Management and Operation of User Services Association Evaluation of Reference and User Services

A Guide for New Members

Purpose/ Organizational Structure
Related Resources


Membership Roster (Accessible to ALA members only)
Web site


Organizationally, the Evaluation of Reference and User Services (ERUS) is located under the Management and Operation of User Services Section (MOUSS) of RUSA.

The stated purpose of ERUS is to collect, analyze, and disseminate information to the RUSA membership and profession on qualitative evaluation and quantitative measurements of service which will be used to assist in responsible managerial planning and decision making in reference and user services; to support research in this area.

A new member should also review the RUSA Guide to Policies and Procedure, paying special attention to section 1 which outlines the responsibilities of committee members.


The committee usually meets twice during ALA annual and twice during ALA midwinter, with each meeting lasting for two hours. Regular attendance at our meetings is crucial as this is the time when we can discuss our progress and plot out our future courses of action. For information on past meetings, please consult the committee’s minutes.


The primary means of communication within the committee is through our listserv: REFEVAL. Much of the work we do and the documents we create are shared through this listserv, making it very important that everyone on the committee is subscribed. If you are not yet subscribed to the listserv please ask the chair to add you as soon as possible.

The MOUSS-L discussion list is another important listserv to join as information relevant to the committee is also shared through this list. For more information about MOUSS-L, including instructions on how to subscribe, please refer to the RUSA discussion list page.


We are a very active committee and have been involved in a variety of activities.


  • New definition of reference and reference transaction.
    In 2002, the committee was asked by the RUSA board to review RUSA's current definition of "reference" and "reference transaction.” As the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) was also going to revise its standards for libraries, RUSA wanted to make sure that organizations such as the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) will use this new standard. Towards this end the Committee has been working to develop these definitions, not an easy task. As part of the process the Definition of Reference Service: A Chronological Bibliography [] (2002) was compiled. A program will be held during ALA Annual 2004 (Orlando) entitled A New Definition of Reference: Developing Guidelines for Measuring and Assessing Reference Services in the 21st Century, which will highlight this work and help to further refine these definition.


The committee has sponsored numerous presentations and forums on evaluating reference services including

  • ALA Pre-conference: Reference Assessment Programs: Evaluating Current and Future Reference Services (ALA Annual 2003, Toronto)
  • Definition of Reference Service: A Chronological Bibliography [link], 2002
  • Discussion forums on reference statistics: Sex Lies and Reference Statistics (ALA Midwinter 2001, Washington, D.C. and ALA Midwinter 2002, New Orleans).
  • RUSA National Institute presentations (Indianapolis, 1998, and Baltimore, 2000)
  • Reference Assessment Manual (or the RAM as it has come to be known), published (see the list of books below) in 1995, was intended to serve as a bibliography of the literature on the evaluation of reference and as a guide to the wide variety of assessment tools that are available for libraries to use. Since its publication, other individuals have produced works that update some of the information in the RAM (see Jo Bell Whitlatch's book and Matt Saxton's web site below).


The following is a list of related resources that assist you in familiarizing yourself with the topics discussed in this committee. The authors of the works listed here have either served on the committee or worked in close conjunction with the committee for our RUSA Institute presentations.

  • American Library Association. The Reference Assessment Manual. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Pierian Press, 1995.
  • Radford, Marie L. The Reference Encounter: Interpersonal Communication in the Academic Library. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 1999.
  • Saxton, Matt. Reference Service Evaluation Research (
    "This comprehensive database contains information on studies of reference service conducted between 1930 and 2001. The goal of this project is to identify all studies, both published and unpublished, in order to provide a resource for future researchers, collocate extant research, and to build on previous work. This site enables researchers to identify previous studies by their use of specific outcome variables or specific research methods, as well as other useful criteria that is not normally included in a bibliographic citation."
  • Whitlatch, Jo Bell. Evaluating Reference Services: A Practical Guide. Chicago: American Library Association, 2000.
  • Novotny, Eric. Reference Service Statistics & Assessment : A SPEC Kit Chicago: Association of Research Libraries, Office of Leadership and Management Services, 2002.

Last updated: 30 April 2004