2006 Midwinter Minutes

Evaluation of Reference and User Services
Meeting of January 21, 2006 Minutes
San Antonio, TX Meeting

Members present were Jill Moriearty (Chair, University of Utah), Jeff Belliston (BYU), Deborah Costa (UCLA), Gregory Crawford (Penn State Harrisburg), Evelyn Greenlaw (U of Southern Maine), Charles (Chip) Stewart (CUNY), David Vidor (Emory), Marilyn Von Seggern (Washington State), Susan Ware (Penn State Delaware)

Others present were Ruby Licona (Weber State) and Michael Whitchurch (BYU).

The meeting was called to order by the chair, Jill Moriearty, at 8:00 am. The meeting was held as part of the RSS Section all-committee meeting on Saturday, January 21, 2006, in Room 001 of the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center.

The Minutes from both of the Annual 2005 meetings in Chicago were approved unanimously.

Susan Ware reported on the review of the Assessment Section of the Draft Guidelines for Defining, Measuring, and Assessing Reference Services. She has heard from 2 individuals who are critiquing the assessment section and is awaiting comments from 2 others. Some useful comments have been received that will be incorporated into the document. The goal is to have the final version at the Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

The definitions will be presented by Jill and Susan to the Standards and Guidelines committee on January 22, 206. If approved, these new definitions will be substituted for the previously approved RUSA definitions of reference.

The floor was then opened for discussion on future projects for the committee. There is a concern that the committee begin to address the larger issue of “user services” in addition to reference. One major area of interest is on the assessment of both user services and of reference, especially due to the current climate of accountability. One concern is the lack of public librarians in RUSA and in RSS. Thus, there is a lack of the broader understanding of the “user” of libraries, especially of public libraries. The committee may need to survey broad groups to determine how libraries are responding to user needs and which needs are unmet. The question is how to find out about user needs. One suggestion focused on having the committee evaluate the assessment tools and make recommendations for which are good to use for specific types of users and specific institutions. This could also be coupled with a literature review to determine how assessment of user services has been done. This also brought up the issue of the future of library services, since current library services are based on what librarians think our users need. But, are such services successful or unsuccessful? The problem is that many of the assessment tools actually do not yield good information and do not actually tell us what the user needs.

The discussion then focused more on what should the product of the committee be? Should it be a program or a publication? One suggestion is to find out what the RUSA and RSS members need through a survey of the membership and use this information to help inform the committee’s work in the future. Thus, an examination of techniques, the nuts and bolts, of evaluation may be an appropriate focus. One good way to start may be to sponsor a discussion group on small assessment techniques or a similar topic. Such groups are easier to move through the ALA process and can don more quickly than a regular program. The results of the survey and the discussion group could then help direct the future work of the committee.

The meeting adjourned at 10:00 am.

Submitted by Gregory Crawford.