Dangerous Liaisons: Brainstorming the 21st Century Academic Liaison

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Academic liaison roles have seen massive changes over time and grown into an ever-broadening range of duties. What began as subject-focused collection involvement has evolved into a mix of instruction, reference, and various forms of course-embedded services, all while also retaining the earlier focus on subject-specific collection management.

This paper outlines current research on academic liaison roles and summarizes the interactive exchanges from the 2018 Charleston Conference Lively Session on academic liaisons. Through live polling and discussion, session participants identified key functions and core competencies for liaisons, as well as factors contributing to success or hindrance for liaison success. Key functions and competencies include outreach, communication, assessment, collaboration and teamwork, collections, subject expertise, and instructional skills. Temperamental success factors include intellectual curiosity, a growth mindset, awareness of campus trends and commitment to partnering, and building relationships. Hindrances identified by session participants include competing duties spanning too many areas of the library organization, high librarian turnover, and lack of boundaries across positions. The most-cited needs include training, support for professional development, clear priorities and expectations, administrative and faculty support, and increased liaison staffing. Participants gleaned several ideas to try at their home institutions: surveying faculty needs, strengthening training for liaisons, offering liaisons support in growth areas, mindfulness of complex demands on liaisons, aiming for manageable expectations, and efficient focus for liaisons’ efforts. This paper provides detailed reporting and interpretation on the live poll results.

Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages18
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Proceedings of the 2018 Charleston Library Conference


  • Libraries
  • Liaison services
  • Administration
  • Strategy
  • Training
  • Library profession
  • Trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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