We created a small team to coordinate the reorganization process: Kathy Crowe (AD for Public Services), Mary Krautter (head of Reference and future head of the liaison department), and me (as chair of the team that lead the creation of our liaison recommendations last summer). A collegial and nimble group! We will collaborate with the liaisons, other public service staff, Acquisitions, and Administration as needed on our goals:
- Coordinate the steps of the recommended timeline with input from liaisons and other stakeholders;
- Coordinate the implementation of liaison reorganization and establishment of liaisons’ priorities and responsibilities;
- Recommend a structure to Library Administration that supports these responsibilities and priorities;
- Coordinate this proposed structure in conjunction with the Service Desk Task Force [which concerns new staffing models for our circulation, reference, and security desks]
Kathy, Mary, and I are working on two projects this month:
The first is utilizing the Acquisitions Department to lessen the collections management workload of liaisons.
We met with our head of Acquisitions Christine Fischer to review our recent large group discussions regarding collections work load issues. The liaisons have (rather happily) not had any major special collections projects since last spring. But we know that someday we will have more big weeding goals and other large projects. Part of the problem had been lack of policy and guidelines for making decisions on weeding or what to do with print journal runs corresponding to our last ejournal backfile purchases. In the past we liaisons had to check and make a decision on every title. If our emerging subject teams create some guidelines for such situations then hopefully most of the review work could be accomplished by Acquisitions staff (or even student workers in Access Services for some weeding projects), with the liaisons called in only for the challenging or surprising situations.
Meanwhile we continue to see the evolution of book ordering mirroring that of journal subscription selection: more ebook packages and consortial packages (like the Big Deal for journals) and alternative access options like PDA e-books, which we started doing four or five years ago (like PPV for articles). Perhaps the next trend will be the deemphasis of departmental book budgets for firm ordering in favor of larger book budgets shared by disciplines like the humanities, or in favor of just having one big happy pot of money for firm-ordering. (Older librarians tell me that once journal subscriptions were budgeted by academic department.) There were a couple of programs at the Charleston Conference last November on this emerging book budget practice in action. Many liaisons here dread the slightly manic need to spend out book budgets in March even though we are often very busy then with classes and consultations. To spend out budgets quickly requires ordering lots of expensive and/or obscure books in contrast to the books already brought in by the approval plan or made available through our PDA program. That’s not an ideal use of our limited collections budget in my opinion, nor of the time of a busy liaison.
The coordination team discussed that each subject team (humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, most likely) would have a team-elected collections expert. Those experts (liaisons very experienced and very interested in collections work) would form a functional team along with the AD of Collections & Scholarly Communications and Christine to cover routine collections needs. This team would replace our current Collections Management Committee that involves over 15 people and meets monthly. Only for big topics would a full liaisons meeting be called. This organizational model mirrors that of some of the libraries we benchmarked last summer.
The second project is to develop a questionnaire for liaisons that identifies how they spend their time on all their responsibilities, asks what frustrations they have, and asks what work they could give up. This relates to our need to prioritize the responsibilities of liaisons and to help liaisons deal with work load issues. The survey will ask about:
- The mix of time spent on each liaison responsibility (ex. teaching, consulting, book ordering, etc.)
- Which of those responsibilities are the highest priorities for your academic departments
- Which responsibilities would benefit by having more time to devote to them
- Which responsibilities would you like to see dropped from your plate? Why?
- What other thoughts or ideas regarding liaison responsibilities do you have?
We hope to have a good discussion with all the liaisons in response to the survey findings, and Mary also plans on using these questions in her annual evaluation meetings with the reference librarians/liaisons in terms of helping us at a personal level with work load issues. Mary’s private discussions with each of us will be very important given the personal nature of dealing with heavy workloads and stress. No two liaisons respond the same way to heavy demands on his or her time. However I’m hoping that all of us really embrace the opportunity to prioritize our liaison responsibilities and get better at saying “no” to requests to do more work or join more committees.
The next project:
Soon the coordination team will talk to Amy Harris, our Coordinator of Library Instruction, regarding the role of “functional coordinators.” She agreed to be the ring leader of our various coordinators. Amy identified such positions for Library Instruction (herself), Data Services, First-Year Instruction, Distance Education, and Electronic Resources. Research Support could be a new one too – we just posted that position. A lot of folks! (Most are liaisons too.) We’ll see if their large number becomes an issue with communication as our teams get set up. Amy has already led a discussion of all the functional coordinators. They discussed how they could work with the subject teams, and could work with Mary as a leadership team for the liaison department. They also discussed the coordinators’ role with annual reviews and perhaps peer-observations.
I hope everyone is having a good February.