Annual 2007 Highlights

Meeting Highlights
RUSA RSS/MARS Virtual Reference Services Committee
ALA Annual 2007, Washington DC

Name of Committee
RSS/MARS Virtual Reference Services Committee

Name of Section

Joseph Thompson (co-chair, RSS)

Dates of Meeting
June 24, 2007


Members present:
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)

Members absent:
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

Objectives of committee for this conference year
1. Carry out program at this conference (Annual 2007): “See It, Hear It, Touch It: How do Communication and Learning Styles Affect Virtual Reference Service?”
2. Plan and carry out program at next year’s conference (Annual 2008): “Please Talk to Strangers Online: Spreading Trust in Cooperative Virtual Reference”
3. With a full complement of members, the Tutorial subcommittee will begin regular maintenance of the VR Adventure.
4. With a full complement of members, the Index subcommittee will further develop the Virtual Reference Directory.
5. At ALA Midwinter 2008 the committee will develop the structure for revising the Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual Reference Services.

Summary of Meeting
(summarize discussions, decision reached, follow-up action decided)

1. [Note: The committee met on Sunday morning from 8:00 - 10:00 a.m. during the MARS All-Committee Meeting.] The committee members and visitors in attendance introduced themselves.

2. Joe called the meeting to order and a committee member, Meg Meiman, offered to take the minutes.

3. There were two minor changes offered for the minutes from Midwinter 2007 in Seattle. The Midwinter ’07 minutes were approved with these changes.

4. Jean asked those in attendance for feedback regarding two questions related to the section review process for MARS. What are the most important trends that MARS should be concerned? What does MARS offer that no other section does?

5. Sam asked 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.

6. Jana gave a report from the Index subcommittee, responsible for the Virtual Reference Directory. The basic structure for the directory has been created, now the subcommittee will be investigating next steps.

7. We reviewed plans for the next day’s program, “See It, Hear It, Touch It: How do Communication and Learning Styles Affect Virtual Reference Service?” The committee had developed a “To Do” list, where each role was assigned to an individual.

8. Joe presented the current status of the committee’s program proposal for Annual 2008. So that the proposal could be approved by the RSS Executive Committee on Saturday, he and Buff wrote the description on Friday, with help from Meg and incorporating input from members received since Midwinter 2007. The program received approval from RSS. (The proposal subsequently received approval from the RUSA Conference Program Coordinating Committee on Monday morning). We should be able to continue to tweak the description through sometime in January 2008 before it must be finalized. We still need to select the three speakers. Proposed program title: “Please Talk to Strangers Online: Spreading Trust in Cooperative Virtual Reference.” Description: “Will another library or vendor make my customer happy? Will they come back after their experience? Does it make a difference if an academic or public librarian picks up the question? What about our patrons? They trust Wikipedia. They trust Google. What do we do to make them trust us in the same way? A lively panel of VR leaders will explore the issues, present their experiences, and recommend strategies relevant to all types of libraries.”

9. Buff gave a report from the Tutorial subcommittee, responsible for maintaining the VR Adventure. Buff has tried to contact the two people assigned as members of the subcommittee, but only one has responded and he was not able to attend Annual. Buff needs more members of the Tutorial subcommittee and would very much like to see public library representation. 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. Two visitors in attendance expressed interest in participating in this endeavor.

10. Joe mentioned that the committee is responsible for revising the Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual Reference Services. He recommended that the committee begin the process for revising these during the Midwinter 2008 meeting in Philadelphia. There was support for this.

11. Since this committee is a joint one between both RSS and MARS, there isn’t any clear-cut method for determining when the committee should meet at Annual and Midwinter. During the meeting the committee members recommended that a meeting happen at Midwinter separate from both the RSS and MARS All-Committee and MARS All-Committee at each Annual Conference. (This idea was modified during the joint meeting of the RSS and MARS Executive Committees on Tuesday, June 26. See item #2 under “What problems did you encounter?” below for more details.

12. The committee meeting adjourned a few minutes after 10:00 a.m.

Evaluate the committee's effectiveness in accomplishing its objectives
Successful. However, more members of the two subcommittees will be needed.

What problems did you encounter?
1. Upon arrival at the Hotel Washington on Sunday morning, hotel staff had no awareness of the meeting of the MARS All-Committee. Apparently the same problem happened on Saturday morning when the RSS All-Committee met at the same hotel. Insects were also spotted in the hotel. I’d recommend that the Hotel Washington not be used as an ALA meeting location in future years.

2. 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 feedback received at the joint Executive Committee meeting of RSS and MARS on Tuesday, June 26, 2007 we will try to meet with the RSS All-Committee on Saturday morning at future ALA Midwinters. We will try to meet with the MARS All-Committee on Sunday mornings at future ALA Annuals. We 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 2nd separate meeting at future Midwinters or Annuals outside of the RSS or MARS All-Committee meeting if needed.

3. Related to the Monday program, “See It, Hear It, Touch It�”: The program description that appeared in the conference program was not the most recent version that the committee had submitted. We are concerned that some in attendance might have expected a different focus than what was presented.

List any recommendations you have for action by the RUSA Board of Directors--

1. As discussed at the join meeting of the RSS and MARS Executive Committee on Tuesday, June 26, 2007 there is a need for committee space on the RUSA web site for joint section committees, or at least clarification regarding which section webmaster is responsible for page updates. (A joint RSS/MARS page is definitely needed regarding the Reinvented Reference preconference so that materials can be made available to attendees.)

2. We have found in publicity, signage, and the conference program that there is a tendency to only identify the committee with the MARS section, rather than as a joint committee of both RSS and MARS. It’s not clear why this is happening, but it would be ideal in the future for the division to more consistently reference the committee’s activities as a partnership of both sections. (The same can also be said of this year’s Reinvented Reference 3 preconference. Reinvented Reference 4 at Annual 2008 will also be a joint partnership between RSS and MARS.)