Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Outreach Activities for Librarian Liaisons

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Outreach Activities for Librarian Liaisons

Article excerpt

The role of the library liaison is evolving as user needs and library resources are changing. In this column, Isabel D. Silver, director of Instruction and Academic Outreach at the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida describes a new model for academic liaisons that can help to increase engagement with various library user communities.--Editor

The academic librarian role has been identified by the following titles, depending on the intended emphasis of the role: bibliographer, selector, subject specialist, subject librarian, or liaison. (1) All of these titles have been used at the University of Florida libraries at one time or another, and many of them have been used simultaneously. The academic "library liaison," "liaison librarian," or "librarian liaison" title is increasingly used by institutions to reflect a refocusing from collections to user services. (2) This role has been evolving ever since the 2001 RUSA Committee report, which identified five core "liaison" activities, largely revolving around the traditional collection development responsibilities by subject specialists or departmental librarians in an academic atmosphere of clearly-defined disciplines. These core definitions are the following:

1. Liaison work is the process by which librarians involve the library's clientele in the assessment and satisfaction of collection needs.

2. Liaison work includes identifying user needs, evaluating existing collections, removing extraneous materials, and locating resources that will enhance the collections.

3. Liaison work enables the library to communicate its collection policies, services and needs to its clientele and to enhance the library's public relations.

4. Liaison work enables the library's clientele to communicate its library needs and preferences to the library staff and governing body.

5. Librarians with collection development responsibilities have various titles, including acquisitions librarians, bibliographers, collection development librarians, liaisons, selectors, and subject specialists. (3)

Changes to the liaison role have been sparked by the trend in academic disciplines toward interdisciplinary research and teaching. The library liaison role has also been influenced by various academic librarianship trends making it incumbent upon librarians to reach out to users to remain relevant in an increasingly digital age. Other trends in academic librarianship, including library budget cuts, reduced purchasing power, the availability of electronic resources, and the decreasing need to visit the library or consult a subject specialist, have increased the sense of urgency to foster new service roles based on an outreach-centered paradigm. (4)

The academic librarian liaison role aims to facilitate communication with library users, connect users to library resources and services, improve overall library services to campus users, and provide much more visibility to the library, given that it is no longer necessary to step over the physical library threshold. (5) The liaison role has expanded to include greater marketing of library services and resources to academic departments, and their faculty and students. The role also includes the development of communication channels and the maturation of two-way communication with academic department clientele. Moreover, the role has expanded to include the development of a collaborative relationship with faculty leading to an eventual partnership in higher education and research. (6) In summary, the current liaison role is evolving into a stronger partnership with faculty, and is increasingly expressed through greater involvement in teaching students and supporting faculty research.

Given the increasingly broad scope of responsibilities and corresponding activities of the librarian liaison, the role is currently undergoing substantial reconsideration and reconfiguration. …

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