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The Early Years of ALA-RASD


The ALA-RASD has its roots in the two separate divisions in the American Library Association: Adult Services Division and Reference Services Division. In 1972 the two divisions merged and created RASD (The Reference and Adult Services Division.) The first point of significance at the inauguration of the union was choosing a name that encapsulated both separate divisions. The name above was actually voted as a provisional title in 1972; however, no one proposed a more appropriate one and thus, the official title ALA-RASD. 10 years later a committee was formed to brainstorm for a new name that would include the key words, “association, library, adult, reference and information” (RUSA 2006, Again, there was not a consensus regarding a better name.


Despite the minor controversy over the official title, the RASD does have a concrete motto: “RASD: Serving Those Who Serve the Public.” As the motto suggests, the RASD is a division that focuses on internal occurrences within the ALA and its members. In handling internal issues with ALA, the RASD believes a trickle down effect will occur and benefit the public and access to information (RUSA 2006,


Whenever there is a merger between two associations, there is always anxiety concerning whether the infrastructure of the new division will favor one of the old ones, rather than creating a balanced neutrality. Because the ASD’s total number of members was more than double the size of the RSD, members of the RSD expressed unease at this disparity. Another internal concern in the division’s infancy was the fate of the RQ (Reference Quarterly), which is now called RUSQ (Reference and User Services Quarterly). Although the early years of ALA-RASD were marked by stratification between prior divisions and the disparity in publishing between academic and reference librarians, a touchstone publication that can be traced to RASD during it’s initial stages is Kathleen Heim’s ''Adult Services: An Enduring Focus for Public Libraries" (RUSA 2006,


RASD Committees, Information Access and the Public


While there are several committees under the umbrella of the RASD that deal with a myriad of topics, the RASD realized that not only should it focus on the technical aspect of the field, but it must also include in its mission the protection of the public and the information it receives. One example of this is the Cooperative Reference Service Committee’s reaction to a prominent member of the ALA Dorothy Sinclair’s observations about “the need for finding better means of communicating all the relevant information about the perspective user when sending questions and requests for materials through interlibrary channels” (RUSA 2006, The Committee’s response to this was to create an “Information Request “ form. In addition, they also assisted in creating a system for sharing information in the public.


A particularly noteworthy accomplishment of the RASD is their “Outstanding Reference Sources: The (current year) Selection of Recent Titles,” which holds such prestige and influence that publishers actually contact RASD to inquire how to get their publications on the list! In the same vein, RASD board of directors also compiled a list and criteria for notable books in 1959, entitled “The Notable Books List,” which is still used as a standard today (RUSA 2006,


Currently, The RASD is still actively analyzing and creating public information needs and the diverse ways in which libraries can interact within their communities. Moreover, the division continues to seek out technological advancements in their pursuit to enhance information access. With its emphasis on professionalism and public information, RASD continues to be an influential and active segment of the ALA.


Reference List

Reference and User Services Quarterly, (2006). Notable Books: The List for America’s

Readers. Retrieved November 15, 2006, from


Reference and User Services Quarterly. (2006). RASD: Serving Those Who Serve the

Public. Retrieved November 15, 2006, from


  • Erika Montenegro**