I had been planning to read this article on analogies for liaison roles since it came out so was pleased it was selected for my work journal club
BEYOND SAINTS, SPIES AND SALESPEOPLE: NEW ANALOGIES FOR LIBRARY LIAISON PROGRAMMES – Peter Barr and Anthea Tucker – In the Library with the Lead Pipe 19 Sep 2018
Working in a functionally aligned service it is always interesting to see how others experiences tally with ours. Locally we have also done a great deal of work around things like Customer Service Excellence so debates around the language of the market in HE are ones we have thought about a fair bit (to the point where I spoke at an event we organised on the student as customer). We had common experiences with the authors about needing to explain a new role within a functional model and the difficulty other departments could have in understanding this. Looking at the website for their service it seems they retained some aspects of the traditional subject liaison role that I am not sure this was significant. In contrast to the authors experience we did not experience a drawing away from the other functional teams. While it has not always been easy there has been concerted work to bring teams closer together with part of the role locally specifically focussed on liaison internal to the service.
The article considers a range of analogies that have been used to help explain the role of liaison staff and suggests some other possibilities. It was interesting to see how comfortable people were with these or not and we considered a few alternatives (the fixer perhaps). I liked the idea of selling being not just about commercial imperatives but also “to convince of the worth of” this tallies with the strong thrust around impact and advocacy in NHS libraries. There was a somewhat adversarial position taken that viewed sales as purely negative when there is scope for us to work with suppliers in more positive ways – they have things we want to buy and an interest in developing the use of resources (I recognise not all relationships will be positive).
I was glad the article came down ultimately to building and presenting our professional identity as librarians. We can learn a great deal from the way other people go about their work but we should be strong in our own professional base.