SPEC Kit 349: Evolution of Library Liaisons · 15
reviews, text mining, and promotion of open access
journal development.
It is clear that each liaison doesn’t offer every one
of these areas of support, and that they often develop
functional areas of support in addition to disciplinary
areas of support. A number of respondents indicated
that liaisons are not expected to meet all of the diverse
needs of their departments. Rather, they are expected
to leverage the strengths of other liaisons within their
library, work collaboratively with other liaisons, and
act as a connector between their departments and oth-
er library liaisons or community partners who may
be able to help them move forward on projects and
resolve complicated teaching and research situations.
We continue to see this more collaborative method of
work emerge through responses to questions about
how library liaisons define their roles, communicate
with each other, grow in their professional roles, and
assess and evaluate their work and the success of
entire liaison programs.
Policies and Guidelines
This expansion of liaison roles and services can make
it difficult to define what, precisely, it means to be a
library liaison. Even when core duties are articulated
and programs are structured, many libraries find it
helpful to develop policies and guidelines that advise
liaison work. Nearly three-quarters of the respond-
ing libraries (47) have written policies or definitions
that describe liaison work. Fewer libraries (36 or 56%)
have written policies governing the functions, activi-
ties, and responsibilities of library liaisons. Liaisons
continue to take a major role in defining their own
work, as seen in the 55 libraries (83%) where liaisons
participate in establishing the policies that do govern
their activities. In 42 libraries (65%), liaisons have writ-
ten goals and objectives that guide their activities, as
well. Overall, this data demonstrates that liaisons gen-
erally have agency and some level of independence in
defining their own roles, areas of expertise, and goals.
Administration, Communication, and Workflow
As the need to work together and leverage different
individuals’ expertise continues to emerge within
library liaison programs, it becomes more important
for liaisons and those who lead liaison programs to
develop methods and strategies for communication
and collaboration. Indeed nearly all of the survey re-
spondents (97%) indicated that they actively encourage
liaisons to share expertise and solve problems collab-
oratively. The few libraries that do not yet encourage
team-based work are planning to start doing so soon.
A number of respondents mentioned that collaborative
work goes beyond liaison collaboration, and actually
ends up looking more like a three-way conversation,
including the faculty/researcher role, the library li-
aison, and a functional specialist who may focus on
an area such as data, copyright, or GIS. Additionally,
some library organizational structures bring subject
and functional specialists into one, shared department
where these sorts of conversations and collaborations
are able to take place, and at least one respondent dis-
cussed using project-based teams that encourage vari-
ous library liaisons and specialists to work together to
support specific projects or initiatives.
The coordination and facilitation of library liaisons
within the overall library structure has a significant
impact on the ability of liaisons to form the sorts of
teams and collaborations that enable them to meet
the emerging needs of the surrounding communities.
Survey responses indicate there is no consistent meth-
od of administering and facilitating liaison programs,
though. Within the wide spectrum of methods used
to organize and administer liaison programs, the
most frequently used is self-administration by each
liaison (27 responses or 41%). Fewer libraries use any
sort of central administration structure. Nine librar-
ies (14%) use a central liaison coordinator or manager,
six (9%) use a liaison committee, and four (6%) man-
age liaisons through central administration. Nearly
one third of the responding libraries use a unique
organizational and administrative structure, exam-
ples of which often include liaisons reporting within
multiple departments and to multiple supervisors, a
combination of self-directed and central management,
and various types of liaison leadership teams. Just
as liaison duties have expanded and become more
complex, the reporting lines and administrative struc-
tures of liaison roles and programs have also become
more complex and messier. For comparison, in the
2007 report, about half of the responding libraries
reported their liaison programs as self-directed and
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