For immediate release | August 16, 2011

RUSQ article on vernacular literacy practices wins RUSA award

CHICAGO — The article "Describing Vernacular Literacy Practices to Enhance Understanding of Community Information Needs: A Case Study with Practical Implications" by Denice Adkins, Jenny S. Bossaller and Kim M. Thompson, is the 2011 Reference Service Press Award winner, an annual honor administered by the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA).

The award, which is sponsored by Reference Service Press, recognizes the most outstanding article published in RUSA’s Reference and User Services Quarterly(RUSQ) during the preceding two years’ volumes. This year’s selection appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of the journal.

The winning article examines literacy practices as an increasingly crucial realm of the social structure, thereby assisting librarians, policy makers, social researchers and other interested groups in clearer comprehension of the information barriers that result in social inequality. Ultimately, a clear understanding of vernacular literacy will afford librarians greater insight into the information needs of the public, including a greater understanding of nonusers of their libraries. Through their research, the authors invite librarians to proceed in program development based on a knowledge of the activities users are already pursuing and the ways they communicate — not from the angle of what librarians think users need or should have from the library or from the perspective of the a marketing study or focus group.

“The authors thought outside the box of the library building and the LIS classroom and went out into community to learn ‘in the vernacular’ how the things that citizens do can inform library services — services that reflect what users know as opposed to how they can compensate for what they do not know,” said Bob Kieft, award committee chair. “Their work situates itself in librarianship’s great tradition of community engagement aimed at increasing the capacity of citizens to lead productive and fulfilling lives through information access.”

Adkins is an associate professor at the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies, University of Missouri. She holds an MLS and a PhD in library science and information resources from the University of Arizona. Previous experience includes a Fulbright Scholarship and public library work. She is also president-elect of REFORMA. Bossaller is currently assistant professor of Library and Information Science, University of Missouri. She earned her PhD in library science from the University of Missouri and previously taught library science courses at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her research focuses on services to underserved populations. Thompson is a lecturer at the School of Information Studies, Charles Sturt University (Australia). She earned her MLS and PhD in library and information studies from the Florida State University and has a range of experience working and consulting in libraries throughout Central America.

The Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Learn more at


Elizabeth Markel