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What's a Library Liaison and What Do They Do?

For over twenty years the University Libraries have assigned liaisons to all UNCG academic departments and programs. Liaisons provide essential services to their departments by conducting research consultations for faculty and students, tailoring solutions to their particular research needs, collaborating on developing research assignments, creating online tutorials and providing information literacy sessions for students. In addition, they work to build print and electronic collections essential to research and teaching in each discipline. This liaison program allows librarians to become more knowledgeable about the research and curriculum of those departments to which they are assigned. In many cases, librarians have very close ties and function as teaching and research partners with faculty in their liaison departments. Liaisons also serve as a communication link between the Libraries and academic units.

Over the past two years the Libraries examined the roles and responsibilities of our liaisons in order to enhance service to the campus community. We wanted liaisons to spend more time on information literacy and working closely with faculty and students on their research and scholarly communication issues. At the same time we sought to refine our collection management operations to ensure that we’re purchasing what our community needs in the most efficient and cost effective manner possible. To begin the process we appointed a task force, chaired by Business Librarian Steve Cramer, charged to examine liaison responsibilities and provide recommendations for a new organizational structure. Other task force members included Beth Bernhardt, Michael Crumpton, Amy Harris, and Nancy Ryckman.

The task force submitted its report in September 2012. The major recommendation was to move to a team structure with subject and functional teams. Three subject teams (humanities, social sciences and sciences)were formed to group liaisons with similar discipline responsibilities. Functional teams work on activities related to the most essential tasks for liaisons: instruction, scholarly communications and collections. Reference Desk services are coordinated by a functional team which oversees the chat service as well as working with users in the library. In-depth research help from subject liaisons is also available, matching users more closely with the expertise of individual librarians.

By encouraging librarians to develop close ties with faculty and students, the new liaison structure allows librarians to take the library to the students and faculty, both in person and electronically. Working with librarians who fully understand disciplinary conventions and research priorities is an effective way to facilitate student learning and faculty research. We are in the process of implementing the team structure and will evaluate its effectiveness after one year.