MOUSS Evaluation of Reference and User Services Committee

Midwinter 2003 Meeting Minutes II
Philadelphia Convention Center
Sunday, 26 January 2003

Committee Members Present:

Gordon Aamot, University of Washington
Jacob Carlson (vice-chair), Bucknell University
Claudia Epps-Timmann (minutes), University of Arizona
Leslie Haas, University of Utah
Lisa Horowitz (chair), Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Suzanne Lorimer, Yale
Lanell Rabner, Brigham Young University
Judy Solberg, George Washington University
Chip Stewart, The City College of New York
Susan Ware, Pennsylvania State University


Ann Armbrister, College Center for Library Automation
Rudolph Clay, Washington University
Gloria Colvin, Florida State University
Paula Contreras (ex officio), Oberlin College
Katherine Dahl, Western Illinois University
Franceen Gaudet, National Library of Canada
Dongmei Han, Southwest Texas State University
Christopher Jocius, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy
Mary Redmond, New York State Library
Jane Rutherford, Gallaudet University Library
Cheryl Smith, Notre Dame

Chris Coleman, University of California at Los Angeles
Barb Mann, Emory
Nancy Skipper, Cornell University

Lisa provided introductions and gave an overview of RUSA/MOUSS activities for the visitors, encouraging them to join if interested.



Definition of Reference Survey and Related Documents

Lisa handed off the meeting to Susan and Lanell who distributed several items to the committee. The first was a bibliography of the definitions of reference service that have appeared in past texts and articles. The second set were drafts of checklists that would be used to create a survey as a first step in generating “Guidelines on Reference Statistics.” The data gathered from the survey will be used as the basis for the committee to create a modern definition of “reference,” and will be used as a foundation for the guidelines.

The first checklist that the committee reviewed was created to inform the committee about what librarians consider “reference work”. The original draft of the checklist contained the following items:

  • Answering reference questions (@ reference desk, roving, chat, email, etc./includes direct answer and instruction)
  • Reviewing and selecting print and non-print resources for the collection (collection development)
  • Preparing print and non-print bibliographies (esp. w/annotations that include a description, an evaluation, or instructions on the use of the resource)
  • Preparing print and non-print search and subject guides.
  • Providing readers advisory services
  • Preparing print and non-print FAQs
  • Developing searchable question archives/knowledge bases
  • Developing virtual library tours
  • Designing library web pages
  • Designing browsing and searching aids that facilitate unmediated services

In the ensuing discussion the following suggestions for the checklist were made:

  • Outreach and marketing activities should be included
  • The different items in the first bullet should be broken up and separated into individual categories (reference in person at the desk separate from e-mail reference, etc.)
  • Consultation or “Checkpoint instruction” (teaching a patron how to use a resource at their point of need) should be included as reference, but it’s not clear if “formal instruction” (as a group) should be included.
  • Creating course pages (print or non-print guides to resources for a particular course) should be added to the “search and subject guides” line.
  • In addition to listing web design, we should include other “virtual” design functions such as customizing the library’s OPAC, electronic guides, etc.
  • As the committee is composed solely of academic librarians, we to be sure that we are include the perspectives of other libraries (public, special, etc.) in this checklist. It was suggested that we invite other types of librarians to comment on this checklist.
  • In drafting this checklist, we need to keep in mind the users’ perspective.

The committee broke into small groups for further discussion about the framework of the checklist and to decide which questions would fall into the different categories (Instruction, Transaction and Resources).

Toronto Pre-conference

Gordon Aamot gave a synopsis of his meeting with the three presenters: JoBell Whitlach, John Richardson and Marie Radford, for the Toronto pre-conference that the committee is planning. All of the presenters then came by to join in the committee discussion.

The options of working together with a MARS committee or having a corp. sponsor were discussed.

The pre-conference is currently set up from 8.30-4.30. It would be useful to go until 5.00 and have 2 breaks. The only problem will be setup.

Some options could be:

  • 1 ½ afternoon breaks or a longer lunch.
  • Session could go until 4.45pm

JoBell will speak on observational technique of measurement, focusing on electronic means of observation. John will present the 9 principles of valid and reliable surveys using data gathered using an LSSI product as a model. Marie will present on focus groups and interviewing techniques (?).

Lisa is concerned about the high cost of the program in comparison to other pre-conferences being offered. More details about the cost need to be researched.

Other pre-conferences may seemingly overlap ours. LAMA, for example, is doing some kind of a measurement pre-conference. We need to differentiate our session in our publicity. In particular we could focus on the fact that attendees will get a measurement "toolkit", plus learn the necessary skills to carry out effective measurement.

The budget for the pre-conference includes some money for publicity.

Suggestions for Publicity venues included:

  • RUSA Update
  • ALA website (News and Coming Events)
  • Listservs (RUSA-L, LIBREF-L, etc.)
  • State assn mailing lists, including Canadian lists (REFCAN-L).
  • Contact local library directors in Toronto.

Leslie Haas will spearhead publicity for the committee.

*Other Preconference Issues and Questions:
Need to let speakers know what they can expect regarding coverage of expenses. What is built into budget? Paula Contreras said she would pursue this.

In 2000, when this pre-conference was done as a RUSA Institute, a listserv for registrants was set up before the conference. Speakers found it useful for planning (what are interests and questions of attendees?). Barbara D’Angelo runs the web and listservs for RUSA. She's the person to speak with about doing this.

Please keep speakers informed how registration is going. This helps with planning. The ideal group size is 80, but we could accommodate as many as 120. The deadline for getting material photocopied for distribution at the pre-conference may be May 1st but Paula Contreras will double check.

Lisa asked if we wanted to plan anything for 2004. The consensus of the group was no. We have a lot on our plate already and don't need to take on another pre-conference.

Definition of Reference (this is a return to the first agenda item)

The committee briefly reviewed their small group discussions (resources, instructions, transactions) from earlier in the meeting. Everyone felt that it was messy to categorize possible survey items into three topics (Instruction, Transaction and Collection) because these topics are so interrelated.

Lisa asked the project managers how much input they wanted from the committee as work goes on. We do not want slow group process to impede progress. Lisa emphasized that committee members need to respond to requests for input within the time frame established for the request. If members don't respond, the project managers will go with what they have and move forward.

One more consideration for the Guidelines was discussed. Lisa suggested the Committee might want to do a program at the 2004 annual meeting on the guidelines. Part of our charge is to hold wide discussions regarding the guidelines, and this would be a good opportunity to get face to face feedback. We would need to have the proposal in by May 15, 2003. It could be a discussion forum or a formal program.

It was agreed upon by the committee that this was a good idea. Lisa will tell the MOUSS board that we plan to do something along these lines in Orlando in 2004.

Committee Issues

We need to select a new vice chair. Jake Carlson has been the vice chair and will be chair next year. The vice chair acts as liaison for the committee web page, keeps up to date the guidelines for new members and provides support for the chair. Barbara Mann previously expressed interest in the vice-chair position. Lisa will contact her to confirm.

Four people are leaving the committee in June 2003. Leslie Haas, Nancy Skipper, Lisa Horowitz, and Chris Coleman are rotating off. There are slots for 12 members.

Barbara Mann, Lanell Rabner, Susan Ware and Judy Solberg are up for renewal. They need to contact Lisa to let her know if they are interested in renewing and they need to fill out a RUSA volunteer sheet.

Jake Carlson, Suzanne Lorimer, Chip Stewart and Gordon Aamot are members through 2004. Suzanne and Jake will end their terms at the end of 2004. Only Chip and Gordon can renew at that time.

Claudia Timmann, committee intern, has the option to become a member in 2003.

This issue of having "user services" in our name came up at the last meeting. There was a wide-ranging but inconclusive discussion of what user services, including reference, entails.

Lisa briefed the committee on the larger MOUSS discussion of its name and its future within RUSA. There's strong association interest in creating a place for front line reference librarians. MOUSS is currently perceived as a group for managers. The MARS group has strong membership and brand identity, and there's some interest within MOUSS of merging with MARS. A MOUSS committee is working on these issues and its report is due May 1, 2003. Given the larger discussion within MOUSS, the group decided not to do anything with a name change now.

Annual meetings in Toronto are scheduled for:
Saturday 9:30-11am MOUSS all-committee meeting
Monday 9:30-noon Our committee meeting

Lisa will not be able to attend the Saturday meeting. Lisa asked the visitors to let her know if they're interested in volunteering for the committee.

Respectfully Submitted,
Claudia Epps-Timmann, Intern