RASD: Serving Those Who Serve the Public (continued)

The history of the Reference and Adult Services Division (RASD) of the American Library Association is traced from the creation of the Adult Services Division and Reference Services Division in 1956-57 through the 1972 merger that formed RASD. This personal account focuses on the origin, structure, and activities of the division and on the individuals whose actions drove the historical development of RASD.

Committees   |   Publications   |   Conference Programs, Preconferences, and Institutes   |   Sections   |   Discussion Groups   |   Awards   |   Guidelines, ILL Codes, and Other Aids   |   Epilogue   |   References and Notes (new page)   |   Appendices (new page)

The Reference and Adult Services Division

At the organizational meeting of the Reference and Adult Services Division in 1972, the members adopted the proposed bylaws as presented, on condition that an amendment be prepared and presented at the next annual membership meeting, which would make provision for the membership to be able to set aside any action of the Board of Directors in a fashion similar to the AIA constitution's provision for the AIA membership to set aside actions of council. Such an amendment was prepared, duly published, and placed on the agenda for the 1973 membership meeting, which was scheduled to be conducted immediately following the division's featured program. The membership meeting was convened amidst a mass exodus, the proposed amendment was presented and voted on, and no one questioned the presence or absence of a quorum. Membership meetings in subsequent years were held immediately before the program and the bylaws were again amended to provide for amendments to be voted by the membership via mailed ballots. The apparent result of the careful attention given to ensuring that democratic practices prevail in the management of the division has been a membership that devotes its attention to the substance of RASD's assigned area of responsibility and is behaviorally apolitical. In the period from 1971 to 1994 only one member has sought an elective position via the petition route to nomination. That candidate did win a seat on the RASD board in the ensuing election.

Among the concerns expressed at the time of the ASD-RSD merger was the name of the division. The Common Concerns Committee's report with its recommendation for a merger lacked one for a name for the resulting division. After the ALA Council had voted at the 1972 Midwinter Meeting that “the Adult Services Division and the Reference Services Division be merged into a single division with the tentative name of “Reference and Adult Services Division,” the 1972-73 co-presidents, Walter Allen and Thelma Freides, stated in a column in the last issue of Adult Services: “The present name and acronym are provisional.” They requested suggestions for a better title. None was formally proposed. Aware that acronyms are used much more frequently in ALA than full names, no one suggested “Adult and Reference Services Division.”

At the 1975 Conference there was some discussion of changing RASD's name, but no action. It was not until ten years later that the question was again placed on the RASD board's agenda. This time an ad hoc committee was formed, and suggestions were solicited from the membership. Although the board reached general agreement that a new name should include the terms association, library, adult, reference, and information, there was no agreement on their sequencing or, indeed, whether any such combination would result in a more suitable name for the division. Several more years elapsed before the question of a name change even came up again for discussion.

The future of RQ was another concern voiced during the discussions that led to the formation of RASD in 1972: “Don't touch RQ!” was heard over and over. Still another concern expressed before, during, and long years after the merger was that the adult services portion of the division's area of responsibility would be relegated to second-class status. As of January 31,1971, RSD had 7,076 members and was more than twice the size of ASD with its 2,975. Each total included 1,447 members of both divisions. There was, understandably, some apprehension among ASD's leadership that RSD's program would prevail in the new structure. Since the American Library Association has never been a static organization, the merger of the two smaller divisions into one larger one is not the only variable to consider when looking into the role of adult services interests and concerns in RASD's planning and conducting of its affairs. The establishment of the Office for Library Service to the Disadvantaged, now the Office for Library Outreach Services, and related membership committees in the early 1970s, with a staff focused on a much narrower range of interests and concerns than the RASD staff and such units as the Social Responsibilities Round Table and the Ethnic Materials and Information Exchange Round Table—might be viewed as preemptive. Outside funding for adult services-related projects has also been sought and received by other ALA units. The revision of the ALA dues schedule in the mid-1970s created a highly competitive situation among the divisions that further dispersed adult services programming within the association as each division expanded its range of activities to respond to more members seeking to confine their professional involvement to one unit and, thereby, reduce their dues.

Several RQ editors tried diligently to encourage contributors to focus on adult services concerns but with minimal success. Lacking the same kind of “publish or perish” stimulus their academic colleagues live with, public library practitioners have not produced professional literature in any related volume. Time after time when RASD presidents encouraged the Conference Program committees they appointed to arrange for adult services-related programming, the size of the audience was smaller than in those years when a topic clearly categorized under the heading of “reference” was presented. Among ALA's publications with significant RASD involvement, Kathleen Heim's Adult Services: An Enduring Focus for Public Libraries ranks at, or very near, the top.


In the merging process there was no immediate attempt to reduce the number of committees in the two divisions excepting for the obvious duplicates, e.g., nominating, organization, and conference program planning. The unique, nonadministrative committees were continued, and the Organization Committee was charged with conducting periodic reviews of committees and reporting its recommendations to the RASD board. More committees have been added than eliminated as the division has seen need for expanding its activities, and descriptive statements for individual committees have been revised to reflect changing conditions.

As noted earlier, today's committee list includes several that appeared in the 1957 and 1958 organizational issues of the ALA Bulletin and have been in continuous existence since then. A relative newcomer to RASD's roster of substantive (as opposed to the administrative or housekeeping) committees at the division-level is the Access to Information Committee, whose charge covers any aspect of access to information or intellectual freedom relating to RASD's overall area of responsibility. With the exception of the awards committees, it is the only such committee still remaining at the division level since RASD's last major reorganization.

Until the formation of ALA's Government Documents Round Table (GODORT), the Public Documents Committee was one long-standing avenue of cooperation between RTSD and RSD, later RASD, and also the Association of State Library Agencies for a time. Another interdivisional committee still in existence is the MARBI (Machine-Readable Bibliographic Information) Committee; ALCTS/LITA/RASD, originally the Representation in Machine Readable Form of Bibliographic Information Committee; and RTSD/ISAD/RSD, dating from the 1971 Midwinter Meeting. Despite occasional untoward remarks, including at least one in print: “RASD's participation in MARBI has been at an unsatisfactory level,” RASD continued to be a sponsoring division because of the strongly held conviction among the division's leaders that not only must members of this committee deal with technical standards but they must also ensure that the interests of the rising public be represented. Who better than public services librarians with a technical orientation to serve on MARBI? At least twice in the history of this committee, liaison relationships with an outside agency were jeopardized through actions beyond RASD's sphere, Viable working arrangements were restored only after intervention that drew on the administrative skills of RASD-appointed committee chairs.

In May 1978 the editor of the “Action Exchange” in American Librariespublished the first complaint about an abuse of interlibrary loan which concerned some technical materials making a one-way trip from U.S. libraries to Mexico City. Eventually, with assistance from the Interlibrary Loan Committee, Inspector Olin Broadwater of the Special Investigations Division, Chief Postal Inspector, and the editor, other libraries were alerted to this specific threat and to a need for careful scrutiny of incoming ILL requests in general. And, yes, the culprits, a couple of Americans posing as representatives of Institute Tecriologico Americano, Universidad Anglo-Americario, Technologico Corteza, and Instituto Mauriko, were prosecuted by the Attorney General of Mexico with assistance in gathering evidence from a cultural attache, Embassy of Mexico, in Washington. Practical advice from the Interlibrary Loan Committee included an admonition to verify the existence of unknown libraries through published directories, including local telephone books, and to be wary of ILL requests from libraries with post office box numbers rather than street addresses. Further, in response to continuing requests from librarians for guidance in identifying possible scams and from secretaries in corporations with bosses wanting to bypass the local library in submitting interlibrary loan requests, the ILL Committee recommended that the RASD board provide guidance by referring these inquirers to the definition of a library included in the publication American National Standard for Library and Information Sciences and Related Publishing Practice—Library Statistics [ANSI-Z39.7 (1983)], particularly for the practice of interlibrary loan.

Among her remarks about the future of reference services on the occasion of RSD's tenth anniversary, Dorothy Sinclair commented that RSD in the preceding decade had given more attention to tools and techniques than to users. She recommended that more efforts should he devoted to users at all levels.(11) A review of RASD's structure suggests that the leadership of the merged division heeded her advice, e.g., the Liaison with Users Committee (CODES), User Access to Services and Public Libraries committees (MARS), and the entire Services to User Populations Section (SUPS), including the discussion group on Women's Materials and Women Library Users. One of the difficulties the division encountered in its early attempts to establish committees working with materials and services targeted for specific ethnic minority groups was in identifying librarians who were members of those groups and who were members of the division to appoint to the committees.

By developing an “Information Request” form, the Cooperative Reference Service Committee responded to another of Dr. Sinclair's remarks, one about the need for finding better means of communicating all the relevant information about the prospective user when sending questions and requests for materials through interlibrary channels.(12) This committee also prepared guidelines for using the form to standardize and facilitate a better approach to sharing resources to serve the needs of users.

The joint Committee on Library Service to Labor Groups falls within the category of ALA's joint committees established by council action involving another organization and ALA, but with a unit of ALA making the appointment of' the ALA members and carrying on the ALA share of the activities. The AFL-CIO and RASD each appoints nine members including a co-chair from each association. From time to time there has been confusion in the minds of some about the purpose of this committee, which has always been charged with effecting cooperative links between librarians and the constituency of labor unions to meet their library service needs and interests, not with promoting the unionization of library employees or the cause of unions in general. The joint Committee has been a frequent sponsor of programs at ALA conferences to help libraries develop services to members of labor groups. It has also encouraged improvement of such service through compilation of reading lists, authoring of promotional brochures, mounting exhibits, and proposing the John Sessions Memorial Award.

The joint Committee's consciousness-raising activities came to the fore at the 1967 Annual Conference when it responded to the content of the March 1967 issue of an ALA newsletter, the Public Relations Reporter. The entire issue was devoted to various aspects of unionization in libraries and included information on the activities of the joint Committee. Although the information on the committee's work was positive in nature, the general viewpoint on labor unions could be interpreted as negative. That the threat of labor's representatives to withdraw the AFL-CIO from the joint Committee was not carried out indicates their acceptance of the ALA Executive Board vote during that same conference to request that “the Editor of the Public Relations Reporter and ALA staff with advice of legal counsel . . . prepare a statement which reflects the attitude of the Board and submit this to the Board for approval by mail for publication as quickly as possible in the Public Relations Reporter.” A perusal of several later issues of the Reporter did not bring such a statement to light.


Notable Books and Outstanding Reference Sources. Continuity of activity is seen in the division's publications. The Notable Books lists date from 1944, when the chair of the ALA Lending Section presented a list of “One Hundred Noteworthy Books of' 1944” to the ALA membership in the March ALA Bulletin and asked members to vote for twenty-five titles as “Outstanding Books of 1944.” The Booklist staff actively participated in the nominations process during the list's first four years, the members did the voting, and the ALA council gave its formal approval to the final product. In 1947 the Public Libraries Division assumed responsibility for this project, the name Notable Books was adopted, and an eight-person committee was assigned the task of selecting titles for the list. In 1958 the Adult Services Division became the sponsoring division. Following expressions of dissatisfaction with the previous printing of the lists, specifically the “Notable Books of 1957,” the ASD Board voted at the 1959 ALA Midwinter Meeting to authorize the ALA Publishing Department to undertake the publishing of the brochure covering the selection of 1958 titles.(13)

Compiled for use by the general reader and by librarians who work with adult readers, Notable Books titles are selected for the significant contributions they can make to the expansion of knowledge or for the pleasure they can provide to adult readers. Criteria include wide general appeal and literary merit. In former days confidentiality surrounded the Notable Books lists—librarians were permitted to receive copies of the list a couple of weeks before the March 1 date for releasing the list to the media by submitting a stamped, self-addressed envelope with their requests for copies. Since the 1960s, however, the list has been issued as a news release during the Midwinter Meeting and by mid-spring as an annotated pamphlet and in Booklist. (See Notable Books Web site.)

Although writing annotations for the titles on the lists has been the responsibility of the Notable Books Council for twenty-odd years, a “President's Message” in the Winter 1966 Adult Services Division Newsletter stated that by the end of the Midwinter Meeting the Notable Books Council had the list ready for annotations to be prepared by the staff of The Booklist and Subscription Books Bulletin.

The annual Reference Books lists were undertaken by Louis Shores for their first five years and were published in Library Journal. When RSD came into being, Dr. Shores proposed that the division continue this activity. The initial discussions resulted in a negative response to this proposal. Inadequate records fail to provide background on how and why an RSD committee was created to continue the annual selection despite the earlier objections.

The traveling exhibit of the actual volumes on the list dates from the 1962 list. This exhibit was authorized by the RSD board after the fact at the 1963 Conference. Two copies of each title on the list are requested from the publisher each spring and the first showing of the resulting exhibit is in the RASD booth in the ALA Professional Exhibit area at the ALA Conference. After the Conference, the two exhibits are sent on request to state and regional library associations and to library systems. Borrowers cover the actual costs of shipping the collections.

Through 1983 annotated versions of the “Reference Books of (previous year)” appeared in Library Journal. Yet, beginning in 1976, the list was made available without annotations for publication in other media. The RASD board, and the RSD board before it, discussed on more than one occasion the question of whether it was appropriate for a list compiled and annotated by a committee of an ALA division to be published in a commercial periodical. The last time this matter was on the agenda it was agreed that this ALA product should be made available to the RASD membership as a perquisite of membership. To reach a larger audience than would have been possible through RQ an agreement was negotiated with the editor of American Libraries for publication in that organ. The list has been published since 1984 in the May issue where it now appears under the title, “Outstanding Reference Sources: The (current year) Selection of Recent Titles,” and is readily accessible not only to RASD members, but also to everyone in ALA. (See Outstanding Reference Sources Web site.)

Publishers' advertisements reveal a difference in how libraries influence the sales volume of reference works compared with trade books for adults. Publishers' representatives contact the RASD office throughout the year for information on how they can get their titles on the “Outstanding Reference Sources” list. While the flip answer is “Publish outstanding works,” the practical one is to inform them of the selection criteria and put them in contact with the committee chair to ensure that the committee is aware of the publication, particularly in the case of lesser-known publishers. For those publishers with titles on the list, their ads are regularly revised to reflect this information. To avoid seeing the phrase “best books” used with selections for the list, careful attention has been given to instructing publishers that the list represents a selection of titles recommended for use in small or medium-sized libraries, not necessarily the best reference works of the year.

The Notable Books lists have not generated the same expressions of interest from publishers' representatives either in concern for seeing their titles selected for the list or in using the term “Notable Books” in their advertising. A couple of inferences can be drawn from this: librarians may not use the Notable Books lists for selection purposes in the same way they use the reference sources lists, and the ratios of sales to libraries for reference sources and for the trade books selected for the Notable Books lists compared with total sales are quite different. One informal inquiry conducted by ALA Publishing Services into library distribution of the Notable Books lists indicated that many librarians either had no interest themselves in promoting the reading of Notable Books or believed that the adults who used their libraries had little or no interest in quality reading represented by the titles selected for the Notable Books lists. Various means have been pursued by the RASD staff with colleagues across division lines and with ALA Publishing Services, ALA Graphics, and the ALA Public Information Office to publicize the annual lists, to promote their use in library programming, and to increase the quantity in circulation through camera-ready copy as well as the traditional brochure. Members of the Notable Books Council have also worked diligently and creatively to raise the awareness level of the annual lists among librarians and the general public. The annual “Literary Tastes” breakfasts at the ALA Conference, which have featured authors whose works have been selected for the latest list, have contributed to an apparent increase in interest in books and reading among conference attendees in recent years.

Reference Sources for Small and Medium-sized Libraries. An RSD committee compiled a list of titles to form a basic reference collection for use at the Seattle Century 21 Exposition in 1962 and the New York World's Fair in 1964-65. When only slightly more than half the titles requested from publishers were supplied, the division withdrew from participation in 1964 because the board did not want RSD's name used in connection with a list limited to only those titles publishers were willing to supply free of charge and for a fee to help defray costs of setting up the exhibit. After further discussion at the 1965 Midwinter Meeting, the RSD board reached a consensus to nullify the action taken at the 1964 Conference and to publish the committee's complete list. Titles supplied by publishers for the exhibit would be identified by an asterisk or other appropriate mark. This project led to the 1969 ALA publication, Reference Books for Small and Medium-sized Public Libraries. When interpersonal difficulties between members of the compiling committee and an editor in the ALA publishing department led to the committee's request that the book be issued by another publisher, staff work smoothed things over and ALA publication proceeded as originally planned.(14) Two more editions appeared in 1973 and 1979 under that title and two more as Reference Sources for Small and Medium-sized Libraries in 1984 and 1992, compiled by committees of the division. An editor has been appointed and is at work on a sixth edition as this is being written. The first edition had 634 entries and the fifth 1,974. Out-of-print titles were excluded from editions one through three, but have been included in the more recent editions. Also, coverage was broadened to include non-book sources and reference materials for children and young adults as well as adults, and the intended audience was expanded from small and medium-sized public libraries to add college and larger secondary school libraries.

RQ. In the thirty-plus years of RQ's existence it has consistently carried the name “RQ” on its cover and masthead.(15) It has, however, been cited variously, e.g., “Reference Quarterly,” “Research Quarterly,” and “Reference Query,” even among ALA publications, advertisements, and renewal notices. The first issue, which appeared in November 1960 as an eight-page newsletter, carried this explanatory note by editor William S. Budington:

As to interpretation of the title initials, let each his own solution make. Enigmatically, in the spirit of much reference work, it has no official meaning and must be sought. Mixed feelings there may bethat our full-blown journal format must be postponed, but also that a beginning is now achieved, and with the aid and encouragement of reference-oriented interests, a contribution may here be made to our profession.(16)


Journal status was achieved with volume eight and, excepting volumes three and four with six issues each, four issues have appeared per volume. Both the reviews section and “The Exchange” date from volume five.


The first eleven volumes were published by the RSD, and the editorial practices leading to the policy adopted by the RSD board in 1969 reflected the division's area of responsibility for reference services “at every policy level from elementary school to the special academic library.” Beginning with volume twelve in 1972 when the merger of ASD and RSD was effected and officially adopted by the RASD board in 1973, the editorial scope was broadened to include the interests of adult services librarians as well as reference librarians, bibliographers, and “others interested in user-oriented library services.” A succession of editors has striven to achieve, but not always to their own satisfaction, representation of adult services interests among RQ's articles and columns.

Advertising first appeared in the journal in volume eight. Although nonmember subscriptions were first accepted in 1970-71, theywere discontinued after one year's trial, a time when there was no executive secretary in the division's office to mount a promotion campaign, because too few subscriptions were received to justify the administrative costs for processing them. Even so, with no promotional efforts, about one hundred subscriptions were entered that year. When, a few years later, divisions were granted greater autonomy in conducting their programs and activities, together with fiscal responsibility for supporting them, RQ was once more offered on a nonmember subscription basis as well as continued as a perquisite of membership in the division. As the number of organization members in both ALA and its divisions dropped over time, the number of RQ's nonmember subscribers increased.

RASD Update. One of several eventual products of the division's planning efforts in the late 1970s, RASD Update began publication in 1980 with six issues per volume, to serve as a communications vehicle among RASD members. For the first several years it was a thin publication but, as members became more accustomed to its regular appearance, it grew in size and in importance to the division's sections and committees as a medium for reporting on and generating interest in their activities. Financial constraints cut back the number of issues from six to two in the 1982-83 organization year, with RQ carrying more division news then. Following a successful dues-raising membership vote, the newsletter's frequency was increased to four issues per year. Division presidents have used its pages successfully to air their interests and concerns and to solicit input from division members. Drafts of guidelines and other position statements regularly have been published in this newsletter, not only to gain feedback, but also to involve colleagues who may not be able to attend conferences more actively in the work of the division.

Conference Programs, Preconferences, and Institutes

Planning for conference programs and presenting them have had prominent places on the agendas of RASD's sections and committees. Important for the dissemination of information and ideas to the profession, RASD's conference programs, preconferenccs, and other institutes have formed the basis for several publications and for other programs at local, state, and regional meetings. Aware that the majority of the division's members do not attend any single ALA conference, the division has encouraged its committees to plan and present programs no more frequently than every other year to free them for work on other helps to the profession such as guidelines, articles for RQ and other publications.

RASD's programs, too numerous even to list here, have been sponsored individually by committees and sections, cosponsored with other ALA units, or presented in cooperation with publishers, vendors, and other associations. Unique among the latter was the luncheon held in the Preston Bradley room of the Chicago Public Library on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of book publishing at Oxford University. Robert Burchfield, editor of Oxford's English Language dictionaries, spoke on the growing separation of American English and British English since 1776.


RASD committees have used the Carnegie Reading List Fund administered by the ALA Publishing Committee for several projects, including such publications as Women's Legal Rights in the United States: A Selective Bibliography (ALA, 1985) and Spanish-Language Books for Public Libraries (ALA, 1986).

Adult Services in the Eighties (ASE), a project directed by Kathleen M. Heim, was funded by an ALA Goal Award in 1983, with significant support from Louisiana State University and its School of Library and Information Science, and conducted with the support of the RASD Services to Adults Committee. The project was intended to update the benchmark study, Adult Education Activities in Public Libraries, by Helen Lyman Smith published by ALA in 1954. Significant products of this project are Adult Services: An Enduring Focus for Public Libraries, edited by Kathleen M. Heim and Danny P. Wallace (ALA, 1990), a comprehensive, indexed bibliography on adult services; and a cadre of librarians who received their professional preparation while engaged in the catalytic group interactive process that was ASE.


History Section. The History Section, organized in 1961, was the only section for sixteen years. Its purpose then was to represent reference librarians, archivists, bibliographers, documentalists, and historians engaged in reference and research in the field of history. To this list have been added genealogists and others interested in historical reference and research. The organizers of the History Section saw the need for communicating the needs of historical researchers to the publishing community and for liaisons with historical agencies and societies. Rather than establishing formal representative relationships between the section and these entities, members of the section have tended to interact individually as members of related organizations and to invite publishers and vendors to attend open committee and discussion group meetings at ALA Conferences and Midwinter Meetings. One delightful “aha” moment occurred during a 1980s Genealogy Committee meeting when a microfilm publisher asked which edition of a specific newspaper should be filmed and the librarians present answered with one voice, “The one that is indexed.”

Three of the section's committees take turns on a three-year cycle in assuming responsibility for conference programs in their respective areas, i.e., Bibliography and Indexes, Genealogy, and Local History. Ever enthusiastic and dedicated, the members of the Genealogy Committee have several times sought to amend this policy of the section and to present annual conference programs on their committee's subject.

Two newer committees administer the annual Genealogical Publishing Company Award and compile an annotated list of materials relating to a selected, single historical event each year. Discussion groups provide forums for members interested in genealogy and local history and in the overall treatment of history in libraries.

Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS). The former Information Retrieval Committee provided reference fibrarians a home base in the mid-1970s, when the computer was increasingly becoming an important reference tool. The committee sponsored a preconference institute on “Computer-Based Reference Service” in 1971 in Dallas and in 1976 assumed the leadership role in forming a discussion group on Machine-Assisted Reference Service. This was a short-lived organizational entity. The groundswell of membership interest made it apparent within a year that a section would be the better medium for negotiating RASD's responses to the needs of reference and adult services librarians and their interest in being brought “up-to-speed” for dealing with online reference service.

The section's purpose, as initially stated, was to represent “the interests of those planning, managing, teaching, or conducting computer-based reference service in libraries.”(17) It has sought to be a means for sharing experiences and information among librarians, to serve as a forum for librarians and vendors of computerized search services, and to represent the needs and interests of library users.

Messages from MARS, originally an occasional newsletter of the discussion group, and later the section, began publication in September 1976 and ceased as a separate publication with issue no. 13, March 1980. It continues as “Messages from MARS,” a section of RASD Update, which began publication in 1980 to serve as a vehicle of communication among RASD members.

Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES). When public services librarians in academic libraries compared notes and found they were increasingly becoming involved in the collection-building process, they approached the division with a request that it look into a possible need for an organizational entity within RASD to respond to the needs of public services librarians with collection development assignments. With this as an area of possible overlap between RASD and the Resources and Technical Services Division (now the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services—ALCTS), open communication was maintained between the two divisions as an ad hoc committee was appointed and charged with investigating the matter. When the committee had concluded its study, it brought a recommendation to the board in 1987 that a section dealing with collection development and evaluation concerns be established in RASD. The board voted to accept this recommendation and the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) was established during the 1987 ALA Conference. Parenthetically, this report was considered during the ALA Conference at which

MARS was observing its tenth anniversary. The division president treated board members and observers to Mars candy bars at a coffee break when visitors from the Resources and Technical Services Division were present. Because of their anxieties about possible overlap between the new RASD section and a long-time RTSD section with related interests, these RTSD observers raised a question about the chemical content of those “gift” candy bars. The CODES leadership has maintained active, open communication with its counterpart in ALCTS to achieve the fullest possible coordination of their respective activities and programming.

Twenty-one years earlier, when the ASD Board had discussed the distinction it believed should be made between selection and acquisition functions in libraries, it had concluded that development of the collection to meet the needs and capabilities of the library's users was essential to carrying out the function of guiding readers. The board authorized the ASD president to approach the presidents of other divisions of AI-A to look into developing a proposal for a study of the whole area of selection and acquisition procedures.18 No assignments of specific responsibilities were made. Selection concerns and interests were found to permeate ALA's structure.

Business Reference and Services Section (BRASS). Business reference service was the focus of a single committee dating from RSD days until a discussion group was also established to provide a forum for exchanging information about serving the business community and the academic community preparing business administrators. By 1987 the members of the committee and discussion group found that membership interest was stronger than ever and, out of the committee and discussion group, in a fashion similar to that followed by the founders of MARS, RASD members with responsibilities in this area petitioned the board to establish the Business Reference and Services Section.

Management and Operation of Public Services Section (MOPSS) and Services to User Populations Section (SUPS). In the nearly twenty years since the merger of ASD and RSD, the number of committees reporting directly to the RASD Board increased dramatically as the wide-ranging interests of RASD members found expression in the organizational structure of the division. Committees found themselves working in isolation because, although in theory they had direct access to the board, there were so many of them that the board and staff could not work with each of them on an individual basis. After various attempts to establish viable liaison relationships between the board and the committees of the division failed, an ad hoc committee was appointed to review the structure of RASD. It published a report in the April/June 1990 issue of RASD Update offering two possible models and a comprehensive organization chart for review and comment by the membership. Following a hearing and board review, the committee refined its organizational proposals and two new sections were established at the 1991 ALA Conference: Management and Operation of Public Services Section (MOPSS) and Services to User Populations Sections (SUPS). Existing committees were reassigned from division-level to section-level into these two new sections and CODES according to their respective charges. This restructuring left the administrative committees, most of the awards committees, the Access to Information Committee, the joint Committee on Library Service to Labor Groups, and MARBI at the division level. All other committees became committees of the related sections.

Discussion Groups

Discussion groups were authorized by a change in the bylaws on recommendation of an ad hoc Committee on Reference Services in Large Research Libraries. The first two groups presenting petitions to the RASD Board were those on Reference Services in Large Research Libraries and Machine-Assisted Reference Services. In some instances discussion groups have been formed to ease the pressure on standing committees with agendas already too full to provide for free discussion during committee meetings and in others to provide forums on topics not specifically represented by existing committees. In an age of rapid change, discussion groups apparently fill a need for colleagues in similar positions or working in related subject areas to help each other keep current. Discussion groups have provided a flexible organizational means for members to “test the waters” for possible interest in creating sections or to respond quickly to currently “hot” topics. Several have come and gone as areas of interest and concern to public services librarians have warmed up and cooled down. Although most started out at the division level, all surviving RASD discussion groups have become units of the six sections.

The Council of State and Regional Groups (CSRG)

The Council of State and Regional Groups (CSRG) is a unique unit in RASD. It continues an interest common to both ASD and RSD, but in a different format, in cooperating with related groups at local, state, and regional levels. ASD had its Relations with State and Regional Library Associations Committee focusing on programming ideas and resources and on conveying information about the division to these other organizations. RSD had a Chapters Committee, name changed to Division Affiliates Committee in 1967 because ALA Bylaws permitted only one chapter per state, which worked to establish new groups at the local level whether in cities, states, or regions and for affiliation with reference groups already in existence. One of the difficulties facing these committees was the lack of accessible information in the ALA membership records about the membership by state for each division. Before these records were computerized, it was not feasible to provide either tallies or lists by geographic areas. A manual, Adult Services: A Handbook for State and Regional Library Associations, was a 1961 publication of the Adult Services Division and the ALA Office for Adult Education. The last item in this Handbook was a statement from Florence Craig, 1961-62 ASD President, who knew something about life in an association:

And so-hail and farewell dear colleagues: Do you feel beleagured? Do you think you've been told more than you want to know? Don't! At the next regional or state meeting sit down with a few other librarians interested in adult services. Plant the seeds for an adult services unit. When they sprout, start with one simple activity. In no time at all complexity will set in.


Although CSRG functions in some ways as a committee might, it is composed of representatives from affiliated groups who are members of both the group they represent and of RASD. The chair is elected by the group and is an ex officio voting member of the RASD Board. The occasional memorandum from the CSRG chair to representives of the affiliated groups evolved into the semi-annual newsletter, Roundup. It is one of the means CSRG uses to carry out its three-fold purpose of encouraging activities of state and regional RASD-affiliated groups, providing a forum for the exchange of information and advice relevant to their programs, and facilitating cooperation among these groups and between them and the division.


Liaisons with Related Organizations

The division's interest in cooperating with other organizations with related interests and concerns at the national level has found expression through presenting programs at conferences of the National Council on Aging and continuing representation on the Coalition of Adult Education Organizations Board on behalf the ALA. Formal liaisons, such as the joint Committee on Library Service to Labor Groups, and the informal, individual-level ones afforded through the History Section, BRASS, and MARS have been mentioned elsewhere in this paper.


A significant part of RASD's total program is the formal recognition now given to librarians, libraries, authors of RQ articles, and creators of outstanding reference works through the division's awards. At one time these awards were presented during the annual membership meeting. As they increased in number and as interest increased in creating opportunities for social interaction among RASD members, an annual reception which includes an awards presentation ceremony was initiated at ALA Conferences.

Oberly Memorial Award. Established in 1923 in memory of Eunice Rockwell Oberly, former librarian, Bureau of Plant Industry, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture, the Oberly Memorial Award was the first award administered by RSD. It is a biennial award presented in odd-numbered years to an American citizen as compiler of the best bibliography in the field of agriculture or the related sciences. Since 1968 the responsibility for this award has rested with the Association of College and Research Libraries.

Mudge-Bowker Award. The Isadore Gilbert Mudge-R. R. Bowker Award was established by approval of the ALA Council in 1958 as the Isadore Gilbert Mudge Citation to recognize individuals for their distinguished contributions to reference librarianship and to honor the memory of one of the world's most influential reference libririans. Miss Mudge, who died in 1957, the year of the Reference Services Division's establishment, pioneered in developing the philosophy and practice of reference service. She headed the reference department at Columbia University for thirty years and was known to library school students and practicing librarians of that era primarily for her monumental Guide to Reference Books. There is also the legend about her sometimes wearing her hat all day at the Columbia Reference Desk because she had not had time to comb her hair in the morning. The Mudge-Bowker Award is neither limited to librarians nor to U.S. citizens. Its name was changed in 1993 to include its new sponsor, the R. R. Bowker Company, a Reed Reference Publishing firm, which added $1,500 cash to the traditional citation. It has brought to its librarian recipients the honor of selection by their peers and to its other recipients an expression of the gratitude of the library community for their contributions to reference librarianship.

During the 1967-68 year, the RSD Board entertained discussions with the Al-A Awards Committee about establishing a new award, the Wayne Hartwell Award, with one possibility to be combining it with the Mudge Citation. Funding was to be provided by former RSD President Hartwell, “modestly at the present time and more generously by Mr. Hartwell's estate.”(19) There is no indication in the record that any agreement was reached between Mr. Hartwell, the division, and the ALA Awards Committee.

Dartmouth Medal. To the Dartmouth Medal belongs the distinction of being the last division-administered award to require the approval of the ALA Council. The lengthy process leading eventually to approval began in May 1973 with a letter from Edward Connery Lathem, then Dean of Libraries at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, to Robert Wedgeworth, ALA Executive Director. Dean Lathem wished to establish an award administered by the association to honor achievement in creating reference works outstanding in both quality and significance. Although the division board supported establishing this award, the ALA Awards Committee questioned whether the award would overlap with the Mudge Citation. The proposal for the Dartmouth Medal was transmitted to the ALA Council during the 1974 Conference by the Awards Committee “without recommendation.” ALA President Jean Lowrie reported, however, that the proposal did carry endorsement by the ALA Executive Board. It fell to the division, at that time without a division councilor, to find a councilor who would agree to make the requisite motion to get the matter formally before council. The ensuing heated debate was concluded when a councilor asked why, when divisions were being granted more responsibility for handling their finances, should they not also be given more responsibility for handling their awards programs? Designed by the aging graphics artist, Rudolph Ruzicka, the Dartmouth Medal was first presented in 1975 and, historically, can be seen as a marker in the struggle for greater autonomy for the divisions. The award has become a highly coveted honor in the publishing community and there has been no apparent overlap in practice with the Mudge-Bowker Award.

Facts On File Grant. In 1978 a representative of Facts On File, Inc., brought to the RASD Board a proposal for an award to a librarian, or librarians, for creating an imaginative program making current affairs more meaningful to an adult audience. An ad hoc committee of the division was appointed to work with representatives of the company to define criteria and the appropriate committee structure to administer this $1,000 award. The first presentation was in New York during the 1980 ALA Annual Conference. Years later, it was revealed that the person who brought the proposal to the board had intended a one-time event on the occasion of the company's 40th anniversary in its home territory of New York. During the board's discussion, a simple question about plans for the future and the company representative's unwillingness to admit the proposal was only for a one-time presentation led to its ongoing status. As the award was transformed into a grant (effective in 1988) and the amount increased to $2,000 more recently, the division and company have enjoyed an ongoing working relationship to the benefit of the company's publishing program, the division's program of service to reference and adult services librarianship, and library users in the library communities which have received either the award or grant.

Sessions Award. The John Sessions Memorial Award, consisting of a plaque given in recognition of a library or library system for its significant efforts to work with the labor community, was first presented in 198 1. Jack Sessions had served as director of the Education Department of the AFL/CIO and as an active member of the AFL/CIO-ALA (RASD) joint Committee on Library Service to Labor Groups. His support for unions was succinctly expressed during a joint Committee-sponsored program when he declared that he was delighted to have a union represent him in his dealings with his own employer, the AFL-CIO.

Monroe Award. Paralleling the Mudge-Bowker Award, the Margaret E. Monroe Library Adult Services Award has been presented annually since 1986 to honor a librarian who has brought distinction to the profession's understanding and practice of library services for adults. In naming the award for Dr. Monroe, the division recognized a person who has had a profound effect on adult services in libraries through her services as a president of the Adult Services Division, her numerous books and articles concerned with services to adults, and her work as an educator.

Reference Service Press Award. The Reference Service Press Award has also been given every year since 1986 to the author of the outstanding RQ article published during the preceding two volume years. A plaque and $1,000 to the recipients are donated by the Reference Service Press whose president, Gail A. Schlachter, is a past president of the division.

Denali Press Award. Authors of reference works, outstanding in quality and significance, that provide information specifically about ethnic and minority groups in the United States are recognized by the Denali Press Award which consists of $500 and a plaque donated by the press. First presentation of this award was made in 1990.

Gale Research Awards. Two of RASD's awards sponsored by Gale Research, Inc., recognize excellence in business librarianship and in reference and adult services. The Gale Research Award for Excellence in Business Librarianship, administered by BRASS, has been presented since 1990 to individuals who have distinguished themselves in the field of business librarianship and the Gale Research Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Services since 1991 to libraries that have developed imaginative and unique resources to meet patrons' reference, reader's advisory, or adult services needs.

Shores-Oryx Press Award. The division's interest in collection development manifests itself in its awards program through the Louis Shores-Oryx Press Award. Those eligible to receive this award, which recognizes excellence in reviewing of books and other materials for libraries, include reviewers, review editors, reviewing media, teachers, or organizations that have furthered the quality and professionalism of reviews and the reviewing process. A significant criterion for selecting recipients is achievement related to reviewing of materials to help librarians make selection decisions. The first presentation of this $1,000 award sponsored by Oryx Press was in 1991.

Disclosure Award. An annual travel award to enable a library school student who is interested in pursuing a career in business librarianship to attend the ALA Annual Conference, the Disclosure Student Travel Award, was first presented in 1993. It encourages participation in the activities of the Business Reference and Services Section (BRASS) and offers an opportunity for a newcomer to the profession to meet those already established as leaders in the field. Disclosure Incorporated is the donor of $1,000 toward the recipient's Conference travel expenses.

Genealogical Publishing Company Award. Professional achievement in historical reference and research librarianship is recognized through the Genealogical Publishing Company Award administered by a committee of the History Section. Exceptional accomplishment related to bibliography, book reviewing, indexing, professional association leadership, programs, and training that has furthered the quality of librarianship in history and related disciplines is required of the RASD members who may be selected to receive this $1,000 award donated by the Genealogical Publishing Company.

Guidelines, Interlibrary Loan Codes, and Other Aids for Professional Practice

Prohibited by the ALA Bylaws from developing and adopting nontechnical standards, RASD as a type-of-activity division has developed a body of guidelines covering a variety of library services. The basic statement of guidelines is “Information Services for Information Consumers: Guidelines for Providers,” prepared by the Standards and Guidelines Committee and adopted by the board, June 1990. These guidelines replaced the landmark document, “A Commitment to Information Services: Developmental Guidelines,” adopted in 1976 and amended in 1979 to include a section on “Ethics of Service.” The current document was written to form a statement of service goals rather than a codification of practices, and to be used to serve the needs of all types of libraries.

Essential to the development of the earlier guidelines was the ongoing work of the LAD Committee on Reference Statistics. Sharing a member in common with the RASD Standards Committee, the LAD committee worked with the National Center for Education Statistics as it prepared for the first time to incorporate questions relating to reference service in the Library General Information Survey (LIBGIS) for college and university libraries in 1976 and for public, school, state, and some special libraries beginning in 1977. Those LIBGIS surveys asked for statistics on “reference transactions” and “directional transactions.”(20) The use of technology in answering reference questions added a new level of concerns to the statistical reporting of reference transactions in that, initially, there was no common understanding of how to count a machine-assisted “search.” For example, if a reference transaction required more than one “search,” how should it be reported? MARS committees working in the areas of measurement and evaluation tackled this and related questions and published their findings in Messages from MARS.

Other guidelines statements have been prepared by several of the division's committees, beginning with “Guidelines for Library Services to an Aging Population,” July 1975, which traced its origins to the “Library's Responsibility to the Aging” document prepared by ASD following the first White House Conference on Aging.

Proposed guidelines statements, made available in draft form for commentary either through the pages of RASD Update or on request from the RASD office, have frequently been the subject of a “hearing” at either a Midwinter Meeting or Annual Conference. Following extensive discussions, revisions as appropriate, and review by the RASD Standards and Guidelines Committee and the ALA Standards Committee, they have been submitted for adoption to the RASD Board. Publication in RQ as a journal of record, has been the final step in the process. Some guidelines apply to collections and services in specific subject areas, e.g., local history, genealogy, medicine, law, and business or to collections and services for specific clienteles, e.g., older adults or Hispanics. Others deal with interlibrary cooperation, such as the telefacsimile transmission of interlibrary loan requests or the Information Request form. Yet others are concerned with the preparation of bibliographies, multilingual materials, and historical and genealogical bulletins and family newsletters. To maintain currency, the division's policy requires that each guidelines statement be reviewed every seven years for revision, reaffirmation, or rescission. A listing of all RASD guidelines in effect at time of publication is included in the “ALA Documents” section of the annual ALA Handbook of Organization.

The “National Interlibrary Loan Code, 1980,” supplemented by the updated “Model Interlibrary Loan Code for Regional, State, Local, or Other Special Groups of Libraries,” clearly placed responsibility for decisions on whether to lend materials or not in the lending libraries of the nation, but with strong encouragement to them to interpret their lending policies as generously as possible. Undergraduates and genealogical materials were not mentioned in this version of the National Code. It was made explicit by the framers of this code that resource sharing must be balanced with a library's responsibility to its primary clientele. The National Code was designed first and foremost to regulate lending relations between research libraries and between libraries operating outside networks or consortia. The Model Code was intended to provide a framework for cooperation. As with the 1968 National Code, the division, acting for the American Library Association, adopted the 1980 National Code and endorsed the Model Code. This time, however, they were endorsed by the Association for Library Service to Children and the Young Adult Services Division, both divisions of ALA. The Association of Research Libraries also endorsed the National Code.

When the time came for a review of the 1980 National Code, the decision to revise was based more in a need to accommodate technological advances than for dissatisfaction with the underlying principles guiding the drafting of the 1980 version.


RASD's plans for the future were expressed in a statement agreed upon by the Board at the 1973 ALA Conference in Las Vegas:

Our expectation is that most Present Programs will continue with some shift in emphasis to reflect the concerns of our newly merged division. We expect to Place increased emphasis on the following areas: study of community information needs; exploration of avenues of community involvement; maximal exploitation of non-print resources and computerized information services; innovative efforts in instruction in use of libraries; continuing education programs for reference and adult services librarians to enable them to give the best possible service to present and potential clientele.


Major current activities of the division that will continue are publication of RQ preparation of our two annual lists-Notable Books and Outstanding Reference Books-occasional production of bibliographic and other materials for special purposes as needed, and awarding of the Mudge Citation.(21)


Subsequent planning efforts were aided by surveys of the RASD membership in 1976 and 1977, by ad hoc committees, and by a special invitational planning meeting in 1977.22 Out of that 1977 meeting came a number of suggestions that, considered in greater detail in succeeding years, led to several new focuses for division concern. While post hoc, ergo propter hoc may not apply in all these instances, RASD Update began publication and several committees concerned with management of reference and adult services were established. Questions that came to the RASD office dealing with ethics, fees for service, and copyright could be and were transmitted to committees for response, sometimes with the suggestion they form the basis for committee investigation where there appeared to be a gap in professional knowledge. As this is written, the RASD Mission, Priority Areas, Goals, and Strategies statement, written over a several-year period in the late 1980s, is under review by the Planning and Finance Committee. Among the objectives of this review process are to bring about a closer harmony between this statement and the division's Financial Plan which also dates from the late 1980s and more nearly to achieve integration of the division's overall plan with those of the individual units.


RASD's attention to the on-the-job concerns and interests of public services librarians has manifested itself in the professional development of personnel, in selection and evaluation of materials for use with and by the library's publics, in reaching out to those publics, in setting goals for services, in applying technology to improve service, in representing certain subject specialties, in the furtherance of interlibrary cooperation, and in the management of public services.

Among my many happy memories is that of a discussion with another member of the division, who affirmed that RASD is one of the strongest divisions in ALA because of the strong contributions it has made to professional understanding of practice. In the hope her view is commonly held, I am pleased and proud to have played a role in the ever-unfolding drama on the RASD stage.

Capturing a place in the spotlight or headlines on the marquee has never been the RASD goal as it has set the stage, gathered props, and managed other innumerable details behind the scenes in the theater where public services librarians perform. The show plays on with an everchanging cast. I hope that this biased critique of past performance will be of use to those who are scripting RASD's future.