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Mary Popp's picture

Just Ask -- New Plans, New Charge

Dear Just Ask Team,

As I had mentioned on your site a couple of times over the past several weeks, we are making some changes in the way proceed with the Just Ask project.  My hope for this year is that we will make RUSA and the work of all of our members stand out and that we will develop continuing education, publications and tools to meet the needs expressed in last year’s membership survey.  Just Ask is a centerpiece in that work and I want to be sure that it can move forward. 

At the same time, Liz determined that she could no longer commit the time to the project that would be needed to lead it to success.  I have asked Diana Shonrock and Elizabeth Stephan to assume that leadership role as co-chairs.  Both have great credentials in reference and in RUSA.  Diana is a past chair of MOUSS/RSS and a Past-President of RUSA.  Elizabeth is active in BRASS, the editor of the RUSA Update, and a member of the RUSA Board.

I discovered that the Just Ask Team had never had an official charge.  A charge is important to our success and to organizing all of the work you have completed so far into something that will make a difference.  Diana, Elizabeth, Liz, Susan Hornung and I have drafted a charge for the committee and a set of goals.  The draft charge will be reviewed and voted on at the RUSA Board meeting next week, on Tuesday September 25.  One of the first tasks of the committee will be to review the goals and organize them into workable steps to achieving the charge.

Here are the drafts of each:

CHARGE: Create a RUSA vision of the reference/ information professional and the services they provide, and communicate that vision by advocating for reference librarians and providing access to forward thinking resources.

Possible measurable goals :

  •  Answer the question:  what is a reference librarian now?  How does that vision differ by type of library?  Involve all RUSA sections.
    • Gather data through focus groups, surveys, and needs assessments.
    • Collect and publicize stories and case studies about reference librarians, their day-to-day work and exceptional services.  These will be suitable for many purposes, including library education.
  • Update the  definition of reference and reference transactions (see below)
  • Identify usable research and publications to include in the toolkit.  Find workable models from other professions to guide the development of the toolkit.
  • Develop a set of competencies for reference librarians that can serve as a call to action, an educational imperative, and a statement understandable to the general public.  Begin with the current set of competencies developed in RSS.
  • Create and perform a needs assessment to measure what librarians need to know and to have as part of the workplace in order to fit the new reference librarian model and what they need to know to communicate the value of reference librarians and reference service.
  • Develop  marketing tools, both inside and outside of the library profession for each step in the process.
  • Create a MODEL for RUSA that communicates the value of reference librarians and reference service [at the regional, state, and local level].


Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) 

Approved by RUSA Board of Directors, January 14, 2008

Submitted by subgroup of RSS Executive Committee

Reference Transactions are information consultations in which library staff recommend, interpret, evaluate, and/or use information resources to help others to meet particular information needs. Reference transactions do not include formal instruction or exchanges that provide assistance with locations, schedules, equipment, supplies, or policy statements.

Reference Work includes reference transactions and other activities that involve the creation, management, and assessment of information or research resources, tools, and services.

(The following bullets clarify what is meant by terms within the Reference Work definition.)

  • Creation and management of information resources includes the development and maintenance of research collections, research guides, catalogs, databases, web sites, search engines, etc., that patrons can use independently, in-house or remotely, to satisfy their information needs.
  • Assessment activities include the measurement and evaluation of reference work, resources, and services.


You have all done a lot of thinking and working and I am so grateful for that work.  I hope that you will continue to be willing to turn those efforts into meeting the new charge.  I think we will have fun!



Just-Ask-toCommittee-9-21-12.docx18.02 KB
Cathay Keough's picture

Thank you for the thoughtful post Mary.  I am excited to see new energy sparking this.  The idea of promoting reference services in all aspects (in person, virtual, in every capacity) is one that remains essential; it is vital as an understanding of what libraries can and are for every community and campus.

The survey that my colleague and I drafted for the intended use at ALA Annual (June, 2012) may still be useful.  Please let us know if we should revise it in some way as we continue working toward our goals. 

Cathay Keough Statewide Coordinator Delaware Reference Services Group (includes Ask a Librarian Delaware) and DLA Executive Director (cathay.keough@lib.de.us).

Jason Coleman's picture

Hi, newly revived Just Ask Team,

Unfortunately, I have had to withdraw from this team due to a restructuring of my current position that has dramatically increased my directed service load. I conveyed that to the current and past chairs of MARS (Debbie Bezanson and Dianna McKellar), but I am not sure that information has reached everyone on the team yet.  

It looks as though you are all on course to do great things! Even though I will no longer be on the team, I will be championing your efforts and trumpeting your successes. 

All the best,


Amy Rustic's picture

Thanks for the update, Mary, and thanks for adding me back to the group (i somehow went missing on for a bit...)