As academic libraries adapt to an information universe in which digital tools and resources are at least as central to their missions as traditional print collections, librarians are re-conceiving and reorganizing the ways they deliver learning and research support to students and faculty. In thinking about the future of the library in light of these changes, one thing has become clear: we need better ways of connecting the library with academic and learning priorities as they are reflected in colleges, departments, and curricula.
Our current liaison model, in place for much of the past decade, assigns individual librarians to particular departments. These liaisons have been charged with ensuring that materials and resources acquired by the library meet the teaching and research needs of faculty in their disciplines. This has been a largely successful program. But in light of new challenges, the time has come to re-tool and expand the library liaison system. Let me assure that you the goal of the new system is not to undermine or supplant established relationships between individual librarians and particular departments, but rather to deepen and render them more effective. The first principle is "do no harm."
Our new approach involves the formation of librarian teams focused on clusters of related disciplines, with the ultimate goal of developing a support model that integrates library collections with educational outreach ("information literacy"), consulting, and programming (bringing faculty into the library to give talks, present panels and collaborate on cultural & intellectual events).
Over the past decade, many other college and university libraries have successfully adopted similar team-based approaches. The operating premise is simple: needs in particular subject areas are best met by librarians who have developed a broad understanding of the culture and professional values of faculty in those areas. Making this a collective rather than individual enterprise results in flexibility, depth, and expanded scope in the library's ability to response to the academic needs of programs and departments.