Introduction:
Positioning
Liaison Librarians
for the 21st Century
Karla Hahn, Assistant Executive Director,
Research, Teaching, and Learning, ARL
L
iaison positions exist at nearly every research library, and a recent
ARL member survey documented a substantial broadening of liaison
roles1. Many believe that liaison librarian functions are becoming
more central to fulfilling the library’s mission in a digital age. While research
libraries may agree on the importance of the position, how to reconfigure liaison
work has become a topic of broad concern. Identifying emerging roles and
determining how to develop corresponding liaison capabilities are common
challenges.
The articles in this special issue highlight several new roles that are being
fostered in research libraries and offer different leadership perspectives on the
change process. Two authors are associate university librarians with broad
responsibilities for managing the development of new functions and responsi-
bilities of their institutions’ public services staff (Williams and Dupuis). Two are
programmatic experts leading the development and delivery of services that
require liaison support for effective engagement with faculty clients–scholarly
communication (Kirchner) and data management (Gabridge). Our fifth author
is a liaison librarian with a personal commitment to reinvention (Whatley)
describing the change process from the inside.
Amidst the diversity of stories and assessments gathered here, several
recurrent themes stand out. New forms of relationship building, particularly
with faculty, are central to effective liaison functions. New kinds of relationships
are needed to respond to the changing work of faculty and researchers and to
constantly evolving learning outcomes, research processes, and communication
practices. In addition, research libraries are increasingly seeking to influence
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AUGUST 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC