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New Roles for New Times: ARL Publishes Report on Transforming Liaison Roles in Research Libraries

U Minnesota health sciences librarian Jonathan Koffel with medical faculty

ARL today released Transforming Liaison Roles in Research Libraries, the third report in the New Roles for New Times series. This series highlights the transformation of the library workforce to address new challenges for research libraries in serving 21st-century students, educators, schools, and researchers.

The new report, written by Janice M. Jaguszewski from University of Minnesota Libraries and Karen Williams from University of Arizona Libraries, presents findings from interviews and other research into current trends in liaison librarianship, surfacing several challenges to the established, overarching liaison structure.

The report proposes that evolving research library environments—including shifting technology, student learning, and scholarly practices—call for a fresh look into the role of research library liaisons. Through their interviews, Jaguszewski and Williams find a general consensus that changing liaison roles are presenting organizational challenges, including identifying limitations to individual expertise, redesigning related institutional structures, and ensuring liaisons have proper training and know-how. The authors present an overall trend toward a hybrid model where liaisons pair their expertise with that of functional specialists, both within and outside of libraries, in an effort to further meet the needs of students and scholars alike.

In all, the report identifies six specific trends in the development of new roles for library liaisons based on focusing on what users do rather than on what librarians do. The authors note that by understanding the changing needs and practices of scholars and students, librarians can help shape future directions for the library and advance the library’s mission within the larger institution. In one example, the report’s appendix includes a video interview with Jonathan Koffel, a University of Minnesota health sciences librarian who initiated a partnership with medical faculty to embed information resources in radiology reports.

This report is freely available to download from ARL’s New Roles for New Times website. Jaguszewski and Williams presented their findings in a free webcast on Friday, September 27, 2013, at 11:30 a.m. eastern, followed by a panel of reactors from the research library community. Watch the webcast video on ARL”s YouTube channel.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in the US and Canada. Its mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.

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