As some of you know, I’ve been posting here about our liaison reorganization for a while – since March 2012, I saw just now. All those posts are tagged but for a quicker recap of the main developments, skim some of these:
Last Wednesday, the members of our liaison subject and functional teams met at UNCG’s Piney Lake facility out in the country for a day-long retreat. These teams consist of all of the Reference & Instructional Services Department as well as folks from other departments too – around 22 librarians total.
The main goal of the retreat was reviewing our year-long transition to the new liaison organizational model, and planning major goals for the next academic year. We also hoped to decide on a new name for the Reference department, one that better reflects the kind of work we now do.
Mary Krautter, our department head, briefly reviewed how we all worked together to create our new organizational scheme. She reminded us that teams can be messy even as they enable more productive and nimble work. Our liaison teams operate in an otherwise traditional and hierarchical library structure.
Next Kathy Crowe, our Associate Dean for Public Service, asked the teams to review what they accomplished in their first year of existence, and what goals haven’t happened yet. Accomplishments included:
- Integrating Special Collections & University Archives into the liaison teams
- Curriculum mapping for increased liaison teaching and consulting opportunities
- Helping a new liaison get up to speed and meet faculty and students from her target subjects
- Brainstorming on active learning techniques for specific class projects
- Managing our latest collections budget crisis in an efficient and effective manner
- Staffing reference services even as liaison time with the reference desk gets reduced
- And more and better liaison training on research tools and strategies
The “room for improvement” discussion seemed to center on taking greater advantage of the collaborative possibilities of our teams: better communication and more sharing of ideas; working together more in outreach and instruction to specific academic departments. Also: making team goals more measureable.
After a mid-morning break, I broke up everyone into three random groups and had each group do a SWOT analysis of our current situation, with emphasis on the forward-looking aspects of “opportunity”. The goal was “big picture” thinking about next year, which sort-of happened. The three groups reported back some repeating needs:
- More “safe” brainstorming
- Improved cross-team communication
- Defining expectations of liaison teams v. those of individual liaisons
- Responding to classes getting larger (due to UNC budget cuts)
- Clarifying authority over the teams and lines of responsibility (for example, when liaisons discuss swapping academic departments, who all needs to be in on the discussion? Who gives the final ok?)
- More-creative set-ups for meetings, like flipped or walking meetings, or meeting scrums
After lunch and midday strolls around the lake, the subject teams and functional teams met in two 30-minute slots to discuss specific and practical responses to our “big picture” discussion. Then we had an hour of teams reporting back to the full group for sharing and discussion. Amy Harris moderated the discussion. This part of my retreat notes spans two pages, so I’ll be concise here.
Every team seems to be enjoying the collaboration and teamwork on projects of mutual interest — projects the team themselves have identified as needed or useful.
We discussed our communication channels quite a bit. (Communication issues have been an issue in my library for a long time). We pledged to use our existing communication tools, like our various internal blogs and Google Documents, more extensively rather than create even more blogs and shared documents. While we liked our emphasis on high-quality and focused training over the last year, we pledged to follow each training event with a write-up to our professional development blog. The post would preserve the training for the future and help us share with the other parts of the library what the liaison teams are up to. We also pledged to publish the notes for meeting of the team leaders. Early this fall, we will sponsor a “liaison teams” open house for the rest of the library as an orientation to our teams.
We need to write up the roles and expectations of the team leaders.
Should leadership of a team change each year? What might be the effect of a team having the same leader year after year? Would that team devolve into a committee? Also, should functional coordinators (ex. our Coordinator of Instruction and Head of Collections) always be the leaders of the corresponding functional teams? These are topics for future discussions.
We decided to try monthly, hour-long coffee chats for all liaison team members to attend. The object would be discussion and brainstorming on a chosen topic. Each chat would have an official note taker, who would share the notes via the professional development blog. These chats will help us stay in touch outside of our assigned liaison teams.
We discussed additional topics and issues, but that gives you a flavor of the afternoon discussion before we got to our final agenda items.
Conclusion: the new name
So, finally: a new name for the Reference & Instructional Services department. Mary had invited us to submit possible names via a Google Form. Colleague Jenny Dale created a word cloud from our submissions:
Word cloud created from submissions for our new liaison department name
Jenny handed out a copy of the word cloud to each of us and asked us to circle the words we thought were most important. “Research” and “Outreach” had the most votes, but colleague Amy argued convincingly that even if “research” suggests teaching among other kinds of research support, we do so much teaching that it would be a shame to lose that emphasis. And what would it suggest to outsiders to in effect drop “instruction” from our name? So with wide consent we ended up with:
Research, Outreach, & Instruction
A bit long, perhaps, but having ROI as the acronym is pretty cool (right, business librarians?) and will help us remember to do lots of assessment (well, maybe). Colleague Mark Schumacher, our Romance Studies Librarian, reminded us what Roi means in French, heh.
(There are of course plenty of longer department names out there. A few years before I was hired at Duke, the Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Special Collections departments there decided to merge. Those folks spend some time working on a new name. They finally chose “Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Special Collections Library.”)
I think the main value of a department name like ours is mainly internal and motivational. It serves as a reminder of what our focus should be.
However, our liaison teams will continue to transcend the library’s organizational chart. So the Reference Department changing its name doesn’t really affect our teammates based outside of Reference. But for the folks who were in Reference, this name change serves as a reminder that our transition into our new liaison structure is over. Now we shall really see what we can accomplish.