Virtual Reference Midwinter 2007

MARS/RSS Virtual Reference Services Committee Meeting

ALA Midwinter Meeting 2007

Seattle, WA

Fairmont Olympic Hotel – Congress Room

8:00 – 10:00 a.m. 


Present:  Jana Ronan (co-chair, MARS), Joe Thompson (co-chair, RSS), Jean Ferguson, Meg Meiman, Deirdre McDonald, Ron Burdick, Buff Hirko 

Visitors:  Alex Hodges, Caleb Tucker-Raymond, Mary Ross, Crystal Lenz, Lori Thornton, Julie Strange, Marie Radford, Marianne Stowell Bracke, Kristina Schwoebel 

  1. Seek a volunteer to take the Meeting Minutes

Jean Ferguson volunteered to take the minutes. 

  1. Seek approval of Agenda

Agenda was approved. 

  1. Plans for Anytime, Anywhere, Answers VR Tutorial

Buff Hirko and Mary Ross led a discussion of the current status and maintenance of Anytime, Anywhere, Answers VR Tutorial.  The tutorial is currently up and operational at adventure/  

Buff inquired as to how the committee would be involved now that it is up and running.  She handed out a list of recommended site maintenance guidelines.  The bigger issue is that the site covers best practices in 2006.  The committee needs to be aware of what the best practices continue to be and update the content. 

Buff also stated that it would be good to provide a feedback mechanism for users to provide comments on how they are using the materials.  There is a UW I School class this is using the site as a cohort group.  Currently, if you click on ‘About this Site’, there is a placeholder for ‘The Graduate’.  This could possibly be turned into a guestbook or other method of collecting feedback.  Donovan is currently the only person who has access to the site.  All changes must go through him.  When someone is assigned as an official updater, Donovan will give them access. 

The agreement between the Washington State Libraries and ALA states that this will remain a fee free service, regardless of where the user is located.  This agreement was signed by Kathleen Bourdon and the Washington State Library.  Mary feels that this could become an instructor led course.  Jana stated that RUSA could use this to encourage membership.  A large link on the RUSA page or on the main ALA page would be helpful to promote it. 

Marie Radford discussed the WISE consortium which includes a new program called WISE Plus.   This program is partnering with library schools to create online courses.  The site could be used for a course of this type as long as any fees were for the instructor and not for use of the materials.  Bruce King is the PI for WISE Plus. 

A subcommittee has been formed to oversee the site with Buff as the chair.  Deirdre McDonald, Christina Schwoebel volunteered to be on the subcommittee.  Mary Ann Stowell Bracke is already on the Tutorial subcommittee.  Joe suggested that Buff try to solicit a student intern as an additional member. 

  1. Seek approval of Annual '06 Meeting Minutes

Minutes from the 2006 Annual Meeting in New Orleans were approved.  Thanks to Alex Hodges for taking the minutes. 

  1. Other business

There are four people from the RSS side that are cycling off of the committee.  They are Ron Burdick, Donna Dinberg, Barbara Petersohn and Nicolette Sosulski (virtual member with 1 year appointment).  Members cycling off can renew for an additional 2 years if they are interested.  Ron agreed to be re-appointed. 

On the MARS side, Buff Hirko, Deirdre McDonald, Margaret Meiman (virtual member with 1 year appointment) and Alicia Korenman (intern with 1 year appointment) are rotating off.  Deirdre expressed interested in renewing membership. 

All cycling off members who would like to renew should fill out a RSS or MARS committee interest form. 

MARS is going through a section review process to ensure that all committees know what their charge is.  Jana will be communicating with the committee via email.  We will try to submit the section audit document by August. 

Joe is working on making sure the committee website is up to date.  He is going to send the minutes to Virginia Cole, the RSS webmaster.  Virginia is encouraging all committees to have fun with their websites.  Donovan, the RUSA webmaster, is going to organize all the RUSA section webmasters so that they work together.  We can submit items for the RUSA blog to Donovan.  The MARS webmaster is Shannon Jones.  Joe suggested that Shannon and Virginia should work together on our page. 

  1. Review of Annual '06 program: "Abuse is in the eye of the beholder..."

There were three panelists at the program with Buff Hirko as moderator.  The panelists were Ron Burdick, Sharon Morris and Virginia Cole.  The attendees provided good feedback on the session.  The discussion was about inappropriate use from all facets; academic, public and schools.  The judgment of what is considered inappropriate depended on the audience. 

There were approximately 70 people in attendance.  The room was very large and difficult to find.  Also, the program was up against a very popular session, ‘The Long Tail’ with the WIRED author. 

Joe suggested we do more marketing and promotions for our future programs.  Jana is working with a committee that will look at programs and see where the competition lies. 

  1. Planning for Annual '07 program: "See it, hear it, touch it..."

A list of roles from the 06 program was handed out for review to see if all bases were covered.  Joe stated that even if committee members won’t be attending Annual 07 in DC, there are still roles that can be played in the planning.  We have three sponsoring agencies for the program:  the MARS/RSS Virtual Reference committee, RSS Cooperative Reference Services Committee, and the ACRL Instruction Section.  There is no money involved, but this will provide more people to help ensure the success of the program.   

There are three speakers involved:  Marie Radford from Rutgers, Lynn Westbrook from University of Texas Austin, and Eileen Abels from Drexel.  They will discuss learning styles and communication styles both of customer users and of librarians providing the service.  All three speakers are researchers and will address styles in public, academic and school libraries.  Marie handed out materials from the ALISE conference which is the beginning of her analysis of chat transcripts for our program.  She will begin looking at IM transcripts in the next phase of the grant.  The most interesting findings are the behaviors of the users and the librarians.  She found that librarians behavior changed with different populations. 

Jana volunteered to tweak the current description of the program.  Jana will email the description to the committee for suggestions.  The deadline for submission is January 29.  It was suggested that we emphasize that the speakers will present information for public, academic and school libraries.  We should also include ‘transcript analysis’ in the description. 

  1. Recommend committee meeting time at Annual '07.

The deadline for reserving rooms at Annual 07 is February 5.  The committee met at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning for the last two meetings.  Joe will check with Eileen Hardy to see if we can ensure our meeting is listed as a committee meeting to avoid confusion in the program listing.  It was decided that we will meet at 8 am on Sunday at Annual in DC.  The time should be emailed out to everyone so that committee members who aren’t present will be aware.  Joe said he might bring donuts. 

  1. Report on the Virtual Reference Directory (index/registry)

The directory is an attempt to create a national directory of VR services.  It could be used for services to stay in touch with each other and also for referral from one service to another.  The directory should be as comprehensive as possible, but focus on North America.  Anyone is able to register their service. 

The members of the Directory subcommittee are William Cuthbertson, Erica Danowitz, Donna Dinberg, Meg Meiman, John Spencer and Alex Hodges.  The entire committee will be enlisted for feedback. 

Donovan has put up a wiki to work with the directory.  Jana suggested that the community section could be used to coordinate our activities with the directory.  The wiki is at  

Joe suggested that the URL be emailed out and also put on our committee website.  He also suggested that a marketing campaign be put in place once its up and running. 

  1. Do we want to sponsor a program at Annual '08?

If we want to do a program at Annual 08, we need to submit a concept to the RSS and MARS committees.  They need a title and a tentative description.  The suggestions for a program are: 

  • “Looking back, looking forward” – based on an article that Bernie Sloan wrote celebrating 20 years of email reference and 10 years of chat.  We could have Bernie as a speaker and also librarians who offered email reference 20 years ago and chat 10 years ago.
  • “Talk to strangers:  building trust online” – Trust as a part of what we do online.  Building trust relationships.  Part of our job is essentially encouraging kids to talk to strangers online.  Trust between libraries who are offering collaborative service and trust between librarians and users.  Parallels between face to face reference and virtual reference.  Tie in to the film release of Stranger in a Strange Land.

Joe will send out the list of ideas brainstormed in San Antonio.  We should discuss these and any other ideas.  We will move ahead on the trust concept and discuss it further online.  We will need to think of speakers and panelists.  For broader appeal, it may be helpful to partner with YALSA. 

  1. Plans for the revision of Guidelines for Imp. and Main. VR Services

We are required to revise the guidelines once every five years.  There has been discussion to form a subcommittee to work on guidelines.  Members volunteered to be on this subcommittee at the 06 Annual meeting in New Orleans.  Jana suggested we table our revisions for a year.  It’s a long process to get guidelines approved, so small changes can’t be made along the way.  Joe asked that all people involved in revising the guidelines read the guidelines.  A subcommittee will be formed by Annual 07. 

The meeting adjourned at 10:00 a.m. 

Respectfully submitted,

Jean Ferguson

Duke University 

Updated by Joe Thompson

Approved at the ALA Annual Conference 2008 in Washington, DC