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.
The #NHSHE2016 conference was more than just a poster competition and a chance to catch up with good colleagues.
There was the usual full programme of talks. It was useful to hear about some of the new structures in the NHS around STPs (Sustainability & Transformation Plans AKA Sticky Toffee Pudding AKA Secret Tory Plans) with Local Workforce Action Boards (LWABs) a new one on me and seemingly a useful place to seek involvement. Within the developing STP picture there is less emphasis on organisational boundaries. A big drive for a digital ready workforce should also have implications for us – support for effective working in an online environment is something we could plug into.
Louise Goswami gave a good run through on KfH progress. The patient and public area was the newest on me and it was good to get a view of the breadth of work in this area. The patient and public is not a natural match for HE based libraries – it was good to see ideas for how we can support the Trust in their work with these groups rather than perhaps taking a direct patient facing role.
Sue Lacey-Bryant gave a great talk on efforts to advance “mobilising evidence and organisational knowledge” AKA Knowledge Management. There are concrete tools and training coming that can help us make this a reality which is great as I have long maintained an interest without advancing very far (see this since abandoned 2008 blog where I read Learning to Fly). There will be a campaign #amilliondecisions advocacy championing expertise of librarians and knowledge in mobilising evidence.
I was really pleased to participate in an innovation presentation session. I spoke about how I made our annual reports for NHS partners more engaging and useful for all concerned. The slides are pretty simple in that they consist largely of a lightly edited version of the report.
The style is very much based on that used by the University of York for their action plans. The talk was well received – both in terms of winning first prize in a public vote but also in terms of people discussing it with me afterwards. I had a similar experience when I shared it with colleagues in my local network so it was great to be able to spread this further. I plan to follow up in the Spring to see if any NHS colleagues have gone with it following the talk.
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.
Somewhere not much under twelve months ago I discovered this office being used as a storage dump. Meanwhile I was working down in the basement, round the back of the rolling stack, with a view of some aircon fans.
I think getting yourself moved from a basement to a rather nice spot would make a pretty good practical exercise when looking to recruit new library liaisons. Admittedly it would take a bit longer than the normal five minute presentation but I guarantee anyone who can achieve this task is likely to be worth having around. You could ask people how they might go about progressing this? Who they would speak to? How they might make the case and persuade people to their point of view?
Time to unpack!
The latest paper discussed in our team journal club took a bit of a kicking.
The Library Student Liaison Program at Eastern Washington University: A Model for Student Engagement
This paper covers a project where a student was paid to become a student liaison working directly for the Library. They worked 15 to 19 hours a week during term time reporting directly to a fairly senior member of Library staff. They were set three main goals – enhance communication with the student body, articulate student perspectives / determine priorities to meet student needs and increase student participation in library programmes.
In common with the paper about the Library street teams (discussed last time) the paper tells us about what they did but falls down on the evaluation. There are few attempts to address how the programme will be evaluated and where figures are provided they are frequently partial. For example we have no context to claims of an improvement in the affect score on Libqual+. Changes to enquiry levels are discussed but without absolute figures.
In critical appraisal terms it falls at the first hurdle with a focussed research question lacking. Like much LIS research we get a case study approach. Applicability of the model proposed is quite limited locally with a very different institution involved and large sums of money required (at least $5K in pay for student at 2006 prices). The commitment of staff time to managing the role was also substantial.
On the positive side we can see many of the initiatives that were proposed or introduced correspond to work we have in place or under consideration / development. It also prompted lots of discussion of various paths for student engagement and ways to gain the student perspective.
So not a paper to change our practice but plenty to stimulate debate (and a nice blast from the past with them proudly reporting making 192 friends on MySpace).