Taking Your Library Liaison Program to the Next Level: Strategies for Outreach and Integration
Craig Gibson, Associate University Librarian, George Mason University; Jamie Coniglio, Head, Reference Department, Fenwick Library, George Mason University
Four themes must be understood in order to operate effective liaison programs:
These themes must be understood both within the library and externally throughout the institution (ie, how we fit into the institution as a whole)
Librarians are not the only ones challenged by the changing information infrastructure.
Faculty are also being challenged and our approach to liaison programs must reflect this
Librarians, particularly in liaison roles, need to be proactive, not reactive, change agents. Liaisons can encourage culture change through contacts on campus
The distinctions between consumer and creator are blurring (think Web 2.0), and as such our focus as liaisons needs to become more fluid: we need to move from supporter to partner, becoming an integral part of the academic enterprise. Liaisons should be seen as central to the programs/departments they serve
Liaisons need to have a nuanced understanding of the culture in which they are working to be effective. This culture also includes the "unconscious infrastructure", which is often more powerful than the explicit culture recorded in organizational charts and policies manuals
Liaisons should have a broad knowledge of the following areas:
*Demographic changes in students, faculty
*Teaching and learning changes
*Bibliographic organization and knowledge management
*Research agendas and priorities
*Scholarly communication system
Faculty buy-in for liaison programs is key, but such support is hard to gain when faculty don’t understand us and don’t have time to listen to our explanations. Unlike our profession, which is collaborative in nature, faculty culture is more individualistic
Just as change takes time, so too does building an effective liaison program. However, people need to see symbolic representations of change, so at some point we have to stop talking and start doing!
Look for previously existing relationships (often built by library administrators) to leverage when identifying supportive stakeholders within departments
When building a liaison platform, communication between, among and with librarians is crucial in enabling liaisons to have the foundation from which they can develop their own structured plan within different departments. Let institutional goals be the drumbeat driving liaisons
Once a liaison program is up and running, maintain connectivity among liaison librarians through blogs, monthly lunches, periodic assessments. Don’t let your liaisons feel lonely!
Liaison programs, like all library services, must be marketed. Although word of mouth is always the best marketing tool, planning the sale and what you will do to meet your target is key
Identify and know your stakeholders. Find communication channels during which the liaison program might be emphasized: coffee, lunch/dinner, drinks, shared walk to parking lot
Check out the preconference wiki: http://liaisonprograms.pbwiki.com/