Steven M. Miller, Jr., Editor
Message from the Chair
Hello RSS Readers,
2018/2019 will be an exciting year for the Reference Services Section with many opportunities for RSS members to contribute to the Section and to our profession. Under Rebecca Jackson’s
leadership last year, the RSS Executive Committee began to institute changes to better reflect
the topics our members are interested in exploring. For example, last year we merged three
committees into one new committee, the Managing, Marketing, & Measuring Reference
Services Committee. You can read more about this new committee in the RSS News and Updates section below.
Last year the RSS Executive Committee also agreed to have three committees go on hiatus:
- Committee on Multilingual Services
- Services for Job Seeking Patrons
- Health and Medical Reference
This year I will appoint a small ad hoc team to look at these three committee’s charges and
recommend if and how we re-engage with these three areas.
In addition to these two new and exciting opportunities to become involved in RSS, we also
continue to need members for our other well-established committees, particularly the following:
- Communication and Teaching at the Point of Need
- Education & Prof. Development for Reference
Learn more about these Committees by visiting our RUSA RSS page.
If any of these RSS committees intrigues you, or if you would like to work on an ad hoc
committee, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email Janet O’Keefe, RSS Vice-chair
This year RSS will focus on the work of our Committees and opportunities to share knowledge
and information. If you have any ideas for helping RSS improve our services to you–the
librarians who identify with the Reference Services Section, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
If you have any questions, please ask.
RSS Chair 2018-2019
RSS News & Updates
RSS Responds to Changes in Reference Services Provision with New Committee:
Managing, Marketing, & Measuring Reference Services
Some libraries have merged circulation and reference service points. Others have reduced the
number of reference desks in their buildings. Still others have created new physical reference
points. And most libraries continue to provide virtual reference services in addition to in-person
reference or research assistance. With all these changes in how reference is provided, how do
managers and coordinators keep up with trends in managing, measuring, and marketing their
To respond to the ever-changing face of reference, the Reference Services Section has created
a new Committee: Managing, Marketing & Measuring Reference Services. This new committee
merges three previous RSS committees (Management of Reference, Marketing and Public
Relations for Reference Services; Evaluation of Reference and User Services). The new
Managing, Marketing & Measuring Reference Services Committee will create tools or learning
opportunities to help librarians and staff manage reference services including:
- The use of qualitative and quantitative data to assist in responsible planning and decision
making in reference services
- Management and evaluation of reference services
- Marketing reference services to patrons
The Committee is looking for members who want to contribute to the profession, share
information about these topics and more, and help create a vibrant resource for their
If you are interested or have questions, please contact Cynthia Johnson, RSS Chair 2018-19:
Evaluation of Reference & User Services Committee To Present Findings at 2018 ARL
Library Assessment Conference
As part of the valuable work coming out of RSS, the Evaluation of Reference & User Services
(ERUS) committee has earned a coveted spot among contributors to the 2018 ARL Library
Assessment Conference, to be held December 5–7 in Houston, Texas.
The selection process was highly competitive, with more than 250 submissions. Rebecca Graff,
Paula Dempsey, and Adele Dobry are finalizing our presentation of “Benchmarking Reference
Data Collection: The Results of a National Survey on Reference Transaction Instruments with
Recommendations for Effective Practice.” It is based on a survey ERUS completed in 2016, the
results of which will soon be available to RUSA.
The contributions of ERUS will continue in the new Managing, Marketing, & Measuring
Reference Services Committee, which will be co-chaired by our own Adele Dobry!
RSS Program Reports from ALA Annual
Library Services to an Aging Population
The Library Services to an Aging Population Committee held a program at ALA Annual
Conference on Saturday, June 23rd. The program, The New Frontier: Training Older Adults
for the Latest Gadgets was jointly sponsored by RUSA and RMRT. The panel discussed how
libraries and librarians can increases opportunities for older adults to learn, obtain government
resources and services, develop personal awareness, and participate with accessible gaming
equipment. It emphasized how the library can become a vital point for seniors who wish to
engage more deeply with the world around them.
An audience of 100 were educated and entertained by the panelists: Chair, Fatima Perkins,
Director Community Outreach & Advocacy, WRAAA, Taina Evans, Upcoming Chair,
Coordinator, Older Adult Services-Brooklyn Public Library, Allan Kleiman, Director of Montville
Township Public Library, Nann Hilyard, RMRT, and Roger Goldblatt, Deputy Chief of Consumer
The program was highlighted by American Libraries in a blog post.
Submitted by Fatima Perkins, Library Services to an Aging Population Chair 2017-2018
Research & Statistics Committee
The Research & Statistics Committee hosted New Discoveries in Reference: The 24th
Annual Reference Research Forum at ALA Annual on Saturday, June 23, 2018 at the New
Orleans Convention Center. 127 people attended to learn about ongoing research from three
The first speaker, Eamon Tewell, Reference & Instruction Librarian, at Long Island University,
Brooklyn, discussed his ethnographic study using Photovoice to learn more about student
research needs and challenges, with a focus on improving reference services for marginalized
The second speaker, Brian D. Moss, Reference Services Manager, University of Kansas
Libraries, described his “Uber Reference” model of on-demand reference service in libraries.
Our final speakers were Julie Marie Frye, Education Library Head, Indiana University, and Maria
Hasler Barker, Assistant Professor, Sam Houston State University. Their project incorporated
linguistic research techniques to illuminate cross-cultural communicative differences for scholars
and practitioners who seek to improve bilingual patron comfort in libraries.
Submitted by David Ward, Research & Statistics Committee Chair 2017-2018
Sound Bites: Current Conversations about Reference at ALA Annual
Success! Over 50 attendees participated in the RSS discussion “Sound Bites: Current
Conversations about Reference,” held at the ALA Annual conference on Monday, June 25.
Participants broke into groups to talk about one of the following current reference issues:
- Managing reference services in a library with a single point of service
- Providing multilingual library services
- Developing best practices for using social media to extend and market reference services
The managing reference services in a library with a single point of service topic generated so
much interest and excitement that two groups formed to brainstorm. Participants found many
similarities between public and academic libraries which have a single point of service. For
example, this often means a combined circulation and reference desk. Similarly, both academic
and public librarians expressed the need to define what questions staff should answer and when
they should make referrals to reference librarians. Discussion also revolved around naming the
service point, what data is kept, how to use the data for training and evaluation, how service is
evaluated, and how single points of reference can create a positive atmosphere of learning and
appreciating colleagues’ specialized knowledge because referrals become extremely important.
Both public and academic librarians also came together to talk about providing multilingual
library services. One of the main concerns centered around communication problems when staff
is not fluent in the patron’s language. To help alleviate this issue, one of the suggested solutions
was to collaborate with another library (perhaps in the same local system) whose focus has
been to help non-English speaking patrons and ask that library to help train staff to work with
patrons under these circumstances.
The group discussing best practices for using social media to extend and market reference
services found libraries’ plans for using social media varied. Some libraries did not have plans in
place while other participants discussed what social media they are using (Snapchat and
Instagram are more popular, Facebook isn’t popular among students) and how they manage
their social media (Hootsuite). There were also comments about the need to be responsive on
social media (“you need to respond”), and there was also concern expressed about privacy. It
was found that most people keep up on social media trends by following Twitter, reading
articles, and asking patrons what they use.
Report from Cynthia Johnson, RSS Chair 2018-2019, Patricia Greenstein, Communication and
Teaching at the Point of Need Committee Chair 2017-18, and Rebecca Jackson, RSS Chair