MOUSS Evaluation of Reference and User Services Committee

Midwinter 2001 Meeting Minutes

Saturday Jan. 13th - 9:30-11am

Attendance - Paula Contreras (chair), Jake Carlson, Lou Vyhnanek, Lisa Horowitz, Nancy Skipper, Suzanne Lorimer, Leslie Haas, Mike Havener, David Tyckoson (visitor)

Meeting minutes from our second meeting at ALA Annual in Chicago were approved. The meeting minutes from our first meeting will be sent out to members via e-mail for approval at a later date.


Mike reported that the 4 presenters from the RUSA Institute in Baltimore had been asked to write an article focusing on evaluating electronic services.

Paula passed around a copy of the evaluations received from the RUSA Institute program in Baltimore. By and large they were overwhelmingly positive. Negative comments included: the speaker on Thursday night wasn't very good, the program felt too rushed, there was too much content to absorb, more break/networking time was needed, and some public librarians felt that the presentations were more geared toward academic libraries. In addition, the hotel blocking became a problem, as the Institute did not attract the number of attendees that we had assumed it would.

Jake reminded Mike and the committee that he still needed the presentations from Mike and JoBell Whitlach so that he could post them on our website. Paula said that she would contact JoBell about this.

The committee then discusses if we should continue the RUSA Institute program and, if so, should we do it through the Institute format or modify the program and use a different format (such as an ALA program or an ALA pre-conference). To assist us in answering this question Nancy read the suggested topics people listed on their evaluation forms from the RUSA institute. They included:

  • web design
  • measuring use, surveys of use of electronic services -use of technology to assess reference
  • an intensive, emergent workshop in reference assessment.
  • usability tests for library products
  • getting administrative support for reference evaluation
  • coaching as a tool to improve service
  • assessment of instruction

Leslie added that her institution will be using an assessment tool called "LIBqual+" which is similar to SERVIQUAL only its more geared toward libraries and that Texas A&M does the number crunching. This could also be a topic for a future program.

The committee then discussed the merits and drawbacks of the ideas listed and possible formats. The following suggestions were made:

  • We may want to work with PLA for the next conference to ensure an equal focus on public libraries.

    a "follow-up program" (the results of different institutions assessment programs) might be a good idea. Paula suggested a panel presentation might work well for this idea and the panel could also take questions from the audience (who wouldn't have had to attend the RUSA Institute program).
  • A program or pre-conference workshop focusing on Digital Reference Assessment. Chuck McClure and R. David Lankes are working on a book about this subject. Furthermore, RUSA may be interested in creating a guidelines and standards in this area, we may be able to be involved in this at an early stage. LoC / OCLC are also becoming involved. Leslie suggested Joe Janes as a possible speaker.
  • Focusing on some other particular service (distance reference, remote users, etc.). There was concern that by focusing on a single service the benefits of being exposed to a variety of methodologies (as in the Institute program) would be lost.

    At this point Ann Eccles, the person in charge of setting up ALA pre-conferences, overheard our conversation and stopped over to talk to us about the procedures for setting up a pre-conference. We learned that pre-conferences must be able to cover their costs but that we could seek out a sponsor to help with this. Suggested possible sponsors included: Gale Group, EBSCO, Lexis-Nexis and LSSI. The committee agreed that, if we did decide to sponsor a pre-conference program, the 2003 annual meeting should be our target rather than 2002.

The committee then went on to talk about the discussion group that we are co-sponsoring on Sunday January 14th on reference statistics entitled "Sex, Lies, and Reference Statistics". Paula passed out the flyer she had created to publicize the event for approval by the committee, which was given. At the suggestion of the committee, Jake agreed to contact Cognotes to have them send a reporter to the discussion group. Lisa requested that members of the committee come prepared to ask questions to get the conversation going and red off a list of questions that she had come up with. Nancy and Sue agreed to take notes at the discussion group.

The committee continued to discuss reference statistics. Lisa suggested gathering different reference statistics sheets used by libraries and posting them on our website, which may be help for other libraries in generating ideas for their own reference statistics sheets. Nancy or Mike (sorry I can't remember which one of you brought this up) mentioned the ARL spec kits and that we may want to contact them to see if they would be interested in having us create a spec kit on this subject. The downside to this idea would be that ARL is a group of large academic libraries and therefore the information contained in the spec kit would reflect that perspective, which would not be as useful for other types of libraries.

The committee then began a discussion on possibly updating the Reference Assessment Manual (RAM) that had been published a number of years ago and was now outdated. Matt Saxton had an interest in updating the RAM but may have moved on to other things (Eric Novotny, a former committee member, has said that he would check on this). Nancy mentioned that she was having lunch with John Richardson, the other person who ha d expressed an interest in working with Matt in updating the RAM. She volunteered to talk to him about this during their lunch. Paula stated that even if Matt and John did want to work on updating the RAM that we should not cede total control over it and that we should be involved in some way as a partnership. When the RAM was originally up for publication ALA rejected it and Pierian Press published it instead. Matt and John might not have to offer it to ALA first, however if the committee were involved we may be forced to offer it to ALA first as they have the right of first refusal. The RAM sold well so ALA may want to publish the revision, which may conflict with the contract signed to Pierian. Paula pointed out that ex-committee members can be retained by appointing them to a sub-committee. This would allow us to maintain continuity should we decide to work on updating the RAM.

Kathy Green stopped by to talk about the "all-committee" style of room arrangements for today's meeting. Committee members mentioned several drawbacks to the set up and Kathy promised that they would be discussed at the MOUS-executive meeting taking place later today.

Returning to the topic of updating the RAM, Mike asked what exactly we planned to update and if that would conflict with JoBell Whitlach's new book on reference assessment. Mike pointed out that one of the valuable aspects of the RAM was the disk that was included which contained all of the forms and other material discussed in the RAM; JoBell's book, to the best of the committee's knowledge, did not have anything similar. Nancy brought up that we need to ask JoBell about her opinion about our updating the RAM. It was also pointed out that JoBell's book was more of a practical how-to-do-it guide, whereas the RAM was a guide to finding instruments and finding literature (articles, etc.) on the subject. Eric Novotny arrived at this point and added that JoBell's book focused on methodology while the RAM focused on the areas in reference to examine. Eric also mentioned that Matt Saxton would be attending our second meeting on Sunday.

The committee adjourned for the day.