Liaison Services · 11
Executive Summary
A SPEC survey on liaison services in libraries that
was conducted in 1992 concluded that, “Until re-
cently the library collection has formed the focus
of library activity. But as the physical collection be-
comes less central, the user is becoming the focus
of library services. The role librarians are to have in
this decentralized information environment could
depend largely upon the effectiveness with which
liaison librarians are able to monitor, anticipate,
and respond to user’s information needs.”1 Since
then many changes have taken place in libraries
and in society. Electronic communication and elec-
tronic publications have changed library patrons’
expectations and challenged libraries to provide
access to a wide variety of materials while adjust-
ing to their patrons’ constantly evolving informa-
tion seeking behaviors and technological needs.
Since 1992, the definition of the liaison role also
has changed. The 1992 RUSA guidelines for liai-
sons described the liaison role as primarily to gath-
er information for collection development.2 The
2001 guidelines have an expanded definition of
liaison work that includes five components. Three
components stress collection development and two
emphasize purposes beyond collection develop-
ment, namely public relations and communicating
clientele needs to the library staff and governing
body.3 Now, librarians are taking on a number of
new roles and responsibilities including partnering
with faculty in the classroom, acting as academic
advisors and mentors, and providing computer
software and hardware support.
This survey sought to identify the current roles of
liaisons in ARL libraries and any changes in focus
in their interactions with academic departments.
It explored whether liaisons are being reactive to
faculty and student needs, partners in providing
teaching/library instruction, pioneers in the new
electronic world or have limited involvement with
the academic departments, and documented how
libraries mix the activities of traditional liaison re-
sponsibilities with the new trends that are fostered
by the evolving needs of today’s library patrons.
The survey was distributed to the 123 ARL mem-
ber libraries in May 2007. Sixty-six libraries—63
academic and 3 non-academic—responded by the
deadline for a 54% response rate. Only one of the
academic libraries does not provide liaison services
to academic departments in their university; these
services are not applicable to the non-academic
libraries. Twenty-nine of the responding libraries
(49%) began offering liaison services before 1980.
A number of respondents couldn’t provide an ex-
act start date but made comments along the lines
of, “as long as the library has been in existence”
and “for decades.” Those who could provide a date
show that a wave of new, or newly defined, pro-
grams has started each decade from the 1960s to
today; the most recent program started in 2007.
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