MOUSS Reference Services in Medium-Sized Research Libraries Discussion Group

2001 Annual Meeting Minutes
Tuesday, June 19th, 2001
Hotel Nikko, Ballroom III
Annual Conference, San Francisco, CA


Chair Kay Womack, University of Oklahoma, began the meeting at 9:30 A.M. by introducing herself and welcoming all the participants. Steering Committee members introduced themselves:

Patrick Oberholtzer, Secretary, Gallaudet University
Colleen Seale, Member-at-Large, University of Florida
Chris Hannon, Past Chair, Smith College All participants introduced themselves.

Thirty participants attended, representing the following institutions: Austin Peay, University, Brigham Young University, Brooklyn College, California State University-Fresno, Clafin University, DePaul University, East town Library, Florida Gulf Coast University, 3 participants from Gallaudet University, George Washington University, Hamden Public Library, Iowa State University, Largo Library, San Jose State University, Smith College, Social Security Library, SUNY-Potsdam, Tarpon Springs Library, Texas Woman's University, U.S. Army Military Institute, University of Alabama-Birmingham, University of Florida, University of Las Vegas, University of Michigan, University Of Missouri-St. Louis, University of Oklahoma, and University of the Pacific


a. Job announcements: Brigham Young University and University of Oklahoma both have job vacancies.

b. New Meeting times: Chair Kay Womack passed out the results of the survey on new meeting times. The group is changing its meeting because of the new way ALA is organizing the conference. After a short discussion, it was agreed that late Sunday afternoon or Monday morning were possibly good times to meet.

c. Discussion topics: On an experimental basis, a speaker will introduce a selected topic for approximately 15 minutes and discussion will follow for the first hour. The balance of the discussion time will be conducted in the usual manner. This format will be used only at Mid-winter.

d. Election: The Chair asked for volunteers to run for the Steering Committee Member at Large position. We welcome Linda Harris from the University of Alabama at Birmingham to the committee.


The Chair explained the procedure for selecting topics and then solicited the group for issues to discuss. The topics selected were:

1. Collaborating with faculty using course software such as Blackboard or Web CT

2. Chat reference

3. Policies about pornography on public workstations in a university setting

4. To charge or not to charge for printing


Collaborating with faculty using course software such as Blackboard or Web Course CT

The first topic of the morning concerned course software (Blackboard and Web CT were mentioned) that has begun to show up at a number of schools. Participants discussed how this software is being used on their respective campuses. Generally faculty are working with departments (such as academic technology) who set up the software and train faculty in its use. The high points of the discussion were:

  • The general feeling among participants was that the library was being ignored and was not being informed about course software--who was using it or how it was being used.
  • Librarians need to be know about course software and be fluent in its use. A number of partipants expressed a strong desire to see training for librarians.
  • Several participants noted that the software is quite flexible and provides options for its use. Things such as reference chat and links to posted articles are possible.
  • Participants discussed the links, not only between between course software and the library, but also between the library, the school, and the sponsoring agency's homepage. In many case links are not being established so that it is difficult to navigate between the different kinds of resources.
  • Both Smith College and Florida Gulf Coast said that they were having problems with students and passwords. Students have so many passwords and usernames they can't remember them all. If you don't have the proper username and password, you can't get into the course software.
  • CSU-Fresno informed the group that RUSA is a setting up Web courses for us. RUSA plans to develop three courses: reference interview, copyright, and genealogy. No word on when this will be ready or if a fee will be involved.

SECOND TOPIC: Chat Reference

The next subject discussed was chat reference and how different libraries are adopting it. Although some libraries reported e-mail being used for reference, others reported chat was also already in use in their libraries. Participants were concerned about how to staff chat reference and its hours of operation. Participants familiar with chat reference felt it was successful, though at a price -- it is very time intensive. Because many libraries are seeing fewer questions at the desks, chat reference is one way to reach patrons. Several participants mentioned the Virtual Reference Desk and how a shared screen image will greatly enhance our ability to serve our patrons.

The high points of the discussion were:

  • GW and Iowa felt that today's students use chat a lot and are used to it. Librarians need to become comfortable with using it too.
  • DePaul discussed the benefits of chat for distance education students. It allows patrons to ask questions from home, however it is a very time-intensive service for libraries. Questions can take up to an hour to answer.
  • Florida and Iowa both mentioned that their chat software has special features. Iowa's chat system tells patrons when no one is at the "chat desk" to answer questions, and Florida's system notifies the reference librarian at the workstation when a question has been asked. This permits staff to work on other things when no one is online. · Florida mentioned that her state's Referral Center operates chat reference for distance education students across the state.
  • Staffing of chat services was a concern of several participants. Oklahoma mentioned using library school students for late night chat reference. The quality of reference was a concern for number of participants. George Washington University mentioned the idea of staff offering chat service from home. The question of who would supply the hardware and support for home chat service was asked by several participants.

THIRD TOPIC: Policies about pornography on public workstations in a university setting

Libraries are dealing with this issue in different ways, although some participants did not seem to think it is much of a problem in their libraries. One factor in how a library confronts this issue is whether it is publicly or privately funded. Also, whether patrons who are viewing offensive materials are students or visitors from off campus. Much of the discussion centered on how and where pornography is displayed and whether a patron was disturbing others in the process of viewing. Several participants said their libraries had in part dealt with the pornography issue by putting some workstations out of easy viewing from the public and thus had fewer complaints. Libraries are also posting guidelines and polices. The issue of pornography on public workstation seems to boil down to a debate over intellectual freedom vs. sexual harassment (or creating a hostile work environment) and what is illegal or a violation of university policies.

The high points of the discussion were:

  • Brooklyn and Michigan seem to think that asking the offender to move was one way to resolve complaints about a patron viewing offensive materials.
  • Florida and Iowa State discussed sexual harassment and how the displaying of offensive materials may create a hostile work environment. Iowa said that if you put something on the desk, that is illegal.
  • Several participants said their libraries had in part dealt with the pornography issue by putting some workstations in out of the way places and discrete locations in the building, and thus it is much harder for patrons to observe others viewing offensive materials.

FOURTH TOPIC: Paying for Printing

Particpants seem to be in agreement that the electronic full text environment has vastly increased the amount of printing. Libraries are tackling this problem by charging for printing. Instead of cash, libraries are using debit cards that can. in some case, be used with microfilm reader printers and photocopy machines. A number of libraries reported they charge for printing everything except printing from the OPAC. A few schools have adopted a campus-wide debit card system that can be used anywhere at the school.

The high points of the discussion were:

  • Michigan, Florida Gulf Coast, Gallaudet, Pittsburgh, SUNY-Potsdam, University of the Pacific and Texas Woman's University all said that they had adopted a card system that enables the library to charge for printing.
  • Several participants mentioned that students were being encouraged to e-mail articles to themselves rather printing them at the terminal.
  • Non-students (visitors) are sometimes required to purchase a card. However, libraries are handling this in different ways. Some libraries keep spare cards handy so that visitors do not have to purchase a card if they only have to print a few pages.
  • University of the Pacific reported that they are using Print Que by ITC. This system uses a Venda card that is used at a pickup station. Jobs are identified by usernames that the students enter and copy charges are deducted from the card.
    Oklahoma uses software called "Go print' which enables patrons to use their student identification card in the same manner as a credit card. (Money comes out of an account in the Bursar's office). Students also have the option to purchase a separate copy card.

Adjournment The Chair adjourned the meeting at 11:30 am.

Submitted by Patrick Oberholtzer, Secretary