Raising your internal profile as an academic liaison librarian

Added by Emmawoods on 13 May 2010 15:03

As part of a task and finish group on internal marketing of academic liaison librarians at the University of Westminster, I posted a message to a couple of JISCmail lists to see what other librarians do in this respect. As ever, I was delighted by the number of responses I received and the amount of interest there is on this topic.

In the current financial climate where every penny counts, raising our internal profile has never been more vital. There are people making decisions on what jobs are vital to the institution’s goals and they are not necessarily aware of what librarians contribute, making our posts vulnerable to redundancy. It has therefore never been more essential to make non-library colleagues sit up and take notice of the excellent work we do.

Twenty one replies were received. Below is a summary of the various activities librarians engage in to raise their profile.

1. Face to face

  • Attending school’s coffee break.
  • Attending key academic meetings.
  • Series of roadshows within the faculties.
  • Events for academics, one in the summer with strawberries and cream and the other in winter with mince pies for Christmas. As well as the networking aspect we did short demos of e-books, distance learning support, etc. Quite informal, attendance was good and it was definitely worth while. We sent out printed invitations to academics with a RSVP on so we knew how many to cater for and seemed a better idea than an email being lost in their inbox.
  • Attending the new academic staff induction day. There is short talk on the library and then over lunch we have a stand with information and rove the room talking to new members of staff.
  • Sometimes just developing a good relationship with one or two people in a particular department can help raise your profile as everyone else then gets to see what a good job you’re doing.
  • Something as simple as taking a new member of staff out for a coffee can be a good way in.
  • 1-2-1 meetings with staff.

2. Written

  •  A newsletter to all members of the university at beginning of academic year.
  • Contributions to wider internal staff newsletter.
  • Subject guides for each department.
  • Library snippet planned for university’s postgraduate newsletter, due to come out fortnightly.
  • News on the library home page.
  • Subject pages.
  • Area of website for other staff.
  • Liaison librarian web pages.
  • Liaison librarians details linked through our areas in the virtual learning environment. 

3. Web 2.0

4. User training

  • Making contact with the person who runs the postgraduate training programme, we now run courses there.
  • Series of sessions with our staff development department, aimed at academics, to promote what we do.
  • Talking to individual lecturers/department - teaching sessions for their courses.
  • Library lunch and bring your own lunch sessions.
  • Drop-in sessions in a café.
  • Receive new staff and postgraduate lists and contact new staff and postgraduates with an email to say hello and offer an introductory session to show them various library resources.
  • Action research project with one subject area, to see if I can evaluate whether one-to-one interactions with academics are more beneficial than the standard group. sessions we have run in the past in regard to them understanding what I do and how I can work with them.
  • Informal drop-in session for staff just before the start of each academic year - when staff are back but haven’t started teaching/inductions. We invite all the academic and admin staff (by email*and* flyers in their pigeonholes *and* posters around the faculty!) and on the day the subject librarians act as hosts, dole out the drinks, network, and talk staff through using the resources.

4. Working together

  • Joint project bids with academic staff.
  • Presenting papers at institution’s conference.
  • Become as fully engaged as possible with the work and achieve seats on committees within the teaching school served. Out of that can come opportunities for wider engagement and profile with the rest of the university.
  • Take part in course planning and (re)validation.
  • Library reps who are members of academic staff in the departments.
  • Sitting on faculty quality enhancement committee.
  • Take part in subject team meetings.
  • Presenting papers at institution’s conference.
  • We work on cross service groups e.g. with our learning technologists or IT trainers. One of the main things we do is promote the Teaching Day which serves to showcase and develop good teaching practice throughout the school.

5. Other

  • Taking postgraduate certificate of academic practice (to get Higher Education Academy accreditation and to get to talk to more academics!)
  • Research into the promotion of librarians as partners in higher education, using my own relationship with the faculty I support as the basis.
  • Publicity board with our pictures and names of departments - this is on display in the library but we also take it to events.

At Westminster, we are engaging in many of the same activities as other institutions, such as contributing to newsletters, writing subject blogs, attending course committee meetings, etc. One of the best examples here is the complementary therapies librarian, who spends two hours a week in her department’s office (she even has her own desk!). This has proved very successful in building links with her academic staff.

Please comment with any other ideas you have on this or get in touch with me by email e.woods@westminster.ac.uk or @woodsemma on Twitter

Emma Woods: Emma works as Academic Liaison Librarian for Information Systems and Computing at the University of Westminster.

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