Annual 2006 in New Orleans

MARS/RSS Virtual Reference Services Committee Meeting
ALA Annual Meeting 2006
New Orleans, LA
Royal Sonesta Hotel - Revelers Room
Sunday, June 25, 2006
8:00 - 10:00 a.m.


Present: Jana Ronan (co-chair, MARS), Joe Thompson (co-chair, RSS), Ron Burdick, Buff Hirko, Alex Hodges, Valli Hoski, Sheryl Katzin, Meg Meiman (virtual member), Barbara Petersohn

Visitors: Virginia Cole, Anne C. Moore (chair, MARS Virtual Reference Discussion Group), Katherine Ott, Marie Radford, Sam Stormont, Doris Ann Sweet, Lori Thornton

Feedback: Reference Services Section (RSS) needs a new Webmaster. RSS Cooperative Reference Services committee has an opening for one new member.

Our committee membership will change after this meeting. If anyone wants to be a virtual member, please submit the online form via the MARS site. It will be received by Kathleen Kern, MARS chair. For those who have already submitted committee membership requests online, please re-submit them.

1. Agenda Approval
Agenda was approved.

2. Minutes Approval
Minutes from past 3 meetings were approved (2005 Midwinter-Boston, 2005 Annual-Chicago, 2006 Midwinter-San Antonio).

3. Review of program, “Abuse is in the Eye of the Beholder. . .”
The committee reviewed individual responsibilities. The blog will be maintained by Linda Harris. Evaluations will be collected by Valli Hoski, and they will be tabulated by Jana Ronan. The door people will court conference attendees passing in the hall.

4. Program Proposal for 2007 Annual-D.C., “See It, Hear It, Touch It. . .”
The committee estimates that we will attract about 300 attendees. It was noted that a larger space for 500 would be better. We should request and ensure a central location near the conference center, preferably in an auditorium setting. Also, it would be ideal if the timing of the program did not oppose other programs that might draw from a reference services population. RUSA might consider allowing us to co-sponsor with an ACRL section (i.e. Instruction Section or the Distance Learning Section) or an ALA roundtable (such as the Library Instruction Roundtable.)

Katherine Ott, our liaison to the RUSA publications committee, suggested a Web-based white paper or series of articles that would be written for the program. To this end, the committee should contact our speakers: Lynn Westbrook and Eileen Abels. Marie Radford, the only speaker who was in attendance, supported this publication venture and mentioned that she is also a member of the RUSA publication committee. Marie plans to talk to Diane Zabel (editor of RUSQ) to see if it is possible to hold space for the program publication.

It is estimated that the program cost would be estimated at $100.00, and there would be a charge for the projector and Web connection.

5. Index/Registry of VR services update
This committee project (which now exists as an appointed subcommittee) could be completed with the use of the ALA Content Management System. Donovan Vicha is our liaison. Jana described the Index/Registry as a tool for referral that would allow users to search for virtual reference services by geographical location. Also, it would contain data about each service’s vendor or service method. The committee has discussed other defunct indexes such as those formerly maintained by Bernie Sloan, Stephen Francoeur and Gerry McKiernan. Marie mentioned that we could use these as a starting point. Joe will share with the full committee the subcommittee’s minutes from its February 2006 virtual meeting. Buff believes that the Web-based resource should have a short URL for ease of use.

6. State of Washington’s VR training Web site
Buff demonstrated the Anytime Anywhere Answers “Virtual Reference Adventure: Choose Your Own Experience” training tutorial, which will be maintained by the committee. The tutorial will need updating over time, and thus, it will need the committee to be its caretaker. Some updates already suggested are links to the “Internet Detective,” the eventual VR Index/Registry, new or ongoing VR research, and VR job postings. The tutorial contains about 25-30 hours of training content.

It was suggested that a subcommittee (about 4-5 members with Buff as chair) be formed to maintain the site. The subcommittee would ensure that the tutorial remains freely available. Buff is able to update it from now until June 2007. At that point, responsibility for updates would be given to RUSA (currently, the pages are hosted on the SPL servers). The tutorial was funded by a $23,000 LSTA grant. Doris Ann suggested we get in touch with Kathleen Kern about the appointment process for the subcommittee, and we may deem this subcommittee good for virtual members, too.

7. Report from the Virtual Reference Discussion Group (VRDG), Anne C. Moore
Anne reported that 68 people attended VRDG on Saturday, June 24, from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Forty-seven attendees submitted evaluations. Positive responses from newer and veteran practitioners mentioned that important VR and IM issues were raised that they had not yet considered. Suggestions for improvement mentioned that the discussion was over structured, that less time should be used to report out (process was labor intensive), and that learning was affected by strong personalities in the group dynamics. Suggestions for future VRDG themes included 1) boot camp for VR, 2) focus on IM security, authentication, and statistics management, 3) open source IM management solutions: GAIM v. Trillian, 4) IM v. vendor software, 5) best practices for IM, 6) alternatives to OCLC QuestionPoint 24/7, and 7) marketing VR/IM services.

The committee offered feedback to Anne. Everyone agreed it was a successful VRDG. Some suggested changes might be 1) to have each group write down its favorite or pertinent conversation topic instead of taking extensive discussion notes and 2) cut back further the length of the report out.

8. Committee duties for Web page
The committee revised the language that describes its duties. The following revised language is to be posted on the committee’s Web site:

Specific Duties

-To monitor virtual reference services and technology and recommend appropriate action for MARS and RSS.
-To maintain communication with the MARS Virtual Reference Discussion Group, assisting with the planning and facilitation of discussion forums at midwinter and annual conferences.
-To maintain the RUSA Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual Reference Services.
-To develop and maintain the Index to Virtual Reference Services.
-To develop timely programs and training for virtual reference services.
-To maintain the Virtual Reference Tutorial.

9. Planning for the revision of Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual Reference Services
The committee decided to form a subcommittee for revising these guidelines. Barbara Petersohn, Valli Hoski and Virginia Cole volunteered to serve. The committee would like there to be about 4-5 members, balancing representation from RSS and MARS each. It is hoped that this subcommittee could be formed by Midwinter 2007 in Seattle.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:53 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Alex R. Hodges
American University