Kicking liaison work up a notch …

Okay, I admit it. The main reason I coughed up $200 for this seminar was so I could figure out what to do with my subject guides. Happily, the experience was more than worth it, as I came away from ACRL’s “Taking Your Library Liaison Program to the Next Level” a little brighter and a little better equipped to bump things up a notch.

The speakers, Craig Gibson and Jamie Coniglio of George Mason University, kept things moving with lots of case studies. At one point our individual tables had to craft a liaison program from scratch with just a year to do it, which turned out to be a complicated process. There was a lot of talk of freeing up librarians to do their liaison work. One sticking point, of course, is the amount of time liaison librarians typically spend on the reference desk. It’s tough to pry us from that service point, as Gibson said it’s the “holy icon of librarianship”.

Play was also emphasized as a way to innovate. (Hard to do for many librarians who are already working at 150+% capacity!) But it’s necessary if you want to keep your faculty and students engaged. Made me feel a little better for sinking untold time gathering rss feeds for business journals in order to build an comprehensive OPML file that may or may not be used. Who knows, they might actually use it.

There was a lot of talk about the disruptions that have been occurring as a result of the current trends online. What do we do when 90+% of our students begin their research with Google or Yahoo!, without even thinking of the library’s website? Several examples were given: weblogs, wiki’s, podcasts, etc. (I’ll append links to those when the speakers update their weblog after ALA.) What wasn’t discussed was the emergence of social websites and their potential impacts. As long as we’re talking about disruption, why not let the users build our bibliographies for us? Why not our subject guides?

Our pre-conference homework [!] which we had to read before the seminar is highly recommended, and I’ve listed them below. Some great ideas here, especially if you’re interested in innovation, moving new ideas within your organization, and digital solutions to the problems above:

  • Kezar, Adrianna and Peter D. Eckel. “The Effect of Institutional Culture on Change Strategies in Higher Education.” The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 73, No. 4, July/August 2002, pp. 435-460.
  • Deiss, Kathryn J. “Innovation and Strategy: Risk and Choice in Shaping User-Centered Libraries.” Library Trends, Vol. 53, Number 1, Summer 2004, pp. 17-32.
  • Hazen, Dan. “Twilight of the Gods? Bibliographers in the Electronic Age.” Library Trends, Vol. 47, No. 4, Spring 2000, pp. 821-841.