June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.1164.1 - 14.1164.12
Teaming with Possibilities: Working Together to Engage with Engineering Faculty and Students Last summer two of us moved into a shared office, starting our new positions as engineering librarians at the University of Minnesota. We support four engineering departments that total more than 100 full-time faculty, nearly 500 graduate students, and well over 1000 undergraduates. Janet Fransen has an undergraduate degree in engineering and was beginning her first library position after 20 years working in the technology sector. Jon Jeffryes has a background in the humanities and two years of professional library experience at the engineering library of another university. But neither of us had experience as a liaison librarian.
When we started our jobs, we found ourselves sifting through the long list of duties in our job descriptions, contemplating just where to begin. As newly-minted librarians, we looked to the literature as well as our fellow liaisons for guidance. The job of a liaison librarian is busy and multi-faceted. The Reference and User Services Association division of the American Library Association includes expectations ranging from formal activities—"surveys of library users, faculty, staff and students to evaluate their satisfaction with library resources; regular meetings with faculty to ascertain planned curriculum developments and to identify new resources; communication of available materials and services; and establishment of a process by which library users can suggest purchases"—to the informal "participation in campus organizations and activities, monitoring campus media for activities and events that affect collections, and encouraging library use and support by nonusers."1
As if these static lists weren't enough, the liaison's role continues to evolve. As Frank, et al. posit, "the changing nature of scholarly communication and inquiry requires a more dynamic, communicative, and customized approach."2 As the needs of our users change with the times, the trend in liaison librarianship is a move toward more time-intensive, personalized services. With such a wide variety of activities ahead of us and limited hours in the day to test all possible methods, we decided to make the most of our differing strengths and experiences and formed a team approach to meeting the information needs of our engineering audience.
Both overachievers, we tend to want to do it all ourselves. But between the numbers and the quickly changing landscape, we saw that we could be more effective if we worked together. So together we’re reaching out to our users through instruction, scholarly communication, and—of course—marketing. Katzenbach and Smith's definition of team has helped us step back and learn from each other's experiences: "a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable."3 Echoing Baughman's findings at the University of Maryland, we hoped that our team would "bring together a broad range and mix of individuals' skills in a collective way to support problem solving."4
Before we started our jobs, our academic departments had, naturally, worked with other librarians. Our predecessors had formed relationships with their departments and particular faculty members. In some cases, we were able to pick up where they left off. But we've found
Fransen, J., & Jeffryes, J. (2009, June), Teaming With Possibilities: Working Together To Engage With Engineering Faculty And Students Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5613
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