Midwinter 2005 in Boston

RUSA MARS/RSS Virtual Reference Committee Meeting

ALAMidwinter Meeting 2005

Boston, MA

Marriott Copley Place—Grand Ballroom G—Table 1

Sunday, January 16, 2005

1:00-2:30 p.m.



Committee Co-Chairs:

Jana Ronan (Machine-Assisted Reference Section - MARS) and Joe Thompson (Reference Services Section - RSS)


Donna Dinberg, Spruce Fraser, Alex Hodges (MARS & RSS), Sheryl Katzin (MARS), Maira Liriano (RSS Chair), Kathleen Kern (MARS), Anne C. Moore (MARS & RSS), Barbara Petersohn, Beth Roberts (MARS), Doris Ann Sweet (MARS Chair)

Co-Chairs Jana Ronan and Joe Thompson began the committee’s first meeting with introductions at 1:05 p.m. Joe Thompson read the committee’s initial purpose/mission statement: “To provide a timely forum for discussion of issues related to the provision of virtual reference services. Virtual Reference describes reference transactions that take place in an electronic medium.” Available online at: http://www.ala.org/ala/rusa/rusaourassoc/rusasections/rss/rsssection/rsscomm/virtualreferencecommittee/VirtRefComm.htm

A. Committee Membership Issues

The group believed that membership should be about ten members including the Co-Chairs. One Co-Chair will represent MARS and one Co-Chair will represent RSS. It was proposed that each section will have four seats on the committee in addition to the Co-Chair seat. Additional contributions to the committee could be in the form of virtual membership, intern positions and consultant positions. Also, subgroups could be formed. Members of subgroups would not have to be members of the main committee.

Doris Ann Sweet mentioned that as MARS Chair she is the one who can appoint the MARS members to the initial committee. These names can be forwarded to her from the current Co-Chairs. RUSA members may state their interest by filling out any of the following online forms:

· RSS Committee Interest Form


· MARS Committee Interest Form


· RUSA Committee Volunteer Online Form (general association volunteer form)


The initial charge must be revised to include the membership rules devised at this first committee meeting. Equal representation of both MARS and RSS should be stipulated. Joe Thompson recommended that membership should be inclusive of many types of librarianship (i.e. school media, public, and academic). Initial appointment time periods could be staggered so that members fall off the committee at different intervals. It was suggested that committee members attend at least one meeting during the year (although it would be preferred that committee members attend both annual and midwinter meetings). Also, virtual members should be updated and consulted by the Co-Chairs to make sure that all members remain and feel involved in committee assignments. The final charge must be approved by both MARS and RSS executive committees.

B. Ideas for Committee Activities and Responsibilities

Kathleen Kern, Co-Chair of the Virtual Reference Discussion Group, addressed the group about possible responsibilities the MARS/RSS Virtual Reference Committee could accept.

1. Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual Reference Services

Prepared by theMARS Digital Reference Guidelines Ad Hoc Committee, Reference and User Services Association, 2004. Approved by the RUSA Board of Directors June 2004.


These guidelines need a home. This home could be the MARS/RSS Virtual Reference Committee. The Virtual Reference Discussion Group is not the appropriate place to host or revise them. The next revision is due in six years.

2. DREI Rubrics for Digital Reference Service Providers

The Digital Reference Education Initiative, which is an IMLS grant-funded project of Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, has devised competencies and rubrics for the digital reference community at large. The draft is to be published in February/March 2005. This link provides access to the DREI board’s collaborative rubrics draft document: http://drei.syr.edu/pdf/DREICompetenciesDraft092004.pdf. This link provides access to other organizations’ competencies housed on the DREI Web site:

Future revisions could become a responsibility of the committee. However, this possibility is contingent on RUSA’s willingness to adopt the document.

3. Virtual Reference Discussion Group collaboration

A future Virtual Reference Discussion Group topic could be co-sponsored with this committee. Specifically, one idea might be a discussion of the DREI competencies/rubrics document. A time slot and room has been requested at ALA-Chicago 2005 by the Virtual Reference Discussion Group. There is potential for a large turnout. It was mentioned that this topic could be formed into a future RUSA program.

For 2006 Annual ALA-New Orleans, a deadline of May 15, 2005 exists to present a preliminary program idea. There is a program proposal form online. Doris Ann Sweet reported if this deadline were to be missed, then the committee still could propose a program idea for Annual 2006 by presenting 15 copies of the proposal form to the MARS Executive Committee at 2005 Annual ALA-Chicago. MARS and RSS are limited to two programs each conference. This combined committee’s potential program might limit one section from hosting a program. The sections would have to negotiate this matter. However, if another RUSA section (say, either CODES or History) does not present a program, then neither RSS nor MARS would be limited. Maira Liriano commented that this committee should not feel as if it must take charge to propose a program right away in the next year.

C. Group Interests

Individuals at the meeting shared their personal virtual reference service interests and discussed how they might want to be involved in the committee’s work.

The meeting was adjourned by the Co-Chairs at 2:10 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Alex R. Hodges