Quarterly Update

Carol Schuetz, editor



Steven M. Miller, Jr., Editor

Message from the Chair

Hello RSS Members,

The world has changed quite a bit since I last wrote one of these. We all seem to be living under the legendary Chinese curse. I hope you are all adjusting well to working at home or taking extra precautions in your libraries. We on the Board are accustomed to virtual meetings at this time of year, but I am sad to lose my chance to meet many of you in person in Chicago.

As I am sure you have heard by now, Annual Conference has been canceled. ALA will be holding a Virtual event June 24th – 26th. Our Annual Reference Research Forum will be held on Wednesday, June 24 at 12:15pm (Central Time). Congratulations to the Research and Statistics Committee for being selected for this condensed event. Only a small number of planned programs were chosen for the new event, and we are very proud that they are one of them.

RUSA is also experiencing interesting times. As you may have heard, the RUSA financial situation has turned from troubling to serious with the dissolution of ASGCLA. For many years we have shared staff with ASGCLA, paying 70% of staff salaries to their 30%. Now that they are gone, we are not financially healthy enough to pick up that extra 30% without changes. RUSA has created the RUSA Futures taskforce to work on possible solutions, and your incoming chair, Rebecca Graff, is representing RSS on that taskforce.

In the meantime, the work of RSS continues. Rebecca, our past-chair Cynthia Johnson, and I are all working on the Definition of Reference taskforce. We are gathering feedback with a view to updating the official definition. We have been soliciting input from as many library workers as we can find and are condensing that into a document that we will send out for more commentary. We plan for this to be a long process, with several rounds of feedback and condensation until we arrive at a definition that RUSA can put its name to. If you want input into the current round, please answer the simple survey question, What is Reference?

The Library Service to an Aging Population Committee is working on turning one of their planned programs into a webinar. After a successful e-forum in February, the Virtual Reference Committee is also working on planning their next. These and other committees could use your help. If you want to volunteer, appointments are still being made, and there is time to apply.

The volunteer form is live on the RUSA site (https://bit.ly/2PP7zLw) and our Vice-chair, Rebecca Graff, is working hard on making appointments. Descriptions of the committees can be found at http://www.ala.org/rusa/contact/rosters#rss.

Please remember, all our meetings are public, whether virtual or in person. The RSS Board meets on the fourth Monday of every month at 1:00pm Eastern Time. The link to join in can be found on the RUSA Update calendar (https://bit.ly/2CfmTJe). Following us on Twitter

@RSS_RUSA or liking our Facebook page are also good ways to keep informed on what your section is doing. We are always happy to hear from our members, so please get in touch if there is something you need or wish to share.

Janet T. O’Keefe RSS Chair 2019-2020



Committee Reports

Research & Statistics Committee

This year’s 26th Annual Reference Research Forum will take place on Wednesday, June 24 from 12:15 PM to 1 PM (Central Time), which will be part of June’s ALA Virtual event. The forum, which will be moderated by Research & Statistics Committee Chair Qiana Johnson, will include three presentations.

The first talk is “Reaching Potential Users through Proactive Chat” by Laura Costello and Amy Kimura of Rutgers University. Proactive chat, a pop-up widget inviting users to access chat reference services at the point of need, has tremendous potential to equalize access to expert reference services, but implementing this service poses challenges. Existing literature shows that this service can help more users with real reference questions connect to library services, but the increase in volume can be intimidating for libraries with fixed staffing models. This presentation focuses on implementation choices like pop-up trigger time that impact chat volume and question complexity with the aim of helping practitioners right-size this service to their libraries.

The second presentation is “An Examination of Professional Journalists ISB for Outreach and Reference Services” by Stacy Gilbert, Phil White, and Kathryn Tallman of University of Colorado Boulder. In order to improve an R1 university libraries outreach and reference services to participants of a journalism fellows program, libraries conducted semi-structured interviews with seven fellows to discover information seeking behaviors. After coding transcripts for themes, preliminary findings suggest that while journalists often have highly developed information seeking skills, they may be unaware of the depth and breadth of library services. This presentation will discuss these findings and how this study affected librarians’ engagement practices with fellows, and how the findings can be extended to supporting journalists at reference service points at public and academic libraries.

The final discussion will be “Development of Use and the READ Scale in Assessing Chat Reference: A Meta-study” by Adrienne Warner and David A. Hurley of the University of New Mexico. A giant leap forward from the hashmark statistics-collecting paradigm, the READ scale is used to understand and make decisions about reference services. Yet this industry standard tool predates the widespread adoption of chat by libraries, and so chat reference did not fully inform its development. In this meta-study of published articles, gray literature, and popular content, we critically analyze the foundational assumptions of the applicability of the READ

Scale to chat transactions, its use by academic librarians to understand chat reference, and resulting service changes.

Attend the forum virtually and be inspired by the investigation of your colleague’s research and creativity! For more information, you can click on – https://bit.ly/362ibN8.

Submitted by Qiana Johnson, Research and Statistics Committee Chair, 2019-20


Virtual Reference Services Committee

The Virtual Reference Services Committee and both the Managing Emerging Technology and Hot Topics Committees of ETS hosted an online discussion of the present state of virtual reference and emerging technologies on February 25 and 26.

The two-day online discussion was well attended, and many contributed to the discussion prompts on a variety of topics. Some included technology in the service of social justice, services for online students, dealing with difficult patrons online, digital storytelling, big data and patron privacy.

To view an archive of the conversation, you can view the list-serv “vrc-eforum – Conversations in Emerging Tech & Virtual Reference eForum.” More information about the eForum is also available at https://sites.google.com/view/vrc-eforum/home.

Submitted by Paul Chasen and Melissa Del Castillo, Virtual Reference Committee Co-Chair’s, 2019-20

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