From the President
Hello RUSA members! It was wonderful to see everyone at the ALA Midwinter meeting in Atlanta. In addition to lively business meetings and informative discussion groups, we mingled at the RUSA Social and enjoyed the excitement of the RUSA Book and Media Award (BMA) ceremony. We announced the winners of the Carnegie Medal and our annual “best of” book and media lists on Sunday evening. Thank you to our RUSA staff and member volunteers for making this event a success! This year’s Carnegie medalists are Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City for nonfiction and Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad for fiction. I am looking forward to hearing from the winning authors at our Carnegie event (http://www.rusaupdate.org/2017/02/alaac17-andrew-carnegie-medals-for-excellence-ceremony-and-reception/) at the Annual Conference in Chicago, which will be held Saturday, June 24 from 8-10 p.m. The winners of our other BMAs can be found on RUSA Update under Awards News (http://www.rusaupdate.org/category/news/awards-news/). Thank you to our Award committees for their dedication and hard work.
The Midwinter meeting in Atlanta was our last conference with Susan Hornung, RUSA’s Executive Director, who is retiring at the end of April. At the conclusion of the RUSA Board meeting, we acknowledged Susan’s service to RUSA and presented her with a card and gifts including an annual pass to the Florida state parks since Florida is Susan’s retirement destination. Thank you Susan for all of your contributions to RUSA! The ASCLA/RUSA Executive Director search committee has reviewed applicants to forward to the phone screening phase of the search process. In person interviews will be held at ALA headquarters in Chicago on April 25 and 26. We hope to have a new ED hired by the end of June.
In other news from Midwinter, the RUSA Board approved a bylaws language change for the spring ballot pertaining to the proposed RUSA reorganization. The change, if approved by RUSA members, would reduce the size of the RUSA Board over time by phasing out the Director-At-Large elected positions. Seventy percent of RUSA members are also members of one of the RUSA sections and would continue to be represented on the Board by a section representative. At large RUSA members, who comprise approximately thirty percent of the membership, would be represented by the elected officers of RUSA (e.g. the President, Vice-President, Councilor, Secretary, and Past-President).
As RUSA membership has declined, we’re looking at ways to streamline our structure to better support member engagement and enhance member value. Just before Midwinter, we held an online RUSA Town Hall to discuss the RUSA Organization & Planning Committee’s recommendations for restructuring RUSA. Erin Rushton, a member of O&P, took excellent notes including for the Q&A. RUSA Board will be meeting monthly this spring to continue to discuss all of the recommendations. Comments can be made directly on the recommendations document or shared with Beth German, Chair of O&P.
RUSA continues to have a budget deficit and the Budget & Finance Committee is looking at how we can continue to reduce costs without compromising member value and benefits. RUSA Board also approved a bylaws amendment for the spring ballot that would give RUSA Board the flexibility to set member dues rates. The last time RUSA implemented a dues increase was in 2005 so we are overdue for an adjustment.
Another hot topic of conversation at ALA midwinter was the ALA conference remodel proposal which would go into effect for ALA Annual 2018 in New Orleans, LA. RUSA’s representative to the Conference Committee/Conference Program Coordinating Team is Kathleen Kern. Kathleen met with both the RUSA Executive Committee and the RUSA Board to get feedback and answer questions. We’re waiting to hear about next steps.
We are still accepting volunteers for RUSA division level and section committees! Check out the RUSA committee list (http://www.ala.org/rusa/contact/rosters) or look for committees under RUSA Sections (http://www.ala.org/rusa/sections). Volunteers must be RUSA members.
- Login to ALA (http://www.ala.org/).
- Visit the Committee Volunteer Form page (Under “Committees” )
- Change drop down menu option to “RUSA”
- Fill out the form about yourself and your current ALA responsibilities;
- Again, be sure the drop down at the bottom is set to “RUSA” or to a section.
Please feel free to contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome your questions and comments.
RUSA President 2016-17
RUSA Name Change Task Force
Last year as RUSA President I formed a task force to look at whether our division is due for a name change. We’ve been called the Reference & User Services Association (RUSA) since 1996; prior to that we were the Reference & Adult Services Division (RASD). Members have been expressing interest in a name change for several years now, concerned that the name Reference & User Services Association no longer accurately describes the dynamic quality of the work that we do. As I wrote at the time, “RUSA comprises a wide variety of interests and activities, including reader’s advisory, interlibrary loan, genealogy, user experience and all kinds of library public services. Many of us once identified as reference librarians but recognize that reference is changing radically, and find ourselves wondering how best to brand ourselves and the services we provide. We are thinking about the transformations within RUSA’s membership and wanting to make sure that we as an association continue to support and represent our members’ needs and interests. It is also important that our name speak to potential members.”
The charge of the Name Change Task Force was to determine name change possibilities and make a recommendation to the RUSA Board. The task force completed its work in September 2016 and its report can be found on ALA Connect. I am grateful to co-chairs Ed Garcia and Nancy Cunningham and all the members of the task force for their commitment to this project, and their thoughtful and thorough report. The task force, which comprised a broad range of interests within RUSA, cast a wide net: they conducted an online survey which had over 600 responses from RUSA members and non-members; held a focus group at the ALA Annual conference in Orlando; and discussed the topic extensively among themselves. They found the results of the survey and focus group to be inconclusive. Their report states that “The task force had a difficult time drawing out a definitive “name change” direction from the survey data. The results (618 responses) indicate that there is not a clear recommendation from the majority of the respondents (69% members) to change the RUSA name. The data, from both the survey and focus group, demonstrate that members’ opinions are mixed.” The task force members themselves were also divided on whether the name should be changed. Significantly, no clear alternative to the RUSA name emerged from the discussion.
The RUSA Board reviewed the task force report and discussed it at our Dec. 12 meeting. Due to the lack of a clear preference, we have decided not to propose a name change at this time. However we will continue to think about and consider possibilities for a name change, keeping in mind the recommendations of the task force. Any proposed change would have to voted on by the RUSA membership during an annual ALA election cycle. We will also keep the report in mind as we go forward with plans to reorganize RUSA to be a more flexible organization for the future, in keeping with our strategic plan. Our Organization & Planning Committee has recently put together a series of recommendations for restructuring the RUSA Board and division-level committees, which will transform us as an organization. We will also be revising our definition of reference, which was last revised in 2008; the task force report revealed ambivalence about the continued use of the term “reference” in our name, but we have also proposed that it is time to rethink what reference means, given the changes in how we do our work.
As always, we welcome your comments and questions.
RUSA Past President 2016-2017
RUSA Conference Program Coordinating committee
Due to the ALA Annual Program Remodel that has been proposed by ALA, the RUSA CPCC has discussed in length how to handle the process this year, in addition to the timeframe in which committee members would roll off of the CPCC.
In the past, RUSA CPCC has collected program proposals for the next year’s conference in early spring. The proposals would be distributed to the CPCC members prior to Annual, and then discussed at Annual, with the final recommendations being made. With the changes that the ALA Program Remodel proposes, all submissions would be collected through the ALA process, and then distributed to the divisions in late summer, with final recommendations due by mid-September. Due to these changes, the RUSA CPCC will be soliciting for Midwinter 2018 Preconference Institutes by this April. The CPCC is currently preparing the submission form which will be distributed to the leaders of RUSA’s sections and leaders of RUSA-level committees by late March. The submission deadline will be May 1st. The committee will meet at Annual to discuss the Pre-conference Institute choices.
The committee recommends that the membership timeframe for the committee members be reconsidered for this year. Members should stay on the committee until October, coinciding with the end of the proposal process for Annual 2018.
Kendra Skellen, Chair 2016-2017