RUSA MARS: Emerging Technologies in Reference

I love ALA because I'm able to both develop my leadership skills and stay involved with cutting-edge advancements in technology and information services. I serve in leadership positions for both NMRT and the MARS: Emerging Technology in Reference Section of ALA's Reference and User Services Association (RUSA). If you're interested in applying new technology in public-services contexts, consider joining RUSA MARS!

MARS, whose name originated in the years of "machine-assisted reference," is a group of tech-minded librarians from all types of libraries. We focus on new implementations and best practices for patron-facing technology, from planning and developing high-quality services to managing, teaching, and using emerging platforms and devices in reference. Our committees focus on a huge range of topics: identifying the best free websites each year, reviewing products and services, working with virtual reference services, considering user experience design, and more.

The ALA Annual and Midwinter conferences are a great place to get to know RUSA MARS. We offer several programs and discussion groups at every conference, and our committee meetings are always welcoming to newcomers. At Midwinter last month, a rousing presentation at the Virtual Reference Discussion Group demonstrated some best practices for chat reference. Our Hot Topics Discussion Group had lively discussions about reference models, LibGuides, 3D printers, Google Glass, and more.

Our committees are currently planning for ALA Annual and beyond. Upcoming topics include managing virtual reference training, makerspaces and services, and data visualization. We're also starting to plan our committee rosters for the 2014-2015 year. We're always looking for volunteers, especially as we plan for a conference right next door to Silicon Valley in 2015!

If you're interested in joining a RUSA MARS: Emerging Technology in Reference committee, fill out the RUSA Online Volunteer Form. Our incoming chair, Stephanie Graves, makes all of our committee appointments and would be happy to help you find a good fit. You may contact her directly at with any questions.

Beth Boatright
Chair, NMRT Nominating Committee
Co-Chair, RUSA MARS Hot Topics Discussion Group