Reference & User Services Quarterly (RUSQ)

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Reference & User Services Quarterly, (RUSQ) is a journal that addresses the concerns and current issues in reference librarianship. It is published by the Reference and User Services Association, (RUSA) a division of the American Library Association (ALA). Members of RUSA receive this publication as part of their annual membership dues. According to its website, "the scope of the journal includes all aspects of library service to adults, and reference service and collection development at every level and for all types of libraries." RUSQ serves as a vehicle for reference librarians to keep up with trends in their field, continuing their education after graduating from library school. RUSQ articles address challenges in reference librarianship such as information literacy, evaluation of reference sources, maintaining a reference collection, tools and technologies, and readers' advisory.


The first issue was published in November 1960, by what was then the Reference Services Division of the American Library Association (ALA RSD). RQ, as it was titled then, was an eight-page newsletter that had 3,150 subscribers. Bill Katz, who started editing RQ since 1964, is credited for transforming the newsletter to a scholarly journal. (Krieger, 1985) Under Katz’s 10-year editorship, RQ expanded its content to include features on government publications, bibliographies, reference book reviews, and regular columns. In 1978, Charles Bunge was the first editor of the column “Research in Reference,” which allowed librarians to submit their research on reference. A former column called the "Exchange," was devoted to discussing “unusual information sources” for tricky reference questions. (Krieger, 1985) Mary Jo Lynch edited this section from v.9 to v.12. "Library Literacy" was a column that was started by John Lubans in 1980 that advocated the need for educating individuals to become proficient in finding information at libraries at the school, public, and academic levels. (Krieger, 1985) JoBell Whitlatch oversaw the “Government Publications” section from v.16 to v.19, which was a bibliography of government documents that addressed a single topic. As the longest running journal of the reference field to date, RUSQ articles have been cited in other library-related journals as well as introductory textbooks on reference. (Katz, 2002) In 1997, the title changed to RUSQ, to reflect changes in administrative structure of the ALA RSD, which had been renamed to RUSA. (Schlachter, 1998)


The content of RUSQ has evolved with the times, with a shift toward addressing the online reference environment. Since Fall 1998, an annual column, “The Best Free Reference Web Sites List” evaluates a partial listing of outstanding Web Sites as determined by a committee of the Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS) of RUSA. Since 1958 an "Outstanding Reference Sources" column has been published to "represent high-quality reference works that are suitable for small to medium-sized libraries." (RUSA 2006, Spring) Feature articles cover effective strategies on conducting both virtual and desk reference interviews, active listening, and avoiding burnout. Articles on staffing trends and career development appear frequently. Career obsolescence was addressed as early as 1964 in an article that asked, "Are Reference Librarians Obsolete?" Regular columns, as of 2006, include the "Alert Collector," which covers reference sources for specific topics or special populations and "Information Literacy and Instruction," which focuses on librarians in educational and instructional environments. Outstanding articles are also recognized annually since 1986 by the Reference Service Press Awards. For 2006 the recipient is "A Class Assignment Requiring Chat-based Reference." Though RUSQ does not review non-reference books, it has a regular "Readers' Advisory" column and an annual listing that gives a brief summary of 25 "Notable Books," which include "fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books for the adult reader."

Contributing to RUSQ

RUSQ allows information professionals to publish and share their original research. However, RUSQ welcomes contributions from non-librarians. Fewer than three percent of articles are written by non-librarians; these contributors tend to be faculty members, computer programmers, and database designers. (Krieger, 1985) The acceptance rate is 50% as of 2005. (RUSA) Guidelines for submitting articles for RUSQ can be found at


American Library Association Notable Books, 2006. (2006, Spring) Reference & User Services Quarterly, 45, 219-220.

Best Free Reference Web Sites: Eighth Annual List. (2006, Fall). Reference & User Services Quarterly, 46, 34-39.

Katz, W. A. (2002). Introduction to Reference Work. New York: McGraw Hill.

Krieger, T. (1985). RQ: 1960 to 1985. Reference Quarterly, 25, 121-136.

Outstanding Reference Sources: 2006 Selection of Recent Titles (2006, Spring). Reference & User Services Quarterly, 45, 221.

Reference Service Press. (2006). 2006 Reference Service Press Award Winners. Retrieved Nov. 22, 2006, from

Parker, R.(1964). Are reference librarians obsolete? Reference & User Services Quarterly, 3, 9-10.

RUSA History Section Executive Committee (2005). 2005 Midwinter Meeting – Boston, MA Saturday and Tuesday. Retrieved Nov. 20, 2006, from

Schlachter, G. A. (1998) The Year in Review...One Issue Early? Reference & User Services Quarterly, 37, 247.



April L. Ingram