Journal Clubbing – Subject vs functional

A new round of our team journal club.  This time some reading looking at different models for delivering liaison in academic libraries.

Subject vs. functional: Should subject librarians be replaced by functional specialists in academic libraries?

Catherine Hoodless, Stephen Pinfield


Journal of Librarianship and Information Science

First Published June 15, 2016
This was a good paper for prompting discussion in our group.  Locally we are operating in a functional model so it is helpful to have a picture of practice and motivation elsewhere.
The researchers carried out semi-structured interviews with 11 senior library managers in the UK.  Opinion was divided amongst them as to which was the right path to take. Unsurprisingly their view tended to reflect whether they had undertaken a shift to a functional model or not.
The drivers for change felt familiar and prompted discussion of how important consistency was.  Subject librarians are like clinical librarians in that they are an expensive resource in limited supply with the potential to create big variations in level of service provision according to degree of involvement.  Strategic targeting of this resource is always going to be required.  The significant growth in HE over recent years is a big pressure on what sort of service can be offered to all.
The article shows evidence of how the models tend to get fudged with a continuum of activity.  Setting boundaries is a challenge in an emerging model. Role holders are generally getting to grips with a revised role rather than coming in to it fresh which must also have an impact.
As ever I found myself wanting to read more research on the effectiveness and impact of the different models.
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