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Association of Research Libraries (ARL®)

  Transforming Research Libraries Contact:
Judy Ruttenberg
Planning and Visioning
New Roles for New Times

Transforming Liaison Roles, NRNT Series

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forthcoming report by Karen Williams and Janice Jaguscewski

New and rapidly changing technologies, an abundance of digital information in myriad formats, an increased understanding of how students learn, and changing practices in how scholars communicate and disseminate their research and creative work are all part of a paradigm shift in higher education. This shift has led to a broadening of liaison librarian roles at research libraries. In the past, libraries focused largely on capturing the end products of scholarship and the bibliographer model was designed to fulfill that goal. The liaison model has evolved over time, beginning with recognition of the need for advanced research assistance within the disciplines and instruction in research processes for students. We are now prompted to understand and support all processes of scholarship, which calls for an engagement model—a model that seeks to enhance scholar productivity, empower learners, and integrate liaisons into the research, teaching, and learning processes.

A broadened definition of liaison librarian roles makes these positions key in advancing the library’s mission within the larger institution. Liaisons are challenged to become more outwardly focused, striving to understand the needs and changing practices of scholars and students in order to shape future directions. Building strong relationships with faculty and other campus professionals, and establishing collaborative partnerships within and across institutions will be necessary building blocks to our success. Subject knowledge, such as liaisons possess, can be used to inform much more than the selection of books and journals, and teaching the occasional guest lecture. Knowing how scholars in particular disciplines communicate and share information with one another can inform the design and development of repository and new model publishing services. Understanding the curriculum of a degree program and pedagogical norms of a discipline can help shape the development of scalable models that integrate 21st century literacies into a learner’s universe. Knowing that many scholars are generating untold quantities of digital data while others are producing multimedia works and all are struggling with data management and preservation plans positions us to help craft solutions to these large-scale problems.

While there is general agreement that liaison roles are changing, research libraries are grappling with defining the scope of these new roles. Identifying emerging roles, determining what work to let go of, designing supportive institutional structures, and ensuring that liaisons have needed skills and knowledge present challenges. The New Roles for New Times Report Transforming Liaison Roles explores these challenges and how research libraries are attempting to define services and tools that will integrate libraries into the workflows of scholars and students. The report will include several specific examples of libraries that are actively working to redefine and engender new roles for liaisons, and will seek to identify trends and key challenges.