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I returned from vacation on Monday, just in time for our liaison teams’ half-day retreat. In preparation for the event, our liaison leader Mary Krautter considered three recent articles on liaison trends for possible group discussion. She chose one for the retreat, but all three are interesting. (Thank you, Mary, for sharing these.)

1.

From Engaging Liaison Librarians to Engaging Communities” by Anne R. Kenney. College & Research Libraries. 75th Anniversary Issue. May 2015, 76:386-391

This short article is a “companion essay” to Kara Malenfant’s 2010 article “Leading Change in the System of Scholarly Communication: A Case Study of Engaging Liaison Librarians for Outreach to Faculty” (reprinted in this special issue). Rather than provide an update from Minnesota’s experience, Kenney summarizes “six key issues that will affect the [liaison] model moving forward.”

She recognizes right away that the so-called “liaison movement” has many models: different strategies for providing subject-based and functional services, for example, and liaison programs that intentionally include or exclude collection development work. Kenney mentions the possibility of liaison teams, but otherwise focuses on liaison roles at the expense of different strategies for organizing and leading liaisons. (We talked about this problem at ACRL recently.)

Some of the other issues are general academic library trends applied to the roles of liaisons, like assessment and advocacy on scholarly communications.

2.

A Method for Evaluating Library Liaison Activities in Small Academic Libraries” by Jonathan Miller. Journal of Library Administration. 2014. 54(6) 483-500.

Miller (Rollins College) provides a “practical method for formative, self-reflective assessment of the liaison activities of individual librarians and to evaluate liaison activities in general.”

The emphasis is assessing individual liaisons. [See the Shelfer article below for another example of this, but without the survey instrument.] In the published literature, the library found no usable models for assessing individual liaisons and so started from scratch. (I think if this library had asked via library listservs for unpublished models, they would have received a number of them. UNCG has used some.)

After the literature review, Miller describes the reform of their largely unmanaged liaison program into a “Your Librarian” program. Instruction had been the main focus of this group of liaisons; after reforming, more liaisons also worked with collections. The library’s description of “Your Liaison” roles (Appendix A) reads like the typical roles for liaisons assigned to academic departments. The description includes an interesting “Tips & Tricks” section. Examples: “No, means not yet. Be persistent” and “Solve their problems on their terms, not ours” – very cool.

The assessment survey is provided as Appendix B. The guts of the form is a checklist of outreach activities like “She/he solved a problem for me or my student(s.)” and “He/she sought my opinion about library resources (journals, databases, books, etc.)”.

The vast majority of faculty who filled out the survey properly identified their liaison, which speaks very well for the Rollins College liaisons (although perhaps there was some self-selection regarding which faculty bothered to fill out the form; 59% of the respondents reported that a liaison taught in their classes). Miller notes that asking faculty about those possible outreach services also educates faculty about what the liaisons can do for them – a wonderful side effect of liaison surveys.

The survey results are prepared for each liaison. (Miller doesn’t tell us who prepares and sorts the data – but he is the director and so I bet he does that work.) In response, each liaison has to prepare a “draft liaison plan” that covers the next two years of liaison work. Then each liaison meets with the library director to discuss his/her survey results and liaison plan. The individual liaison’s results are compared to the aggregate results. The liaisons also meet to review the aggregate results and share successful outreach strategies. The big goal here is creating a culture of “continuous reflective improvement.”

Miller notes thoughtfully that power relations between the librarians and faculty are always at play and need to be considered:

Honest, reflective, formative self-assessment is difficult at the best of times. It is made even more difficult when, for instance, an untenured librarian is asked by the library director to consider and respond to negative responses from faculty…Librarians who choose to implement a version of this liaison evaluation procedure should explicitly consider these issues of power and employment status at the outset to avoid later misunderstandings.

An excellent, well-written, and useful article.

(If this topic is important to you, take a look at ACRL’s 2014 book Assessing Liaison Librarians: Documenting Impact for Positive Change, edited by Daniel Mack and Gary White. It’s sitting on my desk but I haven’t looked at it yet.)

3.

Librarians as Liaisons: A Risk Management Perspective” by Katherine M. Shelfer. Journal of the Library Administration & Management Section. Spring2014, 10(2): 21 [Available through Ebsco’s Library, Information Science & Technology database]

The writing here can be curious. Example:

“Librarian liaisons must be able to adapt, communicate, discover, flex, focus, lead, meet, seize, strive, serve, and work in teams to add value to their communities.”

Yet Shelfer raises some interesting and important points, especially regarding assessment practices applied to liaison work. Consider:

“Service performance metrics that emphasize administratively convenient categories tend to push each librarian liaison to provide every service to every member of every subpopulation, regardless of goodness of fit. However, services are actually ‘rationed’ in that services available to some are not available to all for a number of good and sufficient reasons. Also, the levels of ‘expertise’ vary, so librarian liaisons are not interchangeable.”

Shelfer is an LIS professor and can get pretty intellectual, but also expresses empathy for the challenges of being a liaison: “Some liaisons will not be successful, despite everyone’s best efforts, for reasons that are beyond that individual liaison’s control”. She advocates for rewarding liaisons who partner with others or work in a liaison team to reduce risk of outreach failures.

Shelfer offers advice to library administrators on how to best support and assess liaisons. Library managers, not liaisons, should be the ones to deliver any bad news to academic departments, she asserts; liaisons should remain positive advocates for their stakeholders. Library managers should not utilize “identical job descriptions, rigid activity plans and quotas” since department needs vary. And managers should work with liaisons to balance liaison workloads.

She surveyed liaisons at an unnamed college library regarding their outreach efforts. In response to the results, the library’s Outreach Coordinator worked with the liaisons to provide better support of largely untouched academic departments via liaison partnerships. A few liaisons refused to participate in the follow-up reports and discussions, given their distrust of library administrators. (Power relations again, as Miller would put it. Or collections-centered liaisons resisting the need for evolving liaison roles?)

Shelfer concludes with a series of “problematic choice behaviors” in libraryland outreach strategies that go way beyond the power of individual liaisons to affect (ex. complex social and economic issues like digital divides).

Last month in the “Catching up” section, I wrote about one of my senior colleagues retiring in December. She currently covers 10 academic departments, mostly in the social sciences. We have been discussing the nature of the replacement position and how the social science team will handle revised liaison assignments:

We hope to advertise the open position this summer and have the new colleague on board in January. The liaison team leaders have meet for a preliminary discussion about what this position should focus on, and the Social Science team will meet next week to discuss a holistic review of our social science liaison coverage. Being holistic about the departmental assignments was a goal of our liaison reorganization — now we will give that a try. I’ll post about how that is going in May.

Alas, that holistic review didn’t actually happen.

My colleague wants to keep her liaison assignments through December, with the exception of Psychology, which one of the science librarians with medical library experience will be taking on this summer. But my retiring colleague will be writing up some of her institutional knowledge of those academic programs for the benefit of the next liaisons for those departments.

So the holistic review will probably wait until January. We hope to have our new colleague by then, so he/she will be able to participate in that discussion. (The new person will probably split time between freshmen instruction (with others) and social science liaisoning.)

But at that most recent social science meeting, we did at least brainstorm what a holistic review would look like. The heads of the Humanities and Science teams attended the meeting too and contributed to the discussion.

Nature of a holistic review

A holistic review of our liaison assignments to academic departments, programs, etc. has been a goal of our reorganization since the early days of that planning process.

In response to our ACRL program, several librarians have asked what the impact our liaison reorganization is having on students and faculty.  That’s a good question. This kind of liaison assignment review might be one answer, if the result is better service to the faculty and students.

So here is what we think a holistic review will look like:

  • Matching liaisons with academic subjects they have subject knowledge
  • Matching liaisons with academic subjects they have interest
  • Clustering academic departments together in useful ways (ex. those requiring significant data services, or heavy users of primary sources in the humanities).
  • Similarly, having one liaison serve all the departments in a small school, to facilitate branding (“Hi! I’m the education librarian!”) and expand liaison outreach to the school’s administration office and research centers.
  • Balancing the expected workloads of the liaison assignments (ex. taking into account the amount of teaching and consulting expected – currently, our service stats vary widely by liaison).
  • But recognizing that an academic department that historically “hasn’t really needed or wanted liaison services” could in fact become a department that embraces library instruction and consultations, after some fresh outreach and partnership-building. (This has happened at UNCG recently with some of the sciences.)
  • Also recognizing and balancing a department’s need for subject skills versus functional skills (partnering with the functional specialists? See below for a related point).
  • Creating co-liaison assignments to help serve very large departments or those with complex needs. (We once had two English liaisons, one focusing on their big book budget and the other on services – that partnership worked out well for both liaisons as well as the English faculty and students).

So maybe in January I’ll post about how our holistic shifting of our social science assignments went. No promises this time, though!

The Carolina Consortium met at UNCG yesterday for its annual meeting and mini-conference. The most interesting program I caught was UNCG’s Tim Bucknall on “The Carolina Consortium OCLC Discovery Deal: an Oxford-Style Debate” featuring Angry Tim vs. Satisfied Tim. OCLC’s Chris Manriquez moderated. Angry Tim wore a black hat and spoke first; Satisfied Tim donned a white one. (The Consortium recently negotiated an OCLC deal after NC LIVE dropped OCLC at the beginning of 2015.) A good discussion with diverse viewpoints and experiences followed. Maybe Tim’s program will resurface at the Charleston Conference this fall.

I also enjoyed seeing BLINC friends (some are heads of collections or e-resources librarian), a former intern, and other friends from the two states.

The mini-conference included 8-minute lightning round presentations. I responded to the call for presenters with the proposed topic of “Are There Alternatives to Expensive Business Content?”

The intended audience would be heads of collection development, not business librarians. My topic was accepted and I began working on slides, based on personal experience negotiating deals with vendors, dealing with our declining budgets, and what I’ve learned from recent BUSLIB traffic and BRASS online discussions.

Right away I figured out that this topic was really much too big to cover in 8 minutes. So lesson one: plan or write-out your full lightning round before submitted it for consideration.

Usually I do fine with pacing and timing in a research workshop or conference program. But those events always include significant time for practice and active learning (for a class) or discussion and Q/A time (for a conference). Those activities provide flexibility in timing. There’s not really any flex time in a lightning round!

At the beginning of the talk, I told everyone I would only have time to define the unusual nature of business information, and then cover the hottest recent topics in business databases for NC LIVE, PASCAL (a South Carolina state-wide database package), and the consortium. The slides covering other categories of business content would be available through the secure part of the Carolina Consortium web site.

Lesson two: don’t plan on using the timer on your iPad if the iPad goes to sleep two minutes after setting the timer for eight minutes. Foolish mistake. My helpful colleague Beth Bernhardt helped me with timing after that.

The next lightning round was “A Follow-Up on UNC Charlotte’s eTextbook Program” by Liz Siler. Halfway through Liz’s presentation, the fire alarm sounded and we had to evacuate the building. (Contractors renovating the nearby food court probably tripped the alarm.) So that was the end of the lightning round segment of the mini-conference.

Catching up

This is the final week for my entrepreneurship research class. The students present their capstone research today and Thursday, and then create their written versions that incorporate my suggestions. I’ve really enjoyed working with this small group of students, and think they will miss each other too. Based on this semester’s experience, I may tweak the topics covered and for how long. I’ll post something on those decisions if they seem interesting enough.

Richard Moniz from Johnson & Wales University alerted me to the short article “Organizing the Liaison Role: A Concept Map” [PDF] by Judith E. Pasek in the latest issue of College & Research Library News. Pasek focuses on building relationships with faculty and students. Check out her concept map “of librarian liaison activities and relationships, emphasizing outreach approaches.”

(That issue also includes “Large-Scale, Live-Action Gaming Events in Academic Libraries” by WFU friends Hubert Womack, Susan Smith, and Mary Beth Lock. Many more pictures are available from the ZSR Library Flickr site.)

Finally, my colleague Nancy Ryckman, who has ably served as a UNCG Social Science Librarian for over 35 years, has decided to fully retire this December. She began phased retirement about a year ago. Nancy’s shoes will be difficult to fill: she is responsible for 10 academic departments, and also contributes much to collection development, the management of the Reference Room, and governance of the library faculty.

We hope to advertise the open position this summer and have the new colleague on board in January. The liaison team leaders have meet for a preliminary discussion about what this position should focus on, and the Social Science team will meet next week to discuss a holistic review of our social science liaison coverage. Being holistic about the departmental assignments was a goal of our liaison reorganization — now we will give that a try. I’ll post about how that is going in May.

Today’s topic

Our enterprising Dean of the Libraries, Rosann Bazirjian, shared our new liaison roles document with our new provost, who was interested enough to put the topic on the agenda of last week’s Deans’ Council meeting. This group consists of the provost (also serving as our acting chancellor), the deans, and some of the vice chancellors. Rosann asked colleague Jenny Dale and me to provide a 15-minute overview of the contributions liaisons are now making across campus, and also how our liaison reorganization supports that work. Jenny is our hard-working First Year Instruction Librarian and also the liaison to English, Communication Studies, and Kinesiology.

Rosann introduced us (she was chairing the meeting since the provost was attending a funeral). Jenny and I told everyone that we wanted to begin the short discussion by with a…

True/False quiz on UNCG Library Liaisons

  1. True / False: At the request of the Director of the Doctoral Nursing Program, the Nursing Liaison reviewed each Nursing PhD candidate’s literature review before the students could move forward with their writing.
  2. True / False: The Music Liaison was awarded a research stipend to work on her book using primary sources stored in Paris.
  3. True / False: The Meteorology Liaison goes skydiving with the master’s students each semester.
  4. True / False: The Honors College Liaison reviewed the Honors College’s artists-in-residence applications.
  5. True / False: The First Year Instruction Librarian chaired the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee last year.
  6. True / False: The Political Science Liaison teaches in PSC as an adjunct lecturer (most recently, PSC 300: The Politics of Genocide).
  7. True / False: The Culinary Arts Liaison holds research consultations at the Old Town Bar & Grill every Friday afternoon.
  8. True / False: The liaison department head presented at a conference in Abu Dhabi last month.
  9. True / False: The Business Liaison teaches a 500-level class listed across four departments representing three schools.
  10. True / False: The new Nanoscience Liaison traveled to the Joint School to meet the faculty, learn about the school, and to offer teaching and research support.
  11. True / False: Many liaisons teach graduate classes in the LIS department.
  12. True / False: Liaisons are helping other faculty create and publish open-access journals like Partnerships: A Journal of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement.
  13. True / False: The Parapsychology Liaison supports research in the astral plane.
  14. True / False: The Data Services Librarian advises faculty and graduate students on data management plans, ex. for NIH-funded research.

Jenny and I decided to begin our short talk with this quiz for a few reasons:

  • Having fun;
  • Providing many examples of liaison work;
  • Making sure we provided examples from each school;
  • Providing a physical reminder of our discussion.

We passed out the quiz to everyone and after a couple of minutes reviewed the answers. Most of the deans figured out that there were three “Falses”. Two of them are pretty obvious. #7 is also false: we don’t have a Culinary Arts department, but maybe we should have liaison consultation hours at the campus bar.

After laughs for #13, I mentioned that Duke University used to have such a research center. Folks would call the reference desk in Perkins Library asking for its location. We would have to tell the caller that it’s now an independent organization called the Rhine Institute. One of the deans joked “you should have just replied to those callers, ‘shouldn’t you know the answer already?’”)

After the quiz recap, Jenny and I said a few words about aligning liaison work with the campus’ high impact factors. We also emphasized that the “Liaison Roles” document does not indicate a sudden new direction for our services, but instead reflects our current practices. The document codifies the evolution of our work and priorities over last 10 years or so.

Dr. Terri Shelton, the Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development spoke briefly about the positive outcomes of the librarians working with her committees on research, scholarly communication, and data management.

I missed the quarterly BLINC workshop to do this with Jenny (and to help grade the first round of final presentations in the feasibility analysis class, ENT 300, that afternoon). But Rosann later told Jenny and me that the deans enjoyed the quiz and that many were taking notes. That’s good because they didn’t ask many questions at the end; Jenny and I were a little worried about that.

Portland street scene

Portland

Carol (librarian at WFU) and I traveled together to ACRL. This was our second visit to Portland. Across the four days, we only had one evening of rainy weather. All attendees received public transportation passes for the duration of the conference, which made it so easy to get around to hotels and parties. All the programs were in the convention center. I enjoyed seeing several ex-interns, who looked all professional and confident as early career librarians.

Business Librarians & Vendors

Most of the core business vendors exhibited. Geographic Solutions sponsored a dinner at a Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood Mexican restaurant where we sang “Happy Birthday” to Charles. En route to the dinner I enjoyed getting caught up with LMU Business Librarian Nataly Blas, whom I hadn’t seen in a while, as well as chatting with other business librarians as we strolled through the most interesting residential neighborhood we had seen in Portland. Other business vendors organized get-togethers too.

The business librarians’ party at the Hair of the Dog Brewing Company on Friday evening was fun. There were around 30 of us there. The place was crowded, so we ended up in several smaller groups in different corners of the pub. Not ideal for mixing, but the best we could do given how busy the place was. Mallory and Dave from InfoGroup took good care of us. A friend from S&P joined the party (paying for his own drink), and I enjoyed getting caught up with him. A bunch of us further bonded by walking through the rain from the pub to the science museum for the all-conference reception.

Despite strong presence of the business vendors and significant attendance by academic business librarians, there was no official ACRL event involving business librarianship, nor for other subject specialists. I wonder if that was a missed opportunity for ACRL. A program on data literacy was as close as the conference got to specialized content.

Too much information literacy?

In contrast, the conference was dominated by information literacy topics. Courtney McDonald mentioned this already in her conference summary. She encouraged folks with other interests to submit more often. However, my wife wondered if ACRL’s uber-complicated submission form contributed to the lack of topic diversity. Among many other requirements, the form required submitters to identify learning outcomes – a natural perhaps for information literacy librarians, but not a common way of thinking for other types of librarians. So maybe the submission requirements helped weed out non-info lit topics.

Many of the program slides and handouts are online.

Upskilling liaisons

I joined several roundtable discussions – a nice alternative to the panels in big rooms. One was called “Upskilling Liaison Librarians: Code, Community, and Change.” Librarians from Temple University — Jenifer Baldwin, Jackie Sipes, and Caitlin Shanley — discussed the creation of their informal “Code Rascals” group. Thankfully they didn’t advocate for the click-bait mantra of “all librarians should be coders,” but instead explained the need for liaisons in their library to be more proactively involved with local information technology services. The discussion expanded to include learning opportunities and workload issues for liaisons expanding their functional skills, ex. data curation. (This has been a topic of interest in our liaison reorganization process.) We also talked about how to make liaisons accepting of imperfect knowledge when expanding roles – not always an easy or comfortable thing to do, especially when the expectations of functional skill levels are not officially defined by management. The Code Rascals formed on their own and are charting their own course. Their library also has an informal data literacy group.

Teaching outside your comfort zone

Two librarians from the University of Minnesota—Duluth, Kim Pittman and Jodi Grebinoski, led a roundtable on “Confronting the Unfamiliar: Teaching Outside Your Comfort Zone”. Comfort zones could be defined as subjects (business research came up twice) or formats (ex. large lecture or synchronous online). We discussed strategies and resources to expand our zones:

  • Asking a librarian friend to review your lesson plan;
  • Getting the students’ topics ahead of time and pre-researching each one;
  • Reviewing or assigning videos;
  • Emphasizing that students should learn from their research mistakes, as well as the teaching librarian’s mistakes (ex. “How can we fix this failed search?”)
  • Using ALA, ACRL, or RUSA subject guides or those of other libraries;
  • Attending faculty and graduate student talks in order to learn the core concepts and lingo.

Someone added that fear can be liberating and energizing, too.

Instruction interns

Ariel Orlov and Ning Zou of Dominican University facilitated a discussion on “Instruction Interns in Academic Libraries: Keeping Everyone Happy”. They provide intensive training in library instruction for interns in the fall semester; in the spring, the interns teach solo. This helps the library meet the demand for library instruction in the spring. Some of the library students already have teaching experience but have no experience with online classes. We discussed creating sustainability info lit programs, the ROI of teaching interns to teach, and how to set up the teaching-to-teach program. The UNCG reference interns primarily work at our information desk, but some each semester do practicums on teaching; I try to offer teaching opportunities to my liaison librarianship independent study students. The Dominican example is a more ambitious approach.

Facilitating inquiry

Veronica Douglas (St. Mary’s College of Maryland), April Aultman Becker (Research Medical Library, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center), and Abraham Korah (Lone Star College-CyFair) presented “When the Question Means More than the Answer: Facilitating Inquiry to Improve Research.” [Google presentation – note the very sharp design] [Handout with questions for audience participation]

This smart panel presented three frameworks for getting students to think thoughtfully about the research process, and the decisions they make en route. Very interesting and thought-provoking. The panel even covered some limitations of the frameworks (we appreciated their frankness). Download their presentation and take a good look at it. April is a medical librarian – one of the few special librarians to attend ACRL? – and I really appreciated her observations. We can often learn a lot from medical librarians.

Real life-long learning?

At a program on life-long learning, a CSU business librarian (sorry, I forgot his name or from which campus) questioned the panelists’ focus on scholarly research. What percentage of college graduates need to use scholarly research in their jobs and post-college life? Are librarians really thinking about life-long learning needs? A really good question! Financial literacy, political literacy, health and healthcare literacy – those seem much more relevant to real life-long learning. (Someone else asked if citation styles like APA are relevant to life-long learning – another good question.)

Data literacy lesson plans

Adam Beauchamp (Tulane University) and Christine Murray (Bates College) presented “Promoting Data Literacy at the Grassroots: Teaching & Learning with Data in the Undergraduate Curriculum” [PowerPoint]. This was maybe the most practical program I attended (which means I liked it a lot), even though the output of the students’ research was assumed to be the dreaded research paper (as opposed to experiential learning and/or community-engaged projects business student teams increasingly develop). Check out the lesson plans described in the slides. Early on the panel noted that data curation is way beyond most undergraduates – the students first need to know how to find and then utilize data (a good reminder when our administrators get carried away pushing us liaisons into new advocacy roles). The speakers also noted the need to teach undergrads that using other people’s data is not plagiarism. And they taught me a new word, operationalize: thinking about how a research topic can be quantified and measured. The example was measuring hipster gentrification – how can you measure hipsterness? ReferenceUSA, Nielsen, and Experian came up as possible data sources. Some of the social science librarians expressed suspicions of market research data – no surprise there!

Liaison reorganization

Attendees coming in to the Liaison Reorganization panel

Attendees coming in to the Liaison Reorganization panel

Our program seemed to go well: New Models for New Roles: Creating Liaison Organizational Structures that Support Modern Priorities. [PowerPoint] Jutta Seibert from Villanova and I had dinner together at LOEX last May, but I hadn’t met Margaret Burri from Johns Hopkins before this ACRL (we had just talked on the phone when UNCG benchmarked innovative liaison organizations like JHU’s). My sharp colleague Lynda Kellam covered UNCG’s experience. All three main speakers did well and took different approaches to the topic. We responded to questions until we ran out of time.

Questions and comments in person and through Twitter:

  • As we add new liaison roles, what work can we give up?
  • Team structures that get too complicated can hinder getting your work done.
  • Several folks like Johns Hopkins’ example of hiring a “student engagement librarian” who provides outreach external to classrooms. (Hu Womack at WFU does similar work.)
  • Agreement that liaisons should not be spending much time at the reference desk anymore (at larger libraries, at least, where there’s more staffing options).
  • The assessment email discussion list recently had a discussion on assessing liaison work.
  • Are there other models for assigning subjects to a newly-hired liaison besides assigning whatever subjects are left over?
  • The predominance of cross-functional teams in all three examples.
  • Balancing (or not?) hiring for function v. hiring for subject skills.
The speakers on liaison reorganization at ACRL 2015

The speakers on liaison reorganization at ACRL 2015

One interesting Tweet question: “Besides improving workflow and culture, have there been measurable changes for users?” Hmm that might be hard to measure. Advocating new goals like data curation, open access, and textbook affordability might be examples – it’s easier to pursue such work in a team environment and without a heavy emphasis on tradition collections and reference work.

Carol on weeding

Meanwhile, in the next room, my wife Carol gave her presentation on weeding, which apparently went well too. [PowerPoint]

After our programs was the final keynote, and then ACRL 2015 was over.

Catching up:

This is spring break for the UNC system, and spring-like temperatures have finally arrived. Flowers are budding and pretty birds are foraging the new growth. The library is quiet as expected but there are still some business faculty, graduate students, and one Export Odyssey student team working on their research. It’s been a nice break before some extra teaching next week, and then ACRL the week after that.

Our ACRL program will be “New Models for New Roles: Creating Liaison Organizational Structures that Support Modern Priorities” (#ACRL2015liaisons). I will be introducing the topic and then our three main speakers:

  • Jutta Seibert (Coordinator for Academic Integration and History Liaison Librarian, Villanova University)
  • Margaret Burri (Associate Director for Academic Liaison and Librarian for History of Science and Technology, Johns Hopkins University)
  • Lynda Kellam (Data Services & Government Information Librarian and Adjunct Lecturer in Political Science, UNC Greensboro)

The event is Saturday, March 28 at 9:45 AM in Portland Ballroom 253 of the Convention Center.  UNCG looked at the Villanova and Johns Hopkins models of centralized liaison organization as benchmarks for our own liaison shake-up. Jutta and I met at LOEX last year but Margaret and I have only chatted on the phone. So it will be fun to all meet up in person. We plan on leaving plenty of time for discussions with the libraries who attend. (Look here for a recap by April).

My wife Carol from Wake Forest University is speaking at the same day and time — in the adjacent room! (If we yell maybe we could hear each other through the ballroom’s movable wall.) Her program is “Weed it and Reap: Successful Strategies for Re-shaping Collections“; she is working with librarians from St. Olaf College and Macalester College.

I didn’t read this new article in time to include it in my last post: “Teaching students what we do: A collection management course” by Tony Horava, in the March 2015 issue of College & Research Libraries News. Tony describes a LIS collections class firmly grounded in the modern realities of library collection management. He also describes some very interesting active learning assignments for the students.

I took advantage of today’s quiet to finish work on…

Today’s topic:

Sort of an epilogue to our recent liaison reorganization. Our AD of Public Services, Kathy Crowe (also a liaison) asked us to define our liaisons roles as a tool for planning, evaluation, assessment, and recruitment. Creating our liaison roles document proved to be quick and easy compared to our long reorg process.

Now this is not innovative work on our part – other libraries have worked on and published very thoughtful strategic planning documents on liaison roles. The main theme seems to be liaison work moving from a focus on collections to a focus on engagement. The published history of this theme was discussed in the RUSA Quarterly article “Outreach Activities for Librarian Liaisons” by Isabel D. Silver (see last post, item 3).

Examples:

Three of us –colleagues Mark Schumacher, Jenny Dale, and me – volunteered to start the process of creating this document. We reviewed the Minnesota, Duke, and Washington documents. We really liked Duke’s use of best practices. Washington provided similar examples if you click through to the “More information at…” pages.

Within an hour, we came up with five roles:

  • Outreach & Engagement
  • Teaching & Learning
  • Research Services
  • Collections
  • Scholarly Communications

We decided our document would include defining aspects of each role as well as best practice examples.

A few weeks later we met with most of the liaisons at one of our monthly, hour-long liaison workshops, where all subject and functional team members are invited to a discussion on prearranged topics. Folks knew we were gathering to draft our roles document. Afterwards Mark, Jenny, and I would clean it up and email it out for further suggestions and edits.

We divided the assembled folks into five groups and gave each group a sheet with one of the five roles on top. The sheet had two sections: one labeled “define this role”, the other “best practices for this role”.

Each group spent 15 minutes working on their definition. Then we shared. The most interesting idea came from the “Outreach and Engagement” team, who said they struggled to define that topic independently of the other four. (Jenny, Mark, and I had discussed that problem earlier.) That group proposed we remove “outreach” as a role and instead cover that topic in the introduction of our proposed document.

Then we had the five groups pass their sheet to the next group clockwise, and work on some best practices for the role listed on their new sheet.

We concluded with a discussion of some of the best practices. The workshop went well: lots of energy and collaboration and no philosophical objections. (I thought we would have some word-smithing discussions about the roles, like “teaching & learning”.)

Then Mark, Jenny, and I typed up the ideas on the five sheets, standardized the verb tenses, and wrote an introduction. You can see below how we handled “outreach & engagement”. We received a few suggestions after emailing out the first draft. Today I emailed the second draft to library administration for final approval. I’m guessing the admins won’t ask for significant changes.

Liaison Roles
UNCG University Libraries
March 2015

Introduction

The roles of library liaisons (subject specialists assigned to academic disciplines) continue to evolve. This document describes both ongoing and new roles in order to assist with planning, evaluation, assessment, and recruitment. Best practices for each role are included to provide concrete examples of effective work.

Four functional roles of liaisons

Liaison Roles Matrix


Central nature of outreach & engagement

The ethos of liaison work is a mindset of outreach to and proactive engagement with UNCG students, faculty, staff and administrators. Liaisons might also work with alumni, other researchers, and community members. This outreach mindset permeates all four functional liaison roles described below.

General responsibilities of liaison work

  • Develop strong working relationships with faculty
  • Seek opportunities to collaborate and establish partnerships in research, teaching, advocacy, etc.
  • Monitor trends in teaching and scholarship in assigned disciplines
  • Promote library services and resources
  • Assess both user needs and liaison services
  • Engage in continual education in librarianship and assigned academic disciplines

1. Teaching and Learning

  • Provide information literacy and research instruction to distance and residential classes via guest instruction, teaching or co-teaching credit-classes, online learning objects, etc.
  • Work with instructors to integrate information literacy and research skills into the curriculum
  • Create and maintain effective library guides, subject portals, tutorials, videos, and other learning objects
  • Design graded and ungraded research assignments in collaboration with instructors that incorporate information literacy goals
  • Assess student learning of information literacy concepts using the University Libraries’ “Student Learning Outcomes” and via multiple assessment methods
  • Identify core classes and curricula that would benefit from research instruction and/or learning objects, and contact the teachers involved

Best practices

  • Developing teaching and assessment skills through conferences, workshops, team-teaching, observing others teach, etc.
  • Discussing teaching experiences and ideas with other librarians
  • Reading new and revised syllabi
  • Reading students’ research projects or observing final presentations for assessment
  • Examining other libraries’ research guides, tutorials, videos, etc. for fresh approaches and new ideas

2. Research Services

  • Provide customized reference and research services through email, phone, chat, and individual and group consultations
  • Help staff the Information Desk and AskUs online service
  • Make referrals to other librarians, SCUA, campus units, etc. as appropriate
  • Seek opportunities to extend services through embedded work
  • Understand database interfaces, citation management tools, and other research tools used on campus
  • Support the Reference Intern program through training and mentoring
  • Understand the research process of students and faculty

Best practices:

  • Monitoring information desk and liaison queues in LibraryH3lp
  • Applying reference interviewing strategies to research services
  • Following up with users after the initial research session
  • Investigating the research interests of faculty and graduate students in preparation for providing future research service
  • Learning new interfaces and tools through training, webinars, and self-directed learning
  • Analyzing LibStats, web logs, and other methods of data tracking to better understand user behavior and to make recommendations on how to improve our services or interfaces

3. Collections

  • Communicate with users regarding collection and research needs
  • Develop and maintain print and electronic collections for assigned subject areas
  • Manage collection funds effectively and efficiently
  • Monitor research and publishing trends in assigned subject areas
  • Contribute to accreditation reports and “new program” applications
  • Remain knowledgeable about SCUA collections and collaborate with SCUA as needed
  • Support donor connections as relevant to liaison subject areas

Best practices:

  • Discussing collection, budget, and licensing issues with faculty, administrators, and graduate students in meetings and one-on-one conversations
  • Examining UNCG-authored papers for research interests, trends, and use of research sources
  • Promoting use of Gobi alerts
  • Investigating and offering trials to new or cheaper databases
  • Supporting NC LIVE and the Carolina Consortium

4. Scholarly Communications

  • Keep current with general trends in scholarly communications, and monitor subject-specific trends
  • Educate and inform faculty, graduate students, and campus administrators about scholarly communication issues, copyright, author rights, etc.
  • Investigate and promote new avenues of scholarly communication such as open access publishing, institutional repositories, journal hosting, etc.
  • Encourage and support the writing of data management plans
  • Discover and recruit UNCG scholarly output for inclusion in the open access digital initiatives

 Best practices:

  • Encouraging faculty to submit their work to NC DOCKS
  • Attending workshops, webinars and forums sponsored by the Scholarly Communication Team, ACRL, etc.
  • Encouraging faculty to attend such workshops, webinars, and forums
  • Referring users to the Scholarly Communications Officer when appropriate

Happy March!

1

Robert Berkman has created a new blog about business research: http://www.bestbizweb.com/thinking-out-loud . The most recent post identifies his favorite deep news archives; that post also provides an example of date-limited Google searching. Looks like a useful blog to follow.

1b

Also, Reference Head and Business Librarian Chad Boeninger from Ohio University has resumed blogging: http://libraryvoice.com/

2

Some articles from the latest issue of the Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship:

“Information Literacy in Business Education: Experiential Learning Programs” by Patrick J. Griffis (University of Nevada–Las Vegas)

Patrick provides an introduction to the subject and then provides three examples of a business librarian embedded into “university field-based consulting initiatives” as a research instructor and consultant:

  • First-year students exploring the nature of being a business student through a Domino’s Pizza challenge competition;
  • MBA students working with engineering seniors to create business plans for a design competition;
  • Student interns working with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s ExporTech service and local manufacturers to increase exports, with significant research support to the students and companies from the business librarian.

Other experiential learning programs are profiled, each demonstrating leadership from the librarian in building research instruction and consulting into the process, and through collaboration with business professors. Impressive work!

2b

“Database review: DemographicsNow Library Edition: Customized Local Market Research” by Kate Pittsley (Eastern Michigan University)

Even if you don’t subscribe to this database, this review is quite useful for explaining how certain kinds of data are collected (ex. psychographic data like Simmons or Experian’s Mosaic Market Segmentation). The review also provides a useful content comparison chart covering DemographicsNow, SimplyMap, and Business Analyst Online, including which use EASI, Experian, Mediamark/MRI, etc.

(Also from that issue of the Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship is an article from two former BLINC members, Kelly Evans & Jeanie Welch, on historical international economic data sources.)

3

From the Winter 2014 issue of RUSA Quarterly:

“Outreach Activities for Librarian Liaisons” by Isabel D. Silver (University of Florida)

This article beings with a review of how liaison work is now largely defined as engagement work, not collections work. The remainder of the article is an analysis of survey results from 28 liaison librarians. Isabel defines three phases of liaison outreach:

  • Phase I: Introductory Communications
  • Phase II: Take Action
  • Advanced Phase: Academic Collaboration And Program Evaluation

The three phases correspond to “three role phases”:

  1. For the benefit of beginning liaisons building core outreach services;
  2. For liaisons with basic experience and ready to progress to more unique and specialized services to meet the clientele needs; and
  3. For veteran liaisons who would like to develop closer partnerships with faculty and possibly involving collaborative teaching and research.

There are lots of bulleted, specific examples of outreach activity for each phase. This article provides a useful checklist to help assess the state of a liaison program.

4

You might have seen an announcement for Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review, a new open-access journal published by the Academic Business Library Directors:

Ticker is a forum for the exchange of the research, best practices, and innovative thinking in business librarianship and business library management. The journal welcomes research articles, opinion pieces, member profiles, case studies, and conference reports reflecting all aspects of business librarianship.

The research articles will be peer reviewed, but not the opinion pieces, conference reports, and case studies. According to the site,

Reviewers are from the Academic Business Library Directors member institutions. Research manuscripts will be read by at least two reviewers within approximately six weeks of submission.

Authors retain copyright, but articles are published under the standard Creative Commons Attribution License that allows commercial republishing with only attribution given in return. (I would prefer a non-commercial CC license.)

Hopefully in a few months we will begin getting some interesting articles from this journal.

5

Praeger has a useful book series called “Entrepreneur’s Guide”. One of the books is The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Market Research (2012) by Anne M. Wenzel. I’ve been re-reading much of it for my ENT 530 class this semester (it’s one of the two assigned books). The book is really useful for explaining strategies for local business research (example: Ch. 7, “Estimating the Size and Growth of the Market.”) Wenzel’s book does discuss sources (emphasizing free ones, but listing pay-sources too) but her focus is much more on strategies. I would rather the students develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills using strategic applications of market data. This book really helps with that goal.

5b

A new book in this series, The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Financial Statements by David Worrell, came out in 2014. The book is organized into 5 sections:

  1. Income Statement
  2. Balance Sheet
  3. Cash Flow Statement
  4. Ratios & Analysis
  5. Managing by the Numbers [dashboards, forecasts, etc.]

Given that I don’t feel especially comfortable with financials, I look forward to reading this.

6

Finally, also on my to-read pile are these two new books, which serve as a (self-promotional) conclusion to this post.

Dianne Welsh’s new book Creative Cross-Disciplinary Entrepreneurship: A Practical Guide for a Campus-Wide Program came out in December. Dianne’s book provides a theoretical introduction to cross-campus entrepreneurship programs, but also serves as a practical handbook for starting such programs. In that regard she discusses the vital role of business librarians. There’s also a detailed summary of my ENT/GEO/LIS (and now MKT) 530 research class on page 53 (really).

The new 2nd edition of Case Studies in Global Entrepreneurship includes a chapter on “Exporting for Entrepreneurs” by  Nicholas Williamson and me. In it you’ll find a description of the curious job title my friend Nick likes to use for people like us: the “Electronic Business Reference Librarian” (p.108). This case comes out of our Export Odyssey class as well as an entrepreneurship venture we have been working on.

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