MARS/RSS Virtual Reference Services Committee Meeting
ALA Annual 2007
Hotel Washington: Washington Room
Sunday, June 24. 2007
8:00 – 10:00 a.m.
Jean Ferguson (incoming co-chair, MARS), Buff Hirko, Alicia Korenman, Meg Meiman, Jana Ronan (co-chair, MARS), Joe Thompson (co-chair, RSS), Hannah White (member of Index subcommittee)
Ron Burdick, Donna Dinberg, Valli Hoski, Deirde McDonald, Barbara Petersohn, Nicolette Sosulski
Beth Cackowski, Ellie Collier, Alex Hodges, Katie LaBarbera, Crystal Lentz, Barbara Morland, Laura Osterhout, Niyati Pandya, Carla Steinberg Pfahl, Sam Stormont, Julie Strange
Introductions ensue. Joe mentions the committee listserv, which anyone may join; they simply need to email him, and he strongly encourages participation (no lurkers, please). Joe also explains that since the committee is a joint effort between RSS and MARS, there are a limited number of slots for new members, but encourages participation through one-year intern slots and virtual membership.
The agenda is approved with two additions: the MARS section review, and the possibility of committee generating a publication after a program.
Jana moves to approve the Midwinter meeting minutes with changes; Buff seconds the motion. Changes include recording Alex Hodges as a visitor, and correcting the spelling of Kathleen Bourdon’s name.
MARS section review questions
Jean asks us to brainstorm answers to two questions that MARS wants each committee to address: (1) what are the top three trends in electronic resources and services that MARS should be aware of? (2) what makes MARS unique? (aside from the weird acronym). The committee generated a list of trends, including Web 2.0 'things' (blogs, wikis, widgets, etc.), instant messaging as a full feature that is fully integrated into other library services, federated searching, WorldCat Local, and open source bibliographic management software. Things that make MARS unique include its interest in virtual reference (no other section really deals with this), its awareness of trends, its collegial relationships, its level of organizational activity (high), its welcoming of new-comers and willingness to provide them with experience in organizing programs, and its connectedness with other sections (it's not isolated).
Generating publications after a program or discussion group
Sam asks those in attendance for feedback regarding a question from the MARS Publications committee. The Publications committee is interested in encouraging more publications to result from programs and committee activities. Buff states that our committee already has one: the Anytime, Anywhere Answers tutorial. Jana mentions that it takes time for a publication from a committee to get approved. Alex suggests there should be some flexibility in choosing what to publish. Joe suggests the MARS Publication Committee could lead the way by offering a quick “how to” guide for committees who want to produce publications, since knowing the process would be helpful.
Report from the VR Index Subcommittee
Jana gives a brief overview of the project, and states that thanks to John Spencer, a template has been set up for the specific information to be included. She also suggests the subcommittee establish their own meeting time, since the all-committee meeting isn't enough time for discussion.
Final planning for tomorrow's program (“See It, Hear It, Touch It..”)
Joe made the to-do list and checks it twice, provides a brief overview of the program, and asks someone to blog the program. Carla Pfahl graciously volunteers, and says it will be available at
Proposal for 2008 Annual Conference program in Anaheim
Based on the topic selected when the committee last met at Midwinter 2007 in Seattle, Buff and Joe developed a 75-word proposal for the 2008 annual conference on trust in the virtual reference environment, which includes both trust between librarians and users, and building trust among colleagues. They explain the short deadlines for submitting the proposal, as well as the fact that they worded it so that speakers can address either trust between librarians and users, or trust among colleagues. (The program received approval from RSS, and subsequent approval from the RUSA Conference Program Coordinating Committee on Monday morning). They then ask the committee for possible speakers and further elaboration. Ellie suggests that if speakers are from cooperative virtual reference services, we should include the word “cooperative” in the title. Buff suggests as a possible speaker Vince Mariner, coordinator of Pennsylvania's virtual reference service. Joe reminds us that we need to get him names by the end of July; the committee can change them before January 2008, but we should have three speakers in place soon.
Report about Anytime, Anywhere Answers
When Washington's statewide virtual reference service ended, Buff Hirko and her colleagues created a tutorial to take its place -- “Anytime, Anywhere Answers.” The tutorial didn't go up on ALA's website until the 2007 Midwinter conference. Buff had asked for help from two librarians, but one never responded, and the other has to be a virtual member right now, so Buff asks for public librarians to help with the site. The tutorial has already been available for a year on the RUSA web site and she is concerned that it will become outdated quickly without a full subcommittee of people to monitor and maintain it. Beth Cackowski also offers to put out a call for feedback. Buff rejoices further.
Plans for revising the Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual Reference Services
Joe asks the committee to look at these guidelines, located at
Proposed meeting time
As a joint RSS and MARS committee, the members are still looking for an ideal meeting model that is fair to both sections and also allows for non-members from both sections to easily drop into the committee’s meeting if interested. Based on group discussion, the committee will try to meet with the RSS All-Committee on Saturday morning at future ALA Midwinters, and try to meet with the MARS All-Committee on Sunday mornings at future ALA Annuals. The committee will also verify that someone who can represent the committee can attend the other section’s All-Committee meeting at both Midwinter and Annual, in case there are non-members interested in finding out about committee activities. It is also possible that the committee may schedule a 2
nd separate meeting at future Midwinters or Annuals outside of the RSS or MARS All-Committee meeting if needed.
Despite the room scheduling snafu and the late start, the committee adjourns on time, with great fanfare and joy at the activities planned for the coming months.
Minutes recorded by Meg Meiman
Updates by Joe Thompson
Approved by the committee during ALA Midwinter 2008 in Philadelphia.