Is the semester over yet? It feels like it should be. And this would be another 6-day work week starting today, Sunday, except that on Thursday we have the NCLA Leadership Institute 2013 follow-up meeting and discussion at the neat High Point Public Library and I’ll be taking Friday off as comp time. Next week Friday BLINC will rendezvous in Asheville for an intriguing workshop agenda; at the microbrewery we will toast the advent of summer!
The NCLIVE 15-year celebration web site came out, and includes the video of me talking about NCLIVEs’ economic development goals and the NCLIVE-BLINC partnerships. Elon University’s excellent Business Librarian Betty Garrison is also pictured.
The Export Odyssey presentations in MKT 426 concluded last Thursday. By happy coincidence the two presentations attended by our Small Business and Technology Development Center representative were the best ones of the semester. I had met this SBTDC rep at ExportTech a while ago when we were both attending that event as consultants so it was nice seeing him in the context of my normal librarian work.
Meanwhile in ENT 300 there is one week to go in the final presentations of the feasibility plans. I enjoy those presentations – the students seem genuinely enthused about their business ideas. But maybe that enthusiasm is a problem sometimes. So far no team has concluded that their plan is not feasible. One of the SCORE reps expressed concern with how the students (most of them of traditional college-aged) seem to deem it a failure to declare that based on their research a business idea might not be worth pursuing after all. Perhaps that will happen this week – a couple of teams are working with entrepreneurs whose business ideas are based on passionate interest but don’t seem be too sustainable as a business.
Then there are the increasingly last-minute research consults for other business classes, science librarian search committee work, and our ongoing liaison reorganization.
Two months ago I wrote about our survey 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.” I wrote how this survey “relates to our need to prioritize the responsibilities of liaisons and to help liaisons deal with work load issues.” The survey asked five questions:
- The mix of time spent on each liaison responsibility (ex. teaching, consulting, collections, etc.)
- Which of those responsibilities are the highest priorities for your academic departments?
- Which responsibilities or opportunities do you feel need additional attention or time?
- Which responsibilities would you like to see dropped from your plate? Why?
- What other thoughts or ideas regarding liaison responsibilities do you have?
There are a few more details about the survey in that February post.
A week ago our small reorganization planning team reviewed the surveys and presented the results to the liaisons. While we told the liaisons that they were welcome to keep their responses anonymous, most of us provided useful examples and details from our own liaison work and therefore outed ourselves. But the planning team kept the responses anonymous in the survey summary. (My colleague Lynda Kellam has blogged on her thoughts in response to the survey.)
Our agenda at the discussion:
- Prologue: Reminder of the liaison reorganization timeline & the need for the survey
- Executive summary
- Results from the 5 questions
- General discussion of the results
- Discussion of the next steps in the reorganization (summer tasks)
The executive summary:
- Most liaisons spend the most time on teaching & consulting.
- Most liaisons report that teaching & consulting are also the highest priorities of liaison work for most academic departments.
- There is much interest in having more time for outreach.
- There is wide (but not universal) interest in dropping title-by-title selection & no longer having to spend out departmental firm-order book budgets each spring.
- There is significant interest in leaving scholarly communications expertise and training to a specialist.
- There is some concern about liaisons spending less time on the reference desk.
- There’s growing embedded work; the liaisons with embedded roles reported having the highest percentages of consultation work.
While there was a clear consensus on most issues, some minority opinions were expressed in the surveys too. The concern about the slow shift of reference desk staffing from subject specialist librarians to staff colleagues (the point of the penultimate bullet point above) is one example.
Details on the first question:
Our time-usage question asked the liaisons to use the five main categories from our liaison task force report. Under each question are the average percentages reported by the liaisons:
1. Teaching and learning (instruction sessions; developing assignments, tutorials, guides, etc.; embedding in classes; assessment):
–Around 35% on average. High 65%, low 2%
2. Research support & consulting (consultations to students and faculty in-person or via email, chat, etc.)
–Around 25% on average. High 35%, low 10%
3. Collections (developing print and electronic collections, reaccreditation and program reviews)
–Around 15% on average. High 50%, low 5%
4. Outreach and promotion. (outreach to academic units, Learning Communities, attending meetings and other events)
–Around 10% on average. High 20%, low 0%
5. Scholarly Communication (promoting open access, NC DOCKS, author rights and current publishing trends)
–Around 5% on average. High 10%, low 0%.
Second question: Which of those responsibilities are the highest priorities for your academic departments?
The survey said:
- Teaching 8 (includes embedded teaching)
- Consulting 8
- Outreach 2
- Collections 1
There were some ties.
Third question: Which responsibilities or opportunities do you feel need additional attention or time? Why?
- Outreach/reaching more departments 9
- Scholarly communication 3
- Assessment 2
- More learning in subject area 2
- Instructional technology 2
- Consultations 2
- Collection development 1
There were a number of interesting comments for this one. Several folks advocated for a more intentional and holistic approach to liaison work (this idea first came out last summer when we developed our task force report). Several expressed concern that some academic departments aren’t getting enough attention due to our lack of time and staffing — another idea that came up last summer. Other folks mentioned wanting to have more time for increased embedded work, teaching skills development, and subject knowledge learning and updating. All worthy goals! (If only we had the staffing or time.) There was also one concern that some faculty will feel neglected if we’re not paying as much attention to book collection development.
Fourth question: Which responsibilities would you like to see dropped from your plate? Why?
- Collection development 6
- Scholarly communication 3
- Reference desk 2
There is wide (but not unanimous, as you have seen) interest in dropping title-by-title selection by liaisons and not having to worry about spending out departmental firm-order budgets each spring.
Some would like leaving scholarly communications expertise to a specialist, given that scholarly communication as well as data curation are very complicated, technical and fast evolving areas. I should add here that these liaisons are not advocating for no longer supporting these initiatives, but are concerned that all the liaisons are expected to become experts in scholarly communication and data curation. This is an issue for which there will be further discussions once our new AD for Collections & Scholarly Communication is hired.
Other comments from question #4:
- As mentioned in the summary, there was one concern expressed about liaisons spending less time on the reference desk.
- Meanwhile, hope was expressed that our head of Reference & Instruction Services would soon be able to focus exclusively on being the head of our liaison initiatives and not have provide oversight for our reference services.
- Other liaisons wrote that title-by-title weeding doesn’t have to be done by liaisons if we have subject-specific weeding policies that staff or student workers could faithfully follow.
- There was hope that big collections projects could be limited to the summer when liaisons are usually not busy with teaching and consulting.
- Finally, a wise liaison noted that we will never have enough time to do everything.
Final question: What other thoughts or ideas regarding liaison responsibilities do you have?
- We need more liaison positions. The campus has grown dramatically in the last 15 years, with many more students, faculty, and PhD programs, but the number of fulltime liaison positions has not grown in response. (This is a pet peeve of mine; another liaison noted the same problem.)
- We need more training in best practices of running meetings.
- There is some lack of awareness by administrators of our work patterns as well as our accomplishments as liaisons. (I wonder if this is common concern for liaisons at other libraries. Much of liaison work takes place out of the library, making it harder for admin types to know what is going on, perhaps? Then we liaisons need to do a better job of telling our success stories. Something to work on…)
- There was concern from one liaison about embedded librarians not being in the library as much to support drop-in reference questions.
- We need to continue to support book buying; faculty are not always spending time to do this despite some big interest in some departments in developing book collections.
- There is high value & measureable outcomes of being embedding in classes; embeddedness increases demand for consultations and research support.
- I am looking forward to our subject team approach and the potential for more holistic approach to liaison service (ex. instruction).
As we knew going in, there is wide support for trying out our new proposed model of liaison organization with its emphasis on instruction, outreach, and research support. Our administration supports those goals. There is a bit of dissent regarding reduced priority for the reference desk and book selection; that dissent corresponds to generational differences in our department. But our subject teams could be set up to leverage the various strengths of the liaisons. For example, a liaison who excels at book selection and other collections work could take on increased responsibility for that work across an academic discipline, while other teammates focus more on teaching. We presented such a scenario in our task force report last summer.
(At ACRL this month Lynda and Jenny Dale from UNCG and Lauren Pressley from Virginia Tech discussed their idea of “library personas” and included a discussion of how subject teams like ours could take advantage of personas. See Lynda or Lauren’s post for their slides.)
We will need to continue to work on creating more time for high priority liaison work by reducing the time demands of reference desk service and routine collection development tasks. And the new AD will need to work with us on our evolving model of scholarly communication outreach (add data curation to that starting this fall).
In early May the liaisons will reconvene to create our subject teams, functional teams, and their initial lineups. We will also begin to discuss (could be more a brainstorming session at this early point) about how the teams will work together and interact with the functional teams. Finally, we will begin discussing how the teams could address the issues & ideas expressed in the survey.