Evaluation of Reference and Users Services Committee

ALA Annual Conference, Atlanta, Georgia
June 17, 2002, 9:30 AM – 12:00 Noon
Meeting Minutes

Members Present: Jake Carlson (Bucknell), Chris Coleman (UCLA), Paula Contreras (Pennsylvania State), Lisa Horowitz (MIT), Chair, Suzanne Lorimer (Yale), Barb Mann (Emory), Elaina Norlin (University of Arizona), Cindy Pierard (University of Kansas), Lanell Rabner (Brigham Young), Judy Solberg (George Washington), Lou Vyhnanek (Washington State), Susan Ware (Pennsylvania State).

Excused: Leslie Haas (University of Utah), Nancy Skipper (Cornell)

New Members: Gordon Aamot (University of Washington), Chip Stewart (CUNY) CHIP

Guests: Anne Fullerton (University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada), Philip Melzer (Library of Congress), Rich Paustenbaugh (Oklahoma State), Carolyn Radcliff (Kent State)


1. Welcome and introduction of guests – Lisa Horowitz, Chair

2. Guide for New Members – Jake Carlson

The guide for new committee members will be posted to the RUSA / MOUSS website and made available as an informative resource for new and potential committee members. In addition to basic information about the committee, the guide will contain links to notes from Discussion Forums, committee minutes and reference resources.
The document will be signed and dated and updated and maintained by the committee Vice Chair.

Paragraph 1 was corrected to say “user services” rather than “adult services”

It was suggested the document be broken into subheadings.

It was suggested we obtain a list of past committee members. Lisa is investigating the possibility of obtaining such a list.

The committee purpose refers to our role in reference and user services, however with the growing trend to combine library service desks, the committee needs to examine whether we are strictly a reference committee or if we extend to other public services as well. This is an item for future consideration.

Committee members are requested to view and review the web page and send any recommendations to Jake.

Action Items:
1. Make suggested corrections as suggested
2. Mount the document on the web site
3. Put up the notes from the Discussion Forum

3. Guidelines for Reference Statistic Collection – Subcommittee Report

The subcommittee discussed the progress of their committee work. Respondents targeted for the survey were identified as academic, special, public and school librarians. It was suggested that the survey be sent to various list serves, to increase its visibility. The need for a more focused plan to identify respondents was also discussed, to ensure that both those who practiced reference, as well as those who collected and recorded reference statistics were included. [UPDATE: The ALA Office of Measurement will help us find an appropriate sample to survey.]

No method has yet been identified to deal with the surveys once they are returned. Zoomerang was suggested as a possible evaluation tool.

Action Item: Sue, Lisa and Susan will check with their institutions to see if there is an assessment tool that the committee can piggyback off of to evaluate the surveys. [UPDATE: The ALA Office of Measurement has tools that we can use.]

The current draft document provides an identification of the categories upon which the survey will be based. The data gathered through the survey will enable the committee to then write the guidelines to be used in collecting statistical data. The guidelines will delineate the type of statistics to collect, as well as serve as a tool to assess service and make management decisions.

The survey will query respondents as to what they currently collect, what decisions they need to make, and what statistics they need in order to make those decisions. The statistics reference units collect need to reflect the kind and the amount of work that is done.

Providing national guidelines for statistical collection will allow library reference units to see what and how they are doing. However, a critical part of designing these guidelines relies on how librarians themselves are defining reference.

The question was raised as to whether or not we need more than one survey to answer all of the questions this guidelines project has raised.
Survey #1 – targeted respondents – non-managerial
1. What is reference – provide a checklist of possibilities
2. What do you want to measure – provide a checklist of possibilities

Survey #2 – targeted respondents – managers
1. What do you currently measure
2. What do you want to measure

The format of the survey was also discussed, suggesting that a checklist of possible statistical categories would be useful in helping respondents identify what their needs are, what they currently evaluate, what they need to be evaluating, how they use the data collected and how they would like to use the data in the future.

Additional discussion raised a variety of questions that need to be addressed before the survey can be completed and sent out. These questions included:
1. Does the term reference mean anything to the user?
2. Do we still call what we do “reference”?
3. Do we want to review current best practices?
4. Are we interested in what libraries are currently doing?
5. Do we want to collect samples of forms being used?
6. Should we prep our target audience by discussing the survey on LIBREF-L before the survey goes out?
7. Can ALA assist us in getting our discussion and survey out on a variety of library list serves?

Action Item: Barb will compile a list of list serves to send the survey out to. [UPDATE: This is no longer necessary since the Office of Measurement will help us with a sample population.]

Action Item: Use collegial contacts to open the doors to non-academic library respondents. [UPDATE: This is no longer necessary since the Office of Measurement will help us with a sample population.]
1. Judy – Special Libraries
2. Barb Mann – School Libraries
3. Maira Liriano – Public Libraries

Action Item: Send out preliminary checklists for committee review and additional suggestions.
1. Susan – checklist defining reference
2. Lanell and Sue – checklist defining the reference transaction
3. Judy – checklist defining what should be assessed, share that information with Chris and then ask him to take on item #4
4. Chris – checklist of what managers are collecting, what they do with the data and any studies they have done and would be willing to share the results of – sent to reference managers, as well as library administrators

It was clearly identified that we must define “reference” before we can distribute the survey.

Action Item: Complete our redefinition of reference and the reference transaction.
1. Nancy and Barb – collect definitions from other library organizations, i.e. public, school, special and archives.
2. Sue and Lanell – compile the reference definition bibliography
3. Chris – draft the manager survey

Action Item: Come up with survey questions that cover these pieces of the survey
1. Judy – identify what is to be assessed
2. Susan – draft the definition of reference
3. Lanell – draft the definition of a reference transaction

Action Items: Goals for Mid-winter 2003
1. Prepare a final draft of the survey
2. Include a discussion of proposed respondents as an agenda item


4. 2003 Toronto Pre-Conference – report by Pre-Conference Chair Paula Contreras

The pre-conference will be a one-day hands-on workshop that will provide participants with a practitioner’s tool kit to perform assessment at their home institutions. The event must be self-supporting - priced to recover all costs. The cost for providing breakfast is $15 / person and lunch, $35 / person. Vendor sponsored meals are a possibility to explore.

The pre-conference committee members are:
Paula Contreras – Chair
Gordon Aamot
Jake Carlson
Susan Ware
Barbara Mann
* Michael Havener has rotated off.

Action Item: Explore vendor sponsorship.

1. Jake and Gordon – possible sponsors (LSSI and OCLC, among others)
2. Lisa – consult with RUSA on the rules governing sponsorship and then get permission from RUSA to secure sponsorship for the event.

Housekeeping items that require attention:
1. Determine the conference cost - $125 - $175 / person
2. Reserve a room at the Toronto Conference Center
3. Arrange for meals and breaks – 2 coffee breaks, no breakfast, lunch
4. Publicity – determine how, what and where
5. Conference costs
a. speaker expenses
b. copying workshop handouts for participants
c. postage
d. AV / computer usage
e. free registration – speakers and 6 subcommittee members
f. ALA overhead – 20%
g. RUSA office expenses

5. Adjournment

Lisa adjourned the meeting at 12:00 noon.

Minutes submitted by Lanell Rabner