This is a short follow-up to an October post that provided our recent NCLA presentation slides. I posted the slides quickly to share with other conference goers, but would like to add a few notes from the discussion that ended the program.
We (Richard Moniz, Marla Means, and I) learned while developing the program that it is actually pretty hard to cleanly separate subject liaison work from functional liaison work, despite the program title we chose. Many liaisons have to provide both subject and functional services. Maybe a better framework for comparison is balancing subject and functional skill sets, not roles.
The session’s final agenda item was discussing best practices in balancing subject versus functional liaison roles. Here is the summary:
- Use liaison teams (if your library has enough liaisons to make teams work). Each major functional role could have a team (as is the case at UNCG, along with our three subject teams). Then teams can work together as needed. For example, the science team can work with the scholarly communication team on training and outreach.
- Or at least pair up a subject liaison with functional expert as needed. For example, the psychology librarian could take the data services librarian to a Psychology Departmental meeting to discuss data management services.
- Provide lots of training
- But also have an authority figure in your library establish that it’s ok to ask questions and admit to not being an expert in a functional area
- Finally (related to above), establish core competencies for functional roles. Expect all subject liaisons to have some base knowledge about scholarly communication options and strategies, for example.
That last idea is appealing to me. This would actually help protect subject liaisons — they would operate under a clearly defined set of expectations. Otherwise they wouldn’t know how much they are expected to know, nor when the functional expert should be called in for support. The uncertainty of not knowing would be stressful.
After drafting those core competencies as a group, then make sure that workshops and personal learning time are provided before the competencies go into effect. Update the competencies as needed.