and
  • Important changes are on the horizon for ASGCLA that could have significant financial implications for RUSA as we share staffing

Due to these contributing factors, we have concluded that unless we take radical measures, RUSA will not remain sustainable into the future.

This does not mean that it is time to close our doors; rather, it is time for us to take this opportunity to look to the future and choose what that future will be.

The RUSA Board of Directors recently approved the formation of the RUSA Futures Task Force. It will hold its first virtual meeting in the coming weeks and will make a preliminary report to RUSA Board in July.

While financial concerns may be a driver in the future of our Division, please know that the primary concern of the RUSA Executive Leadership and Board of Directors is you, our members. Our highest priority is to continue to support your work as reference and user services professionals, and our focus remains on our mission “to educate, empower, and inspire [our] members to advance the evolution of the profession and better serve users in a continuously changing information society.” This, as ever, serves as our guiding principle.

As we move through this period of exploration and transition, we will continue our important work centering reference and user services within ALA. We hope that you will continue to work with us towards this goal, volunteer for committees, run for elected office, renew your membership, attend continuing education opportunities, participate in interest groups, use the guidelines and best practices, or nominate someone for an award.

Your work is important. The impact of reference and user services in all types of libraries is critical, as is its representation within ALA, the preeminent association for libraries and library workers. We will be moving forward together as we look forward to the future.

We will continue to communicate with you as we explore RUSA’s future. Though it may look different than we may have expected, we are confident that the future of reference and user services is bright.

As we look towards 2020-2021, there are several initiatives that highlight all the great work that we have accomplished and will continue in the new year:

  • Update to Professional Resources
    We have an updated our process for the publication review for division-and section-level professional guidelines, professional competencies, and other language or wording related to best practices. Please read the full report.
  • Successes in Continuing Education
    Our continuing education program continues to be a success. With instructors from all areas and sections of RUSA, our online learning has brought in 20% above our budgeted revenues!
  • Definition of Reference
    The current definition of reference was last reviewed in 2008. We have started the process this year to assess and refine or reaffirm the definition of reference in order to ensure that the definition of reference is useful, usable, and meets the needs of the profession. We held a successful conversation at Midwinter 2020 and a series of town halls will be hosted through the summer and fall to continue the conversation

Please save the date! We will be holding a virtual town hall for RUSA members on June 9th at 12pm central. Come hear updates on these projects and initiatives. Connection details will be forthcoming.

We expect that you may have questions and concerns. RUSA Leadership would appreciate hearing from you – please contact us via our online form, or reach out to us directly. It will take all of us, together, to make our future a success.


Beth German, RUSA President