The purpose of the university library is to support the university curriculum, and the research needs of both students and faculty members. The better librarians understand the needs of individual members of the university, the better they will be able to fulfill them.

One of the most valuable means through which librarians can learn about the needs of library users is through a vigorous library-faculty liaison program. Through liaison work, the library can promote library services, share information about new acquisitions, and obtain information about new academic programs and the library materials required to support them. Liaison work can be formal or informal, and may involve librarians attending academic department meetings, or conversations with individual faculty members to discuss students’ research needs for specific courses. Whatever form it takes, the essence of fruitful liaison work is regular, open, and clear communication between the liaison librarian and the members of the academic department he or she serves.

Such interactions benefit the entire university community. By providing input on materials selection, teaching faculty members help insure that our collections support the curriculum and serve the needs of our user community. Making informed choices about the materials we acquire is especially important in times like these, when budgets are tightening and the library space for new books is limited. Library liaison also facilitates targeted, discipline-specific library instruction, which can help students write better research papers.

Just as the benefits are widely shared, so are the responsibilities for effective liaison. As librarians, we should eagerly cultivate relationships with faculty members from our assigned academic departments. Attending faculty functions, hosting workshops for faculty, and inviting faculty members for lunch or coffee, are just a few ways in which we can open up channels of communication. The keys in this, as in any other endeavor, are patience and persistence.

Teaching faculty should be receptive to overtures from the library. I sometimes hear faculty members complain that the library collections are lacking in certain areas, and that their students do not know how to conduct proper research. By participating in liaison efforts, faculty members can help address such problems. Even simple measures like providing librarians with syllabi for current courses offered by your department can provide us with tangible evidence upon which to plan instructional services and select materials.

Library liaison offers a promising means through which librarians and teaching faculty ensure that the university library supports the curriculum and facilitates free academic inquiry. As librarians, we should redouble our efforts to provide an energized and effective liaison program. I urge teaching faculty members to encourage and assist us in those efforts.

Further Reading:

Thull, James, and Mary Anne Hansen. “Academic library liaison programs in US
libraries: methods and benefits
.” New Library World 110.11/12 (2009): 529-540. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts. EBSCO. Web. 9 Mar. 2010.

Bennett, Onda, and Karen Gilbert. “Extending liaison collaboration: partnering with faculty in support of a student learning community.” Reference Services Review 37.2 (2009): 131-142. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts. EBSCO. Web. 9 Mar. 2010.