Liaison Librarians Bridge the Gap
Liaison Librarians Bridge the Gap

April 21, 2008


For many of us, the only time we see a librarian is when we approach the Library’s Information & Research Assistance Desk, but librarians actually spend more of their time liaising with faculty and administration to bridge the gap between library services and library patrons.

To stay current and connected with the needs on campus, the University Library has subject liaison librarians who are responsible for specific Faculties, Schools and departments. In their liaison roles, they have many responsibilities.

“The Library has its own programs and services. As librarians, we make sure that those programs fit each individual Faculty, School or department,” explains Librarian Judy Vogt. “Often we work as advocates for our Faculties, Schools and departments when setting policies and procedures.”

Advocating for their specific areas may mean creating guides and web pages for subject areas, specific projects or class projects, building and assessing collections, and special research projects.

Currently Vogt is working on a feminist periodicals’ table of contents service to determine its usefulness to the Women’s Studies program. As the modern languages liaison, Glenna Westwood is part of a group discussing a proposal for a Latin American studies minor at the U of L.

All departments have a library representative who is the primary contact in terms of collections. Librarians also partner with other faculty members on specific projects or classes.

“The communication role is critical to the liaison aspect of our jobs: communicating what is happening in the Library and in the scholarly world as well as learning what is happening in the Schools and Faculties,” says Vogt.

“We try to have a really good connection with the departments so that when faculty are giving assignments they think about us and mention us to their students or invite us into the classroom,” says Westwood.

While not every librarian is a subject specialist, through their experience building collections and working with faculty, they become familiar with core subject content. That knowledge combined with their reference skills allows them to help students research more effectively.

In trying to find a way to offer better library services to the social work students, Vogt began a new office hours initiative she calls “librarian in residence.”

This program would see the librarians spending time in the department, School or Faculty they are responsible for on a regular basis.

Vogt has been offering office hours for social work students for the past several semesters. Westwood also saw the potential in this idea and has been offering office hours in the departments of English and Modern Languages.

Though the initiative is still a work in progress, both Westwood and Vogt have already seen success.

“I have had more contact with faculty members than before and have learned more about the research trends and how to improve collections,” says Vogt.

Westwood also has contact with faculty, but sees an even greater improvement with student contact.

“I have made many connections with students and now receive a large number of e-mails from those who now know who I am and need help, but can’t make the office hours. Hearing informal conversations has also made me more aware of the information needs of the students and allowed me to better serve them,” says Westwood.

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