Library Liaison Services in the California Community Colleges
By Mary Wahl, Pasadena City College
1) The following article includes a summary of survey results collected in Fall 2018 regarding liaison services in the California Community Colleges. A related survey is currently open for community college librarians nation-wide, to which your response is kindly requested! Please consider submitting a response to the Library Liaison Services at US Community Colleges survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GRKZTYT.
2) Do you have ideas for library liaison services? Interested in putting together a Liaison Toolkit (or related product) for the CCC libraries? Let’s connect! I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Library liaison programs, in which librarians are “assigned to a specific client base (a school, department, college, research center, or co-curricular unit) in a personalized, relationship- centered system of service delivery”1, have been shown to be a valuable component of higher education in the US. Despite this established value, liaison services specific to community colleges are rarely discussed in the scholarly literature, while services to universities and other research institutions are well researched. A scan of community college library websites as well as a web search using terms such as “librarian liaison” and “community colleges” reveals that many community college libraries have liaison programs in place, which led me to exploring the current state of such services.
A survey of librarians at California Community Colleges (CCCs) was conducted in Fall 2018 via SurveyMonkey and the CCLibrarians-All mailing list, to which 81 responses were collected from librarians at 51 colleges. Questions referred to topics such as: types of liaison services offered; engagement; how liaison areas are assigned; training; assessment; and whether liaison responsibilities are a primary or secondary responsibility. Following are highlights from the results.
- From those that responded to the survey, an overwhelming majority of CCC librarians provide liaison services, and provide such services to academic units such as departments, divisions and areas of study.
- Liaison services aren’t just to subject disciplines – CCC librarians indicated that their libraries liaise to a number of other campus units including counseling (n=19), distance education (n=28), first-year experience programs (n=20), veterans centers (n=9), and writing/tutoring centers (n=19). Librarians also provided responses for “Other” including satellite campuses, child development centers, and prison programs.
- When asked if their library has a publicly available webpage describing its liaison services, over half of the responses received responded yes.
- An overwhelming majority of librarians who responded to the survey indicated that they are seeking ways to increase engagement from their liaison areas. Ways in which they currently inform their liaison areas of services offered include: sending information via email (n=56), meeting with faculty individually (n=52), attending departmental meetings (n=41), and attending new faculty orientations (n=31).
- When asked whether their liaison responsibilities are a primary or a secondary responsibility, an overwhelming majority of librarians responded that it was a secondary responsibility.
- When asked how many librarians have liaison responsibilities, most responses indicated that either all librarians do (n=31), or that most librarians do (n=14).
- How librarians’ assigned liaison areas are determined brought in a mix of responses, the top three being: librarians collaboratively select the areas (n=32); areas are distributed to balance out liaison responsibilities (n=23); and based on librarian’s subject expertise (n=22).
- When asked about challenges related to liaison services, many indicated time constraints, maintaining consistent engagement with user groups, and need for a shared understanding amongst librarians of what expectations are. Further analysis is currently being done on responses gathered to this open-ended question.
While the goal of academic libraries has always been to support the student body and the overall mission of their respective campuses, today’s academic climate is increasingly requiring libraries to self-assess and demonstrate their overall value. As the Association of College and Research Libraries writes in its 2017 report Academic Library Impact: Improving Practice and Essential Areas to Research, there is a need for research on library communication for demonstrating impact. For instance, “Whom to communicate [with] and how”? is a needed question to address.2 Though liaison programs are not explicitly discussed in the report, the report is largely about the need for research on communicating academic libraries’ value to various stakeholders, which liaison programs directly serve through their outreach and collaboration efforts.
Taking a look at CCCs liaison services is also timely given the restructuring of the overall student experience due to Guided Pathways efforts. Guided Pathways “integrates support services in ways that make it easier for students to get the help they need during every step of their community college experience”.3 The initiative also places emphasis on co-curricular support and activities aligned with student learning. CCC librarians holding liaison duties as part of their role on campus are already no doubt integral to the overall success of their colleges and students, and Guided Pathways is an opportunity for CCC librarians to extend their reach further in targeted ways.
Further analysis of the Fall 2018 CCC library liaison services survey data is currently being done, with plans for further dissemination and comparison to nation-wide data.