SPEC Kit 349: Evolution of Library Liaisons · 13
focus, and teaching skills. Overwhelmingly, respon-
dents regard subject expertise as the primary reason
for deciding how a liaison receives a department as-
signment (65 responses or 97%). Forty-five (67%) make
decisions based on the liaison’s position, and many
libraries consider additional criteria, including a spe-
cific need or gap in the library’s coverage of depart-
ments, and the liaison’s interest or passion.
Liaison Assignments
There appears to be a wide spectrum of how liaison
responsibilities are carried out in ARL member insti-
tutions. While there are some positions completely
devoted to liaison work, in their responses to ques-
tions about liaison duties and percentages of liaison
duties most respondents indicated that liaison respon-
sibilities are often added to existing positions in order
to help fill a need, help a professional grow in his or
her position, or to help a professional meet a particu-
lar interest.
The number of departments assigned to a liai-
son ranges from one to 100, but in only seventeen
libraries (25%) do all liaisons work with more than
one department. Explaining the assignment of liai-
son responsibilities can be complicated, since there
is also a wide variety of organizational structures
within respondents’ parent institutions. One respon-
dent commented that questions about departmental
assignments are difficult to answer because it “de-
pends on how you define departments...some liaisons
are assigned to schools within universities that may
consist of multiple departments.” Even so, there is evi-
dence of a real effort among ARL libraries to ensure
that various groups that comprise the surrounding
community be paired with a liaison 59 respondents
(88%) have assigned a library liaison to every depart-
ment within their institution or community. Within
the departments, 100% of the responding libraries
provide services for or reach out directly to teach-
ing and research faculty. The majority of libraries
also provide services for other faculty (99%), graduate
teaching assistants and graduate students (96%), un-
dergraduate students (94%), administrative staff (88%),
and other community members, including alumni,
community members (public), fellows, visiting re-
searchers, and administrators. These numbers show
a significant increase since 2007 in the support offered
for undergraduates and administrative staff, when
around three quarters of the responding libraries of-
fered services for these groups.
Many libraries are also evolving toward creating
liaison relationships beyond academic departments.
The 1992 and 2007 surveys focused primarily on aca-
demic departments, but over half of the respondents
to the current survey indicated that their libraries
have developed liaison relationships with non-ac-
ademic departments such as academic computing
offices, athletics, career centers, centers for teaching
and learning, educational technology groups, student
affairs, and diversity groups. Further, when asked if
library liaisons work as partners, rather than full-
fledged liaisons, with various non-academic depart-
ments, 54 respondents (89%) identified centers for
teaching and learning as a partner with which library
liaisons work. The majority of respondents also iden-
tified information technology (74%), student affairs
(67%), offices for institutional research (64%), offices
of accessibility (57%), and offices of sponsored pro-
grams (56%) as partners with which library liaisons
often work.
Perhaps because of this evolution in the types and
numbers of departments that are assigned to library
liaisons or with which library liaisons work as col-
laborative partners, data from the 1992, 2007, and 2015
surveys show that liaisons are clearly working with
an increasing number of stakeholders. In 1992, the
largest number of departments assigned to one liai-
son was 12, and in 2007, the largest number was 31. In
2015, the largest number is 100. While this number is
definitely an outlier, since only one response included
a number this high for number of departments as-
signed to one liaison, 23% of the respondents indi-
cated that 10 or more departments have been assigned
to a single liaison.
Department Participation and Communication
While this survey established that ARL libraries are
creating support for an increasing number of depart-
ments within their communities, there is still some
question over how often liaison services are used.
Nearly half of the have assigned indicated that de-
partments within their communities do not take
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