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.
Summer edition of my team journal club this time we read
Blake, M. and V. Gallimore (2018). “Understanding academics: a UX ethnographic research project at the University of York.” New Review of Academic Librarianship: 1-25.
I picked this article as I was interested both in the methods used and the potential findings. I lead on UX work and Uni of York consistently do interesting things in the liaison and engagement sphere so this was an easy one to select.
Overall it left us wanting more. The methodology section was very light and did not address a number of questions that would have been useful to support the article. There is no detail of the recruitment strategy or of the semi structured interview schedule for example. We wanted to know more about the cognitive maps and it would have been great to see a bit of these. While we know that new contacts were made we do not know to what extent the data were gathered from already friendly faces. They would at least have been sufficiently well disposed towards the library to engage in an extended interview exercise.
The description of academic lives was felt interesting but not surprising. We did wonder if there was a nervousness in writing something that would be published and visible to the interviewees given the emphasis on relationship building. Generally we wanted to push further into the questions. A colleague had recently attended a “secret life of an academic” talk where a number of important topics were discussed that have not surfaced in the article at all. We wondered about the absence of research data management from a library perspective.
Finally we wanted to know more about the changes that had resulted. This was clearly a major undertaking and the need to see impact from this was felt imperative. The section on how the data was used to generate user requirement for a change of Reading List software would have been brilliant to read – how did they do this? what difference did it make versus what was known already? etc.
Having said all this – it was a good article for our journal club prompting lots of discussion. We had useful thoughts on what we might want to know from academics and how we might ask them. And colleagues at York definitely have expertise and experience we would value!
A change of tack at the team Journal Club with a paper on impact assessment
Christine Urquhart, (2018) “Principles and practice in impact assessment for academic libraries”, Information and Learning Science, Vol. 119 Issue: 1/2, pp.121-134, https://doi.org/10.1108/ILS-06-2017-0053
It was a different paper in that it was a literature review so was rather more general than some of the articles we have been using.
We found the idea of reciprocal value propositions worth exploring. What happens when these go wrong? There is a danger in both sides being willing but not always able to deliver on what they might wish for. Opportunities for using value co-creation could also be imagined. The idea of student reviews on the value of particular reading list choices could potentially lead to some tricky conversations but would only be providing a formal recognition of discussions that already take place amongst the students.
In many areas the literature points to the importance of strategic alignment with our organisations wider goals. This is not revolutionary but worth trying to do well.
Discussion on the time involved in qualitative data work along with more generally on gathering and managing feedback should help us in future to more carefully frame what we are trying to achieve. GDPR should also drive care over data collection and retention. Just because data might be available does not mean it is practically or ethically desirable to use it.
I found the referenced paper Mengel, E. and Lewis, V. (2012), “Collaborative assessment”, Library Management, Vol. 33 Nos 6/7, pp. 357–364. [Link] on developing a set of measures for a balanced score card particularly interesting given the difficulty of this task and passed it to relevant colleagues.
Overall we found a lot to discuss in the paper but I am not sure it worked as well as some of the research papers we have used previously. Too often we were left with too little information without going on to read the underlying papers.
After something of a gap it was good to have a return of the Journal Club at work. The article this time was
The Impact of Physically Embedded Librarianship on Academic Departments – , , 2016 Portal: Libraries and the Academy
This was interesting for the team as a way to consider how librarians might best approach closer working with faculties and in particular whether physical collocation is important.
The article examines the impact of a shift to three liaisons being based more with their faculty following changes to the delivery of enquiry services within the library.
There is a big emphasis on counting different routes to interactions. The picture from these figures is unconvincing. There are a number of variables that can be controlled for. There is little consideration of any change in the type, quality or depth of the enquiries. This would be more useful to know – a fall in enquiries could be a positive thing if more useful enquiries are replacing them.
Given the focus on quantitative data it was also disappointing to not have any examination of data around their use of Libguides.
Generally the study would have been more interesting by including qualitative elements. There is a brief mention of chats with faculty and it would be these interactions that are interesting.
So a helpful paper from prompting discussion but not one where you can draw much that is transferable.
My team journal club discussed the following paper this week
Strategic engagement: New models of relationship management for academic librarians
Jeanette Eldridge , Katie Fraser , Tony Simmonds , Neil Smyth . (2016) New Review of Academic Librarianship.
Very much hot off the press having been published earlier this month!
We had a highly productive discussion reflecting the paper echoing our own ongoing work on development of new models around liaison and engagement. I found the concept of “bridging conversations” helpful as an alternative way to present what I have always thought of as the translation service I operate between HE and the NHS. The focus on senior academics and professional services colleagues was greater than in our approach and we were left wondering who does carry out the liaison that is no longer covered by the team in the article?
It would be good to have seen more robust research around the extent of engagement roles in Russell Group (and beyond) institutions. Investigation focused on information from websites when a conversation might have been both more straightforward and useful. We do not use engagement as a term in either our team name or job titles so may have slipped through the net.
The importance of resolving ambiguities within the library about the new model chimed and prompted discussion of how we might need to continue this work locally. Also interesting was that the model appeared to have been compromised by the subject related needs of some disciplines. I am very aware of some of the tensions around this in health with specialist knowledge around systematic review valued by those we work with.
There would be definite value in meeting with the team at University of Nottingham to share experience.
We had the latest round of our team journal club last week. The paper this time was
Bettina Peacemaker & Jill Stover Heinze (2015) Moving Users, Moving
Results: Exploring Customer Engagement for Deeper Relationships, College & Undergraduate
Libraries, 22:3-4, 261-272, DOI: 10.1080/10691316.2015.1081084
This proved to be a great discussion starter. It examines the research around customer engagement in the business literature and places this in the context of seeking to increase engagement in the academic library environment.
While the language is firmly in the “customer” model it was easy to look beyond this to the arguments being advanced about collaboration and engagement. The model in libraries has frequently been one of “Here is the beautiful service that (as experts) we have designed for you – enjoy” followed by disappointment at uptake. We have increased our openness to feedback for the things we provide in this way we have not always moved far from this model. Business process management models can also drive us towards there being a right way for something to be done to match our work flows. Are these approaches going to drive engagement and partnership?
I was interested in the idea that the experiences people have with us drive emotion that in turn fuels engagement. Our libraries can be places of very big highs and lows – there are days where people will feel we have saved their life or ruined it. Powerful things happen around us!
We explored how we might better work with the information we have about users and non users to better communicate with them. I heard about an interesting example in public libraries lately where they wrote to all the people who had not visibly used the service for a year saying “we miss you” and it drove a big return of uptake from the targeted group. There is also the question of how much time we spend working with those who are already engaged versus those who are not. Generally we need to do more with the information we already gather from activity and feedback.
A big theme of the paper is the need to cocreate services and to engage people with a view to addressing their problems rather than focussing on our own agenda. Reading lists is a live topic at present and was highly illustrative of the potential for a different approach that might takes us forward faster in the end.
Our latest team journal club considered “The promise of academic libraries: turning outward to transform campus libraries” by Kranich, Lotts and Springs.
I picked this paper as it looks at how someone has been seeking to develop their liaison model through community engagement. The team involved have clearly been exploring in a period of change and in some ways this paper felt like them reaffirming publicly some of the results.
We were very interested in the way they piggy backed on groups set up for other projects to have “community conversations”. These gave space for senior staff of the institution to get together to talk about a wide range of questions across the scope of the institution. While the links to library drivers were interesting it was the whole picture of the objectives and issues in play for the institution that was most useful. The fruits of these discussions were then fed back to the library teams to give them a much stronger picture of the priorities and direction of travel of the university. Similar conversation sessions were also held with library teams building internal understanding of work in progress and direction of travel. Use was made of the ideas from the Harwood Institute and these look helpful as a framework.
Areas around impact were weaker. Some of the measures proposed sound very hard to assess with any accuracy.
Generally it was a positive paper as a statement of intent and helped drive a good discussion.