RSS Handbook


Reference Services Section (RSS) Handbook

Reference Services Section (RSS), Reference and User Services Association, American Library Association

Revised August 2023

This handbook is a compilation of procedures and policies for RSS officers and committee chairs. Suggestions for additions or revisions to this handbook should be sent to the RSS Chair. For further information about how RSS functions, see our Bylaws.

All RSS representatives are expected to stay current about  RUSA and ALA policies. Read the RUSA Guide to Policies and Procedures available online in the “About RUSA” portion of the RUSA website as well as the ALA Policy Manual. As a section of RUSA, RSS must comply with all divisional policies, and chairs should familiarize themselves with the Guide. Questions? Consult with the RSS Executive Committee and/or RUSA Executive Director. 


1.    Handbook Distribution and Updating Procedure
2.    RSS Executive Committee
3.    RSS Committees

4.    RSS Representatives to RUSA Committees
5.    Conference Programs and Pre-conferences

1) Handbook Distribution and Updating Procedure

The RSS Handbook is hosted on the RSS website. The RSS Executive Committee reviews the handbook biennially and revises as needed. Revisions should be approved by the RSS Board.

2) RSS Executive Committee

The RSS Executive Committee consists of the Chair, Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect, Secretary (2 year term), Immediate Past Chair, and three Members-at-Large (overlapping 3 year terms to ensure continuity of policy) and is the official voting body of the Section. The RSS Web Content Manager, RSS Communications Committee Chair, RUSA President, and RUSA Executive Director (Reference and User Services Association) are ex-officio, non-voting members of the Executive Committee. Terms of office start after Annual Conference and run through the following Annual Conference (for one-year terms, except as designated).

The RSS Board consists of the RSS Executive Committee, RSS committee chairs, and RSS Representatives to RUSA Committees. The members of the RSS Executive Committee serve as the only voting members of the RSS Board.

The Executive Committee and the RSS Board will conduct business via approved communication formats (ex. email, in-person or online). Items which need Executive Committee approval to move on to other RUSA or ALA committees should be discussed at meetings. 

Duties of the RSS Chair

  • Convenes RSS Board meetings throughout the year.
  • Communicates issues and information to appropriate areas, oversees the work of the Section, compiles and sends out meeting agendas and other documentation, schedules the meetings of the Executive Committee and All-Committee meetings held during the Annual Conference, and presides at all Executive Committee meetings.
  • Presides at the Section business meeting held at Annual Conference while she/he/they is Chair.
  • Serves on the RUSA Leadership Council, and communicates messages from RUSA to RSS leaders, and members, including deadlines and policy changes.
  • Serves on a RUSA committee as indicated in Section 4.
  • Coordinates the All Committee Meeting and Open House, held during Annual Conference, and works with the RSS Communication Committee to coordinate publicity. Communicates with the RUSA Office regarding the RSS Open House.
    • Works with RUSA Vendor Relations Liaison to secure funding for Open House breakfast or joint social with ETS when there is an in-person conference.
  • Co-leads the Communications Committee when no members are present.

Duties of the Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect

  • Appoints committee members and chairs for the year during which they will be Chair.
    • Committee members and chairs are to be appointed beginning in early spring. Committee appointments are generally for two years and can be renewed once. Chair appointments are for one year and can be renewed once.
    • Current committee chairs should be contacted for recommendations for re-appointment of members or addition of new members and to determine if any current committee members are interested in chairing the committee.
  • Appoints RSS representatives to RUSA Committees (see Section 4, below).
  • Serves on a RUSA committee as indicated in Section 4.
  • Prepares a New Chair Orientation to be shared during the Annual Conference or soon after their term as chair has begun.
  • Co-leads the Communications Committee when no members are present.

Duties of the Immediate Past Chair

  • Chairs the RSS Nominating Committee and submits the slate of candidates (RSS Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect, Members-at-Large) to the RUSA Executive Director.
  • Serves as the chair of the RUSA Nominating Committee.
  • Serves as a member of the RSS Executive Committee.
  • Co-leads the Communications Committee when no members are present.

Duties of Secretary

  • Takes notes during RSS Executive Committee and RSS Board meetings.
  • Submits drafts of minutes to the RSS Executive Committee and RSS Board for review and final approval.
  • Prepares and distributes approved minutes of RSS Executive Committee and RSS Board meetings to the RSS Executive Committee and RSS Board.
  • Ensures RSS Executive Committee and RSS Board meeting minutes are voted upon and approved, by working with the RSS Chair.
  • Posts minutes on the RSS Board ALA Connect group to make them public.
  • Co-leads the Communications Committee.

Duties of the Members-at-Large

  • Represent the interests of the RSS membership to the RSS Executive Committee and undertake other duties as assigned. 
  • RSS Members-at-Large will serve as RSS representatives to RUSA level committees, reporting back to RSS Leadership. The goal is to keep RSS leadership, chairs, and membership updated about deadlines, changes, and opportunities at the RUSA level.
  • One Member-at-Large serves on the RUSA Board for their three year term.

Duties of the RSS Web Content Manager 

  • Updates and maintains content of RSS website, including news and current information about section committees. Communicates with RUSA office staff, including Web Services Manager, to keep website up-to-date.
  • Coordinates with RUSA archivist/s.
  • Serves as ex-officio, non-voting member of RSS Executive Committee.
  • Maintains long-term historical archives, records, and related materials concerning the section and its activities.
  • Serves 2-year term, and may be re-appointed for a second term.
  • Serves as member of RSS Communications Committee.

3) RSS Committees

All RSS meetings, except those by the Nominating and Recognition Committees, are considered open to all ALA members. In addition to the Executive Committee, RSS committees include:

As well as four functional committees:

The Executive Committee may establish special and ad hoc committees. All committees report to the Executive Committee.

For committee charges and membership see the RSS Committees section of the RSS website. Committees are encouraged to maintain informal or formal contact with other appropriate units of ALA but may not make commitments on projects or programs outside of RSS without Executive Committee approval.

Committees are expected to meet in whatever format they prefer throughout the year. These meetings and their agendas should be publicly announced to allow other interested ALA members to attend.

Each committee is expected to participate in the All-Committee Meeting scheduled on Saturday at the Annual Conference, which includes a period for individual committee meetings as well as a general meeting of all RSS committees. One member from each committee should be designated to attend the All-Committee Meeting in order to inform visitors about the work of the committee and encourage new membership.

Responsibilities of RSS Committee Chairs

  • Serve as a member of and attend RSS Board meetings representing their committee. At RSS Board meetings, participate in discussions about the direction of the section.
  • Monitor committee activities and projects. Organize agendas and chair all meetings. Schedule those committee meetings held during the year, which are not part of the All-Committee meeting held during the Annual Conference.
  • Submit committee goals at the beginning of the year, and updates to those goals twice a year posted on Connect.
  • Consider submitting Conference Proposals and Webinar proposals.
  • Promote the work of the committee and committee events through Connect and the RUSA Update.
  • Make recommendations for committee appointments to the RSS Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect. Appointments are usually made in the spring and begin immediately following the ALA Annual Conference.
  • Inform the Chair and Vice-Chair if you believe a committee member should be removed from the committee, based on non-attendance at meetings or non-performance of committee responsibilities. It is the responsibility of the RSS Chair, not the committee chair, to ask a committee member to resign if necessary.
  • Document and date the work of the committee. Meeting minutes are required to be posted to the committee’s ALA Connect site, set to public, within a month of meeting.
  • Keep thorough documentation of committee activities and goals to be handed over to the next committee chair ensuring a smooth transition with the new chair having all the information needed to continue current projects and initiate new ones.
  • Post committee work documents to ALA Connect. Committees can decide if work should be public, or only available to those in the committee ALA Connect group.

RSS Committee Chair Calendar


  • Outgoing chair should send short letters to committee members thanking them for their work the previous year.
  • Outgoing chair oversees any committee pre-conferences and programs at ALA Annual Conference.
  • Outgoing chair posts summary of committee’s activities for the year and meeting minutes to RSS Board Connect site within a month of Annual Conference meeting.
  • Outgoing chair transfers committee/discussion group materials to incoming Chair and RSS Web Content Manager.
  • New committee chairs assume responsibility of their committees at the close of the ALA Annual Conference.


  • Review committee roster on ALA Connect.
  • Introduce yourself to committee members and set meeting times and frequency.
  • Committees meet within a few weeks of the ALA Annual conference.
  • Incoming chair should post committee goals for the year to the committee's ALA Connect space. This can be in meeting minutes.

August - December 

  • Review the online RUSA Guide to Policies and Procedures and RSS Handbook.
  • Notify the RSS Chair if there are committee members you are not able to contact.
  • Delegate committee tasks to interested members and monitor progress of committee activities.
  • If interested, submit ALA Annual Program proposals according to ALA deadlines.
  • Consider creating a RUSA webinar to coincide with your committee work.

January - February

  • Notify the RSS Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect of
    • the number of committee vacancies to be filled for the following year,
    • committee members whose terms are expiring but who are willing and eligible to be re-appointed,
    • any recommendations for new members of the committee, and
    • whether the Chair is willing and eligible to be re-appointed (if not, note any current committee members willing to be appointed to chair the committee).

March - May

  • Submit to the RSS Executive Committee in April any budget requests for ALA Annual in excess of $50 that will need approval by RUSA Board (RUSA Board’s deadline is May 1).

4) RSS Representatives to RUSA Committees

RSS has official representatives to the following RUSA committees.  Any such representatives are considered members of the RSS Board.

  • Awards Coordinating

Assists in orientation of new committee chairs, serves as a clearinghouse for information pertinent to policies and procedures of award committees, and assists the RUSA Board of Directors and/or section executive committees to develop new awards. The Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect starting in odd-numbered years serves for 2 years on this committee.

  • Budget and Finance

The RSS Member-at-Large who is charged with serving on RUSA Board will serve as the RSS Representative to RUSA Budget and Finance during the years RSS has a representative to Budget and Finance.

  • Conference Program Coordinating

Helps ensure RSS proposals are approved. Chairs of committees that are planning programs should consult with the representative to verify the approved time and date for a program.  The Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect starting in even-numbered years serves for 2 years on this committee.

  • Leadership Council

RUSA Leadership Council includes the Chair and Vice-Chair of RSS. One of the RSS Members-at-Large may be charged with serving on this council.

  • Nominating

Prepares the slate of candidates for RUSA offices. The RSS Nominations and Elections Chair serves as the RSS Representative to the RUSA Nominating Committee. The immediate Past-Chair of RSS serves on the Nominating Committee.

  • Professional Development Committee (PDC)

Provides leadership and coordinates the development of RUSA programming, apart from Annual Conferences, including: generating and recommending topics and authors for Web CE courses, evaluating proposals for Web CE courses, including those from outside sources. The chair of the RSS Education and Professional Development Committee serves on the RUSA PDC. The chair or a member of the RSS Education and Professional Development Committee serves on the RUSA PDC.  

  • Professional Resources Committee (PRC)

Helps develop and maintain all Standards and Guidelines documents. One of the RSS Members-at-Large may be charged with serving on this council.

  • Volunteer Development

Coordinate volunteer development within RUSA and ensure that volunteer leaders have the resources and support needed for the yearly turnover of leadership. A member of the RSS Executive Committee may be charged with serving on this committee.

5) Pre-conference and Conference Programs

Program proposals for RUSA and RSS are handled on the ALA level. ALA will forward the program to the relevant division for consideration and RUSA's Conference Program Coordinating Committee will make recommendations to the RUSA board for the final decision on the programs RUSA will present. RSS committees or members can submit proposals for conference programming. Information about submissions can be found on ALA’s Conference Submission website.

While a successful program requires a great deal of organization and team effort, it is usually a rewarding experience for the committee organizing it.  A program is one of the best ways to provide a direct benefit to RSS members who attend the conferences.

Program Checklist

This checklist is intended as a guide to help the organizers of a program and assumes that a topic, title, description, and speakers have already been confirmed. It also assumes the program has been approved. It can be modified as necessary to meet your needs. It is recommended that the chair of the organizing committee make this checklist available so  committee members can volunteer in advance for tasks or roles.


9-12 months ahead:

3-9 months ahead:

Submit required forms to the RUSA Office as requested. These will include a Meeting Room Request Form, Program Description Form, Speaker Waiver Forms, and A/V Orders.

5-6 months ahead:

  • Communicate with your speakers to finalize the program format.
    • Questions to consider:
      • Will each speaker give a presentation of a particular length with Q&A at the end? 
      • Will questions be asked with each speaker responding before moving to the next question? 
  • Various formats can be considered, but should be finalized at this point so presenters can begin to prepare based on the agreed-upon format. 
  • Prepare a program outline with times and distribute to the speakers and facilitator.

5-6 months ahead:

  • Confirm who will be the program facilitator (if this has not been done already) and determine their role.  Will they simply provide introductions at the beginning of the program or will they actively participate in moderating the program as a discussion?

3 months ahead:

  • Consider soliciting questions for the speakers on relevant listservs and through Connect. This also helps to promote early awareness of the program.
  • Make your speakers aware of the time, date, and city where the program will take place. Also make them aware of the building and room location once these are announced in March or April.
  • Determine if committee members will be attending the conference in-person and if so, determine roles committee members will have during the program (see the section titled Committee Member Roles During the Program).

1-2 months ahead:

  • Create a publicity message and send it to relevant email listservs and Connect. Work with the RSS Communication Committee to post an announcement to social media. Submit a request to have the event highlighted on the RUSA Facebook, Twitter and RUSA News site. Include a Twitter hashtag. Send the message again 1-2 weeks before the program. Read RUSA’s “How are conference events promoted?” article. .

1-2 months ahead:

  • Collect biographical information about the speakers and facilitator for introductions at the program.
  • Consider setting up an online or paper evaluation for your program. If the form is online, create reminders of URLs to hand out to participants.

1 month ahead:

  • Arrange for a committee member to blog about the program or take notes that can be posted to the committee’s website following the program.

1 month ahead:

  • If the speakers created a presentation, ask them to email you a copy by a specific date (at least a week before the presentation). A good rule of thumb is to prepare for the interruption of  internet service, so it is always good for both the speaker and you to have a copy of their presentation in hand. If acceptable to the speakers, consider combining all the speakers' slides into one file so the time switching between presentations during the program can be minimized.
  • Create an opening slide with the name of the program, RUSA, RSS, name of the committee, presenters, and facilitator to show at the beginning of the program.
  • Create an ending slide with the URL where attendees can find information related to the program, or the evaluation URL.

2 weeks ahead:

  • Consider asking your presenters/panelists and facilitator if they are interested in meeting before the program in the conference city for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or beverages.  If there seems to be lack of interest or the speakers seem overscheduled, don’t push.

1 week ahead:

  • If the program format allows for questions to be submitted on note cards, bring blank note cards.


Find the ALA Office in the Convention Center, locate the RUSA table, and pick up any flyers or handouts you requested be printed. Also pick up RSS brochures, and RSS ribbons to make available at your program. This can be done beginning on Friday.

Distribute program flyers in the rooms of any related programs or meetings where there may be an audience interested in your program. RUSA preconferences and the RSS Open House are two great opportunities.


Committee Member Roles during the Program

Door Greeters (1-4 depending on expected audience and room size)

  • Welcome attendees with a smile so they know they are in the right place!
  • As attendees enter the door of the program:
    • Distribute the evaluations, handouts, and blank note cards.
    • Point attendees to empty chairs if the room appears full.
    • One greeter should act as liaison to the conference center staff if needed regarding attendee concerns. (i.e.: room temperature is extremely high/low, not enough chairs, etc.)

Assistant to the Speakers and Facilitator

  • Ensures the speakers/facilitator have what they need to make the program a success.
  • Acts as a liaison with the conference center on behalf of the speakers/facilitator as needed.


  • Communicates with the facilitator before the program to determine what timing cues may be needed during the program.
  • Uses those cues when appropriate.

Host (MC)

  • Confirms who will introduce the facilitator and speakers. A slide should be projected at this time with the name of the program, RUSA, RSS, name of the committee, presenters, and facilitator.

Note card runners

  • Collects written questions for panelists and returns these to the facilitator.


  • Conducts a brief evaluation at the end of the program. For example, ask the audience to identify one useful idea they took from the program.
  • Project the URL where attendees can find information related to the program, or the evaluation URL. If applicable, collect program evaluations.


Within 2 weeks:

  • Send a handwritten card to each of the speakers and facilitator thanking them for participating.

Within 1 month:

  • Compile the program evaluations and post to the committee’s space on ALA Connect (NOT as public).

Within 1 month:

  • With consent of the speakers, send handouts and presentations from the speakers to the RSS webmaster or the RUSA office, so these can be added to the committee website.  Post related files on the committee’s space on ALA Connect.

Comments, suggestions, etc. are welcome. Please send them to the Chair of the RSS.

Updated December 2, 2022.