Liaison librarians?

Every once in a while we (the librarians at GUC) discuss if we should start a program of liaison librarians here. So far, we have always come to the conclusion that it just isn`t the right time or that it will be to much of a strain on the library staff to venture it.

Maybe now the time has come?

Many colleges and universities have liaison librarians, particularly in larger institutions, and their liaison programs and experiences vary greatly. Some have programs where the librarian is physically located at the faculty they serve and they are almost completely integrated both academically and socially at that faculty. Then there are those who simply act as a front line service to the staff at each faculty, answering questions on everything from acquisitions to information literacy course inquiries.

What kind of program we choose (if we choose to implement this kind of program at all) will effect all the librarians here and how we manage our workload. We are quite specialised at this point. There are some things we all know how to do, but mostly, there is one person who deals with a particular issue. The upside of this is that each librarian has real ownership to their tasks and a good overview of what is going on in his or her field of expertise. The downside is that we are not as well integrated in the academic processes at faculty level as we should wish, and of course we are in danger of relying to much on the people holding the positions, so whenever someone is ill or away we cannot always help the patrons as well as we should wish.

So, we want better contact with the faculty and to be better integrated in the courses and study programs there, but we want to keep a high level of specialization, too. We don`t want the librarians to be spread to thin (everyone doing everything) because we wouldn`t be able to keep our level of quality that way. So.. what to do? What program should we choose?

It will probably be something of a compromise here. Maybe we`ll start a liaison program and divide the faculties between us and then handle things like suggesting literature and helping staff with databases an so on. Whatever program we choose, I think I`ll be an interesting project.

Kill Information Literacy

Yes, Information literacy must die. I am, of course, referring to the term. We need to stop saying “Information literacy” thinking it actually means something. I`ve said “Information literacy” (or “Informasjonskompetanse” as we say in Norwegian) for years without really thinking about what that was supposed to mean. And now, I find it a habit very hard to dispose of. I find myself still talking about information literacy as if it was a single concept or as an “it” at all. There is no “it”. We should rather talk about what we want the students (or staff for that matter) to be able to do. Something tangible that we can actually teach. I propose that we move towards a more practical language and start with where we are. What do we think is important? What can we teach? How can we teach? How to assess the outcomes?

I`m in the midst of writing my master thesis about the effect of information literacy courses and I get very frustrated when reading the literature available on information literacy. There is nothing but frameworks and models, and good intentions. Nothing with a bottom-up approach. Most of the literature is useless to the main practitioner.  I propose that we start with the students needs and work our way up. So, kill the term “Information literacy” and talk about what really matters: skills.