Chapter 4: Guidelines
Procedures for developing guidelines:
The RUSA Standards and Guidelines Committee (abbreviated S/G within this document), coordinates the development of all guidelines written within RUSA. ALA Bylaws permit only type-of-library divisions to adopt standards. RUSA, as a type-of-activity division, is restricted to writing guidelines.
The RUSA Standards and Guidelines Committee has created a " Checklist for Creation or Revision of a RUSA Guideline" that may be downloaded.
The following step-by-step process should be followed for both new and revised guidelines. It may take one to three years to complete this process. All guidelines are approved at the division level.
An RUSA unit or committee, which has identified a need for a possible guideline, should complete the following tasks.
- Identify the audience, define and agree on the need, and determine that the committee has the expertise and background to develop a guideline.
- Conduct a review of existing guidelines or standards for related coverage. The committee should examine other related and existing guidelines (within RUSA, and other divisions), search the literature for information on the subject, investigate the history of such a service, and collect and analyze field experiences with and evaluations of related guidelines.
- Notify the RUSA executive director of the intent to develop a new guideline and, simultaneously.
- Request that the chair of the RUSA Standards and Guidelines Committee appoint a liaison from the S/G Committee. The liaison will:
- contact the chair of the proposing unit
- attend at least part of one of that unit's business meetings at each Annual Conference and Midwinter Meeting
- provide advice and guidance throughout the entire process
- report on the status of the draft at each S/G Committee meeting
- present drafts to the S/G Committee in the absence of the chair of the proposing unit or committee.
- Develop a first draft. Follow the content and formatting of the "RUSA Model Guidelines" and the "ALA Standards Manual." Include the following: goal(s), structure, purpose, intended audience, type of guideline (service, performance, technical, or procedural), content and organization.
- Distribute the first draft for comment. Copies should go to:
- section chair
- RUSA executive director
- RUSA Standards and Guidelines Committee chair
- Attend a meeting of the S/G Committee to discuss the progress of the draft and receive feedback about content, format, style, and other editorial matters.
- On recommendation by the S/G Committee,
- request input from the RUSA membership. Post a draft of the guideline on the RUSA Web site and include a deadline for responses and the name and address of the contact person(s).
- hold a public hearing for ALA membership at an ALA conference. Post a notice of the hearing on RUSA-L and other library electronic discussion lists, as appropriate.
- Send a draft to solicit comments from committees, individuals, and organizations identified by the S/G Committee and the RUSA executive director for possible distribution to the RUSA Board.
- Review comments, incorporating necessary revisions.
- Prepare a revised draft. In exceptional cases, if the revised draft represents a substantial departure, and at the request of the S/G Committee, prepare a third draft by repeating steps, 6–10. This process is iterative until the draft is in a satisfactory final state and done at the request of the S/G Committee.
- Send the final draft to the chair of the appropriate RUSA section for section approval. Section chair will send written confirmation of approval to the chair of the S/G Committee.
- Present final draft and supporting documentation approval to the S/G Committee and the RUSA executive director at least one month prior to the Midwinter Meeting or Annual Conference. The chair of the S/G Committee will place this draft on the committee's agenda and the RUSA executive director will distribute it to the Board.
- If the RUSA Standards and Guidelines Committee finds the final draft unacceptable and an impasse is reached after discussion with the originating unit or committee, the RUSA S/G Committee will transmit its findings to the originating unit or committee and the RUSA Board for final review, or
- Receive notification from the chair of the RUSA Standards and Guidelines Committee that the guideline is acceptable and consistent with existing RUSA guidelines. The S/G Chair will also notify the RUSA executive director or president that the S/G Committee has found the guideline acceptable and consistent with existing RUSA guidelines, or that only minimal editing is now required, and that the Board may now formally act on it.
- Appear at the RUSA Board meeting when the guideline will be discussed. The S/G Committee chair or liaison should also be present at that meeting.
- The RUSA executive director will submit the approved guideline to the editor(s) of RUSQ for publication. The executive director will also post the guideline on the RUSA Web site.
- The RUSA Standards and Guidelines Committee will initiate a guidelines review process at seven year intervals after initial Board approval.
Source: RASD Standards and Guidelines Committee, June, 1992; reaffirmed by RUSA Executive Committee, October, 2006.
Supporting documentation required:
The following information must be submitted when a new or revised guideline is submitted to the RUSA Standards and Guidelines Committee for review and/or approval. This information will assist the RUSA Standards and Guidelines Committee and the RUSA Board in determining whether the process has been completed properly.
- Cite related guidelines and standards used to develop this guideline.
- List the ALA divisions, committees and units, individuals, and other interested parties consulted during the development of the guideline. Have each of these contacts seen the draft that is being presented to the Standards and Guidelines Committee?
- List the dates when the guideline was submitted to:
- Originating unit, S/G Committee for initial review
- S/G Committee for formal approval
- RUSA Board for information/review
- List the name of the section and the date the guideline was approved by that section's executive committee.
- Define the audience and purpose of the guideline, and provide a brief history of its development.
- Include contact person and date of submission.
Suggestions for conducting hearings:
When a committee is developing new guidelines, a declaration of policy, a statement of position, or other significant document, it may choose to conduct a hearing. Such a hearing should be in addition to other opportunities for submitting commentary to the originating committee. The hearing should be held during either a Midwinter meeting or an Annual Conference, and should be announced well in advance of the meeting.
Opportunities should be provided for speakers to schedule their presentations at specific times. If many people wish to be heard, it may be necessary to set, in advance, a time limit for length of presentations. Presentations by people who appear without appointments should be heard in order of their arrival. One or more committee members may be assigned the duty of approaching all comers to determine whether they are present to observe or to offer commentary, and of recording the names of the latter in order of their arrival.
Committee members should be prepared to listen without response to commentary presented. Should a commentator ask questions of committee members, responses should be limited to brief expository statements. A hearing is not the time or place for the committee to assume a combative posture. It should be neither defensive nor aggressive.
The committee may assign one member the responsibility for taking full notes on the presentations. Other committee members may wish to take their own notes for use in any subsequent committee deliberations.
The room should be arranged with a head table for committee members. Observers and presenters should be provided with an auditorium-style seating arrangement.
Reviewing and sunsetting guidelines:
Standards and Guidelines Committee will:
- Review all existing RUSA guidelines at least once every seven years. This should result in either a revision or recommendation to withdraw.
- Recommend that the RUSA board sunset any guideline that has not be reviewed by the end of the eighth year.
- Drop any proposed guidelines approved in concept if not first draft is presented with three years.
Source: RUSA Board, July, 2000; reaffirmed by RUSA Executive Committee, October, 2006.
The RUSA guidelines are mounted on the RUSA Web site and can be reached at the Resources for Librarians section.
Model outline for guidelines:
Guidelines serve as an authoritative document offering suggested levels of performance or adequacy. They outline a recommended course of action. Unlike standards that carry the weight of a rule, guidelines describe measures to help libraries meet the requirements of a standard.
Include in the introduction to guidelines the purpose or objectives of the document, the need which justified development of the guidelines, the scope, and the audience or group which the guidelines serve.
Body of Document
1.1 The format of the guidelines should follow those recommended in the
ALA Standards Manual.
1.2 Number the sections in sequential order, with secondary ideas listed
under general statements.
2.1 Qualifications of Professional and Support Staff
2.2 Staff Development
1.3 Each numbered section may have a header with a statement or
paragraph(s) underneath, or may have a main section header with a
numbered statement/paragraph underneath.
Example 1: Headers with statements/ paragraphs following
The goal of information service is to provide an end-product: the
information sought by the user. Information service should not only
meet but also anticipate user needs. It should encourage user
awareness of the potential information resources that fulfill individual
The library should provide instruction in the effective use of its
resources. Such instruction can range from the individual explanation,
creation of guides in appropriate media to formal assistance through
interpretive tours and group presentations.
Example 2: Main section header with numbered statements or paragraphs
3.1 The library should arrange information services according to a
coherent plan taking into account read accessibility to users.
1.4 Avoid detail beyond three numbered divisions (e.g. 1.1.2) to prevent making
the document cumbersome and difficult to follow.
2.1 An RUSA guideline should incorporate benchmarks or yardsticks by which
a particular library or information service, resources, or material may be judged.
1.2 The library should provide users with complete, accurate answers to
their information queries regardless of the complexity of those queries.
1.3 The library should make service areas for information services highly
visible and readily accessible to all users.
2.2 Include in an appendix, procedures that describe methods to achieve a
benchmark or guideline statement. These procedures may also be referred to
as separately-published documents.
3.1 Use short, declarative sentences. Avoid lengthy descriptive phrases. Avoid
passive voice whenever possible.
4.1 Definitions of special terms, a bibliography of relevant sources, recommended
procedures for attaining guidelines, etc. may be included as appendices.