Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

The Four E's of Experience and Leadership; or How to Plot a Future Course for RUSA

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

The Four E's of Experience and Leadership; or How to Plot a Future Course for RUSA

Article excerpt

In this column in the previous volume of Reference and User Services Quarterly (RUSQ), Diane Zabel, then-president of Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), took a look at the issues facing reference librarians as they plan for the future, followed by a great review of the RQ/RUSQ literature that highlighted the exciting reading we've brokered throughout our existence as an organization. So, as the torch passes from Diane to me, and as she moves on to become both past-president and the editor of RUSQ, I wish her the best.

THE FUTURE FOR REFERENCE AND RUSA

Currently my library--and probably a lot of yours--are examining reference services in our libraries and asking, "What now? Where can we look for guidance?" At Iowa State University, we have begun anew the process of examining the trends that have occurred within our services to help us rethink the way we are delivering reference services. In 1992, Virginia Massey-Burzio changed the way we did reference at Iowa State with her article, "Rethinking the Reference Desk," and as a result we created a tiered-reference service. (1) In 2002, the white papers presented at a RUSA workshop on the future of reference challenged us to look at various future scenarios for the future of reference service. (2) As a consequence, we implemented e-mail and Web-reference services at Iowa State, and later, chat reference. Now many libraries of all types (academic, public, corporate, and school) are again examining how they deliver reference service and how the new technologies of the new millennium will drive change. As the old Bob Dylan song says, "the times, they are a changin'"; (perhaps we should include the word "again"?) As we think about the future of our services, what would we do without Google? We don't necessarily like how much our students and patrons depend on Google, but we all are using it, and depend on it in those times when all else eludes us. So how can we move to the future of reference without selling out? What will be our roles in five years, or ten? What will be the role of RUSA in creating this future role?

In April 2006, Cathleen Bourdon (RUSA's executive director) and I attended a leadership symposium in Chicago, along with a hundred or more people representing other nonprofit organizations. During our two days together, we spent time examining the challenges to our organization's focus in the twenty-first century. In the course of contemplating where to go next--Diane is a hard act to follow--I began by examining some of the organizational issues that the literature indicates are affecting the ways in which we choose our leaders and the values our organizations have come to represent. I have combined this information with insights from the Chicago symposium, the results from a May 2005 RUSA needs survey, and the findings from a RUSQ survey also conducted in 2005. Some of my thoughts about what this may mean for RUSA as an organization and for our membership frame my musings. I began by asking questions that many have probably asked before: What do our members expect from RUSA as an organization, and how can we meet those needs? Where are we now, what are the challenges ahead, and how do we meet them?

As I reflected on the symposium, I realized that RUSA's development could be adapted to fit into a couple of models called the four E's, one developed for the business community, and a second framed in the perspective of organizational leadership. Both perspectives offer the opportunity to encourage the same goal--the growth of RUSA as an organization. In the world of business, the four E'S are defined by Pine and Gilmore as the "experience economy" that occurs "when a company [organization[ intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props to engage individual customers [members] in a way that creates a memorable event." (3) Therefore, I would propose that this line of thought works for nonprofit organizations such as RUSA as well. …

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