Report of the Rutgers University Libraries
Task Force on Liaison Relationships
Connie Wu, Chair
Myoung Chung Wilson
Following is the revised text of a report submitted by the Task Force on Liaison Relationships at Rutgers University Libraries(RUL). The Task Force was appointed in May 1991 by the then Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian Joanne Euster and was charged with exploring and formulating solutions in two related areas: 1) To develop a model which described the major components of a successful liaison relationship and 2) To propose methods for fostering effective liaison between librarians and academic departments and faculty.
The members of the Task Force reviewed related literature and conducted a survey among 44 subject specialists at RUL. In October 1991, a report with recommendations and suggestions was submitted for discussion and review. The report has been distributed widely. Within the libraries, the report was discussed at various library forums and was accepted as a "toolkit" for use in developing working relationships with the teaching faculty. Outside of the libraries, the report was distributed to many university faculty committees. In response to the report, the chair of the Rutgers New Brunswick Campus Faculty Council Library Committee solicited faculty viewpoints. Responses were obtained from 21 departments. The University Senate unanimously adopted a resolution "...that this report be made available to all research, instructional, and service units, so that they may discuss the reciprocal responsibilities of individual faculty members and departments, and communicate, as they find appropriate, with the librarians about their discussions."
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, is a large, public teaching and research institution located on three regional campuses in New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden. 47,000 students, of which more than 14,000 are graduate students attend the university and there are over 2,000 faculty. Ph.D degrees are offered in 61 fields. The largest campus is in New Brunswick where the most of the graduate programs and research institutes are located.
RUL includes 18 libraries on the three campuses. Within New Brunswick there are two research libraries, the Library of Science and Medicine (Natural Sciences and Engineering) and the Alexander Library (Humanities and Social Sciences) as well as specialized libraries including the Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Art, Music, East Asian, Alcohol Studies, Management and Labor Relations, and Urban Studies. There are two undergraduate libraries: Douglass and Kilmer Libraries. Douglass Library also has primary collecting responsibility with for Women's Studies and the Performing Arts and Kilmer Library serves Business Programs on New Brunswick campus. The Dana Library in Newark and the Robeson Library in Camden support both undergraduate and graduate studies on their campuses. Furthermore, the Institute for Jazz Studies and the Criminal Justice Library, two specialized research libraries, are located in Newark.
The administrative structure of the libraries consists of a central administration (composed of the University Librarian, Deputy Librarian, and three Associate University Librarians) which has "systemwide" responsibility for all libraries on three campuses, and the University Librarian's Cabinet (consisting of the central administration and the directors of the six major libraries from the three regional campuses) which develops, coordinates, and implements policies. There are also three Standing Advisory Committees in Collection Development and Management, Public Services, and Technical and Automated Services which are chaired by the appropriate Associate University Librarians and whose membership is composed of library faculty members from all three campuses.
With such a complex system spread out over a large geographical area, communication is complex and essential to maintaining the "unified system," which practically and philosophically brings together all elements of RUL. These circumstances also make liaison relationships an especially critical factor in the functioning of RUL.
A strong relationship between the university libraries and the wider university community is fundamental to the ultimate success of the libraries' mission. The heart of the libraries' mission is to provide library resources and services in support of the research, instructional, and public service programs of the university. It is through liaison relationships that this mission can be realized.
Among the goals established by the Rutgers University Libraries in 1987 is: "To maintain close and continuous communication and liaison with academic faculties through systematic consultation with individuals, departments and schools."
An effective libraries' service philosophy, according to Thomas Michalak1>, requires librarians to reach out to users in order to: (1) identify their information needs; (2) identify the problems they encounter in attempting to fulfill these needs; (3) convey and demonstrate the range of services available in the library; and (4) bring back to the library an appreciation and understanding of user needs and the methods and tools of scholarship and instruction.
"Liaison relationship" in this report refers to those patterns of communication that will enhance the mission of the university by establishing and maintaining mutual understanding between academic librarians and teaching faculty. Although all librarians have a responsibility for liaison activities, the focus of this report is on the role of the subject specialist, who is on the front line in the liaison relationship.
Library liaison activities include those communication activities that establish and maintain a mutual understanding about library resources and services among librarians, academic departments, faculty and students. The goals of an effective faculty liaison program are:
Many members of the Rutgers University community have roles to play in library liaison relationships. The nature of an individual's role depends on the position(s) that individual holds within the university. Following is a list of positions and description of the role the individuals in those positions play in the liaison relationship.
Subject specialists are the key element in developing the liaison relationship. They proactively inform academic users about library resources, operations, services and policies. They also represent the collection/resource needs of the users in the development and implementation of library operations, services, and policies.
Public Services Librarians
Public services librarians inform users about library resources, operations, services and policies. They bring users' perspectives to subject selectors and technical services librarians. When appropriate, they also direct users to subject specialists for further assistance. In some cases, they are subject specialists as well.
Technical Services Librarians
While not playing as direct a role in liaison relationships as subject specialists and public service librarians, technical services librarians and systems personnel provide vital links between the library and its patrons through creating and controlling bibliographic records. Systems staff develop user-friendly interfaces to online information systems including the online catalog. In addition, the Technical and Automated Services Department trains student-interns from the library school in programs jointly supervised by the teaching faculty and librarians.
Undergraduate librarians communicate with academic departments to promote user education programs and assess departments' undergraduate instructional needs. Undergraduate librarians may also seek, as appropriate, advice on building the undergraduate collections. In addition, undergraduate librarians communicate with university staff who are actively engaged in undergraduate services.
Library unit directors foster a library environment where liaison relationships are deemed important and are supported. They encourage liaison relationships when working with university administrators and faculty members. They interact directly with appropriate administrators, such as deans, department chairs, and directors of programs or research centers, to exchange relevant information. They communicate concerns between the central library administration and librarians and relevant faculty.
Library directors respond to concerns from faculty members and other library users. They analyze the problem, supply information about library services, budget, and personnel, and if possible, find a solution or at least produce a better understanding of the situation.
Central Library Administrators
Central library administrators communicate between the libraries and upper-level university administrators on budgets and policies. They present library needs to the university administration. They gather and distribute information that can best be gathered on a systemwide basis. The central library administrators are resource for librarians and directors in the course of their contacts with faculty. In addition, they communicate major library innovations and policy initiatives directly to the university faculty as a whole.
Members of University Committees
Non-librarian members of university committees that deal with library issues also play an important part in the liaison relationship. They deliver information about the academic process and report on library matters to their constituents. They provide an alternate channel of communication between library users and the libraries.
The following library groups deal with issues beyond the library unit and coordinate action between library units. Included is a description of their role in the liaison relationship.
Selector Groups Selectors Groups, comprised of subject specialists with selection responsibilities in the same or related disciplines, provide a mechanism for facilitating discussions among selectors in different libraries. The groups are responsible for drafting, interpreting and implementing collection development policies from a systemwide viewpoint in their areas of responsibility.
Bibliographic Instruction Coordinators Group The Bibliographic Instruction Coordinators Group is comprised of librarians from various units responsible for user education. The group contacts academic departments and administrative offices to promote systemwide bibliographic instruction programs and encourage further integration of bibliographic instruction into the curriculum.
Standing Advisory Committees With representation throughout RUL, these committees provide systemwide forums for the free flow of information on public services, collection development, and technical and automated services. The committees help ensure the entire library faculty is well-informed and involved with library issues of interest to the academic community.
Frequent and open communication on an equal footing between the Libraries and academic departments is the best way to establish and maintain effective liaison relationships. If teaching faculty feel that collections in their areas are being successfully developed by subject specialists, strong working relationships can be developed and maintained. The roles identified above make clear the responsibilities of various individuals and groups in the liaison relationship. Following are five recommendations for enhancing the relationship between the Libraries and university community. A "toolbox" of suggested methods and proposals to provide specific means to implement the recommendations is included.
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