The CPD25 event “Supporting our users – Current trends in academic liaison and outreach” on 15th May aimed to provide an overall view about academic liaison including the techniques used and the knowledge and skills required.
The session did provide a good overview and gave me a good board sense about what academic liaison involves. Finding out about the range of terminology used was interesting particularly as I had the impression that the roles in different institutions were essentially the same. However with variations in the job titles that included subject librarian, academic liaison librarian, academic support librarian or even an information consultant, I was made aware that the terms used could be related to the emphasis placed on the role i.e. whether the role is about being a subject specialist or focused on liaison skills.
A breakdown of the key aspects of academic liaison was insightful as this help with providing a sense of what the role can involve and some of the requirements of individuals in these roles. I felt that whatever capacities these roles form they are a key part of an academic library because as the speakers highlighted they contribute towards developing links between the library and academic departments, building trust and managing expectations, along with developing and maintaining collections. I liked the list of attributes considered to be important for these roles and how far ranging they were, including having subject knowledge, good communication skills, patience, being a strategic planner, a facilitator, and a diplomat.
Having comparisons helped to build up a broad picture of the how these roles sit within different institutions. The case studies presented gave an idea of what an average day is like for the Information Specialists at King’s College Library Service. These made me aware about how they manage with large departments spend across various campuses or the variety of departments that have different needs and levels of engagement. Also during the session it was good to have the opportunity to hear from others who worked in small colleges or institutions without specialist staff and this made me further appreciate how varied the liaison work can be.
The new models of staffing structures in some institutions it will be interesting to see how they play out. As these are based on functions rather than having specialists. It will be interesting to know if they will be by the lack of expert knowledge or if a work varied workforces means that departments become more integrated with the library because there is not a single point of reference.
From what I could gather the current issues affecting academic liaison roles seemed to be ones beyond the control of an academic liaison librarian, for example the expectation of students and the idea that everything is on the web. Also the changes with departments meaning their workloads are increasing and focus on scoring systems such as the National Student Survey.
With the changes within institutions it will be interesting to see if the academic liaison role is one that will be continued to be valued.