Midwinter 2006 in San Antonio

RUSA MARS/RSS Virtual Reference Committee Meeting
ALA Midwinter Meeting 2006
San Antonio, TX
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center - Room 210 B
Sunday, January 22, 2006
10:30 - 12:30 p.m.


Members present:
Joe Thompson (co-chair, RSS), Jana Ronan (co-chair, MARS), Alex Hodges, Barbara Petersohn, Buff Hirko, Deidre McDonald, Ronald Burdick, Sheryl Katzin

Virtual Members Present:
Meg Meiman, Sam Stormont, Lori Thornton, Valli Hoski

Visitors Present:
Anne Moore (chair, MARS Virtual Reference Discussion Group), Doris Ann Sweet, J. Carol Bell, Wendy Diamond, Sandi Edwards, Meg Fraim, Karen Hill, Curley Jones, Esther Lee, Patrick Oberholtzer, Alma Ortega, Erin Rushton, John Spencer, Tom Reinsfelder, Ann Wells, Harriet Ying

1) Introductions
The committee members present introduced themselves. There was general merriment.

2) General welcome and housekeeping
? Joe welcomed new attendees and passed around a sign-in sheet. He and Jana informed prospective members how to join the committee. They will want to fill out both the RSS and MARS committee volunteer forms to have the greatest chance of being selected: http://www.ala.org/RusaTemplate.cfm?Section=RUSAVolunteers
? Jana mentioned RUSA asking MARS to pilot a blog. She suggested this committee would be a natural group to lead this.
? The committee decided that the minutes from the June 2005 meeting, as well as this meeting, will be distributed via email. The committee agreed to suggest changes and approve minutes from the June 2005 meeting via email.
? It is currently not clear if Joe and Jana will need to be rotating off the committee as chairs. They will check with the RSS and MARS Executive Committees to clarify this. They and the incoming MARS and RSS chairs may need to send out a call to replace them as co-chairs, and an additional call for members, given the two open committee slots.

3) Annual program for 2006: “Abuse is in the eye of the beholder…”
The program proposal the committee submitted in Chicago at Annual to RUSA was accepted. Joe described this program addressing virtual reference issues such as young people using the service in ways not designed, and users posing questions that aren’t ideally suited for virtual reference. Joe will send the committee the list of questions that the program’s speakers will address, and also ask for volunteers to help with the program. (Program publicity includes creating and sending out flyers and email.)

Tasks include finding a hotel liaison (esp. if program attendance exceeds the expected number), finding a moderator for the program, and designating “traffic cops” to hand out flyers and deal with overflow. Buff volunteered to facilitate the program; the committee voted for her to moderate it. Jana mentioned creating an evaluation form for the program, and distributing a URL of handouts before and after the program. She also suggested that MARS blog the program. Doris Ann suggested many of these committee roles based on her previous program experience.

4) Annual program for 2007
The committee discussed and agreed to sponsor a program at the ALA Annual conference in 2007 in Washington, DC. The deadline for submitting a proposal is May 2006. Possible topics include the following:
? Technological ideas (where technology is taking us) in the present and near future
? The future of technology, five-ten years out
? General training issues
? Different learning styles and communication styles among librarians and users
? Integrating various forms of reference (in person, IM, chat, phone, etc.) and how to transfer a user from one mode to another
? Levels of formality in reference, and how this might affect a library’s policies

After some discussion and voted on the committee’s preference, the topic of “Different learning styles and communication styles among librarians and users” was selected. In the coming months the committee will communicate electronically to create a 75-word program description, title, and to brainstorm possible speakers.

5. Overview of MARS VR Discussion Group
Ann Moore, chair of the MARS VR Discussion Group, reported on the DG that took place on Saturday. Evaluation results were largely positive and IM was a big discussion topic. She mentioned the only shortcomings (few easels and a lack of mobile microphones) were an oversight of the room set-up crew, and that they’ll be addressed before the June 2006 conference. Committee members who attended/moderated the discussion groups agreed the format worked extremely well, and that discussions were varied and engaging. The committee agreed to help Ann plan for the discussion group in June 2006.

6. Index/registry of VR services
Jana mentioned that this is part of the committee’s charge, and suggested that interested committee members set up a meeting time via ALA’s Online Communities. January 16th is the tentative date of the index group’s first meeting. Alex suggested consulting print directories to see what would help structure the online index. Joe suggested organizing the index by region, preferably with a clickable map. Jana suggested making it searchable by zip code as well. Jana mentioned that the chair of the MARS Publications Committee will help, but will require us to get their formal approval, as well as the RUSA board’s formal approval before proceeding. Jana will submit all this information to the Publications Committee. John Spencer offered to put together a sample wiki for the index group, to test this form as a possible software structure for the index.

Regarding the index itself, the committee brainstormed possible content for it, including the following: a library’s physical address, URL, hours, the vendor(s) they use for their services, precisely which online reference services they offer, main contact(s), service history (when they initiated service[s] and whether or not it changed), funding sources, staffing schedule, consortial information (if applicable), a text box describing how the service is staffed, whether or not a library contracts out part of their services (e.g., “after hours” VR), and audience restrictions/authentication.

7. Washington State VR training program
Buff Hirko briefly described the online VR training program that Washington State has created, and which this committee will likely be charged with maintaining in the future.

8. Future agenda item for Annual 2006 meeting
Our committee is responsible for maintaining and updating the Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual Reference Services, which was originally written by an ad-hoc Virtual Reference Committee in MARS. We should start planning the revision process of these guidelines (required within 5 years).

The committee adjourned with great fanfare and good cheer.

Minutes submitted by Meg Meiman (updated: Joe Thompson)