MOUSS Reference Services in Medium-Sized Research Libraries Discussion Group

2000 Annual Meeting Minutes

Tuesday, July 11, 2000

Marriott Downtown

Annual Conference, Chicago, IL


Chair, Chris Hannon, Smith College, began the meeting at 9:38 A.M. by introducing herself and welcoming the participants. Steering Committee members introduced themselves. They are: Patrick Oberholtzer, Member-at-Large, Gallaudet University; Kay Womack, Secretary, University of Oklahoma; and John C. Hepner, Past Chair, Texas Woman's University.

All participants introduced themselves. Seventeen participants attended representing the following institutions: DePaul University, Gallaudet University, George Washington University, Getty Research Library, The Library Center of Point Park College & Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, National Library of Canada, Notre Dame University, Smith College, Texas Woman's University, University of Chicago, University of Maine, University of Michigan, University of Oklahoma, University of San Francisco, University of the Pacific, and Utah State University.


The Chair explained the purpose of the Steering Committee and announced that we need to elect or appoint a new Member-at-Large. Locke Morrisey volunteered pending the outcome of an election to a state organization. If he is unable to serve Lois White volunteered.

Vacancies were announced at the University of Oklahoma, Utah State University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Distribution of minutes was discussed. Future minutes will be distributed via the RUSA website. When the minutes have been posted to the website the discussion group secretary will notify those individuals included in the distribution list.


The Chair asked for discussion topics. The topics suggested and the number of votes each received were:

  • Marketing reference services (11)
  • Digital reference services (10)
  • Innovative reference services (10)
  • Assessment of reference services (10)
  • Reference services at other library points (6)
  • Integrated services; restructuring and reorganizing (5)
  • Services to the disabled (4)
  • Dealing with problem or extremely difficult patrons (2)
  • Support staff needed for a reference department (2)
  • Different ways of providing instruction in electronic databases (2)
  • Exhibits and publications (1)

IV. DISCUSSION FIRST TOPIC: Marketing Reference Services

At the University of Chicago it is hard to get students to come to sessions. Ads are placed in the school newspapers. To meet the need for teaching undergraduates they try to go to the dorms and classrooms. There is not a formal program. They work with the subject specialists who try to contact students by phone, e-mail, etc.. George Washington University doesn't have a marketing school but works with students in the business school. This is a highly specialized part of the graduate library programs at the University of Michigan. Marketing tools used are a newsletter, exhibits and meetings for public relations and development. Utah State University uses three options: (1) the Campus Services Librarian serves as a media outreach person to send out information; (2) Media Relations at the university has one writer who visits weekly with the library administration for news items; and (3) a different service is featured each month on the library homepage. The University of San Francisco just implemented a library liaison program. They paired up people with others who are used to working with faculty and the public. They have a state of the art library classroom. Working with the writing program has been a big draw. Students work uninterrupted for a second hour on a project. Librarians also roam. At Gallaudet University an author is invited to campus. The Library Center of Point Park College & Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh sends an electronic newsletter to the public which features a database and a print resource. The University of Michigan also highlights a print resource in its newsletter and reported that Ohio State University sends out a detailed list of new acquisitions. Notre Dame University's homepage has an image that rotates or changes. The University of Maine's webpage has links to library highlights which uses a parallel universe for marketing library highlights. A committee puts the site together. At DePaul University free research consultation is advertised through the school paper and the Students First Program. At the University of San Francisco librarians partner with students by working side-by-side with them at the Reference Desk. The University of the Pacific teams with undergraduate students at the reference desk. This is a good way to bridge the gap between the students and the librarians. New items are listed on the University of Oklahoma's webpage.

SECOND TOPIC: Assessment of Reference Services

Smith College introduced the topic with questions about how reference services are assessed and if departments continue to keep statistics. The University of Michigan has switched from a sheet on the wall to keeping monthly individual statistics. They now just keep track of two categories of questions. The University of Maine prefers not to keep statistics at all but management requires daily statistics. Librarians also keep individual tallies and the time spent on answering questions away from the desk. Texas Woman's University handles statistics in a multitude of ways. Two years ago they went through all stats and did away with all statistics the administration did not need. They make no distinctions as to the place whether statistics are gathered and they use a sampling technique. They keep reference, bibliographic instruction, electronic reference, interlibrary loan, and the faculty research center. George Washington University finds statistics useful to define staffing levels, including variable staffing levels over the years, and to cut hours. They are helpful for trends as services change. At DePaul University different changes is the key as the student body changes. The University of the Pacific recently completed accreditation. A library team coordinated the process for the entire university. They were Page 3 surprised that the accreditation team did not want numbers. They wanted to know about how student learning was assessed. The University of San Francisco doesn't use ARL definitions. They look at user stations to show how busy the room is. The National Library of Canada collect what the senior management levels need. They decided that they were collecting everything for no reason. They collect simple and research reference questions. They have an electronic phone key system for self-service. The problem now is that digital and electronic work enables users to help themselves. The more complex questions are not reflected and they need to develop ways of gathering new statistics. They are interested in evaluating and assessing the workload. The website has a marketing survey for both onsite and offsite users. Gallaudet University commented that keeping statistics might help when the higher ups want to make changes. Notre Dame University documents the shift in the type of questions, particularly more complicated questions. How do we do this without impacting service? The University of the Pacific doesn't have previous data for comparison. At the University of San Francisco technology has sped up the process. They show students how to complete the campus survey. The University of Chicago collects by using a two week sampling. They are planning a brief web survey. DePaul University also asked about collecting data unless you have something to use to compare improvements or a decline. Student surveys at the University of San Francisco and the University of Oklahoma are generic. Utah State University keeps statistics. They have adopted the Tyckoson Guidelines and they would like to base assessment on the guidelines. George Washington University reported on a poster session on a web-based reference interview survey. It was easy to do and just took a few minutes. The National Library of Canada has been tracking e-mail. It is for users to help themselves with the web-based catalog. They use MS-Access to keep stats in one database. DePaul University wanted to know if anyone is tracking by department and charging costs back. The University of Chicago was asking for affiliation at the desk but found this was hard to do. The National Library of Canada tries to get affiliation at the desk and through a registering process. Gallaudet University wanted to know if anyone who collects data changed their service as a result. For accreditation the University of the Pacific used focus groups and recommended this over a survey. The students who participated were paid a token amount. The focus groups wanted more group study rooms; ten new ones have been added. Focus groups also have been used at the University of Oklahoma. Notre Dame University used focus groups for catalog migration and building renovation. The insights are helpful but have to be analyzed. The National Library of Canada used statistics to determine what hours to cut due to government cutbacks in the mid-1990's. Minimal complaints have resulted. Comment cards were reported as a good way to get information. Getty Library used focus groups and described several purposes for which the groups were used. The Library Center of Point Park College & Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh used focus groups, statistics and surveys to plan their joint operation. Some of the same techniques are used for assessment. Statistics were extremely helpful and enabled them to use data to put services together in a more meaningful way. At this institution they are interested in outcomes. The University of the Pacific still keeps statistics. Notre Dame University thought that web statistics don't help on individual pages but do help to know where people are accessing the system.


Please note these two topics were combined. The University of San Francisco submits interlibrary loan requests electronically. They hold research consultation sessions two hours in length and thought it would be good to require this of any new research assistant before a proxy card is issued. At the University of Oklahoma some subject specialists have held office hours in academic departments. The success has varied but this approach reaches some clientele that one might not reach otherwise. George Washington University highly recommends this. The University of Michigan holds open houses. Graduate faculty and librarians from other units are invited to show their services and new products. Food is served. Gallaudet University asked if libraries were open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week (24-7). This is not done at the Graduate Library or Undergraduate Library at the University of Michigan. The National Library of Canada has international partners on collaborative digital reference. They hope to get money from the government to start a local geographical node. They have a profile of various types of libraries to use in structuring a node. George Washington University thinks that looking at chatrooms, roving reference and offering services at other points in the library is more important than 24-7. Smith College is part of a five college consortium with numerous committees. Reference will be looking at 24-7 and how to share the burden. When the University of Oklahoma expanded hours, the hours the Reference Desk is staffed did not change. The University of Oklahoma is not open 24-7. The University of Michigan doesn't have reference librarians on duty during the later hours. They have students which may be graduate students. The University of the Pacific was asked to be open 24-7 but the students wanted to use the library to study. Community college students do need help when they get off work late at night. The Library Center of Point Park College & Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh serves a multiple population. The lifestyles of people whose lives start late at night and building construction make it difficult to only have part of the building open. They have expanded database offerings. The electronic classroom is open Sundays but the rest of the building is not. The National Library of Canada has a Q&A database but would like to see more end-users in the library.

The meeting formally adjourned at 11:37 A.M.. Informal discussion continued on topic three.

Respectfully submitted,

Kay Womack Secretary 12-19-2000