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!