Have Laptop, Will Travel: Liaison Librarians Embedded Throughout Campus

Have Laptop, Will Travel: Liaison Librarians Embedded Throughout Campus
Jenny James Lee
May 1, 2013

During the past several academic terms, Liaison Librarians have stepped outside of the library to bring coaching and expertise to students and faculty members closer to the labs, classrooms and departmental spaces where they work. These added work places extend the reach of the Libraries by embedding its resources and staff knowledge within academic life on campus. This approach focuses on learners and researchers and strengthens the relationship between liaison librarians and faculty as they partner to teach students.

“With an increasing amount of our resources available online, individuals less frequently must come to the physical library to access information. They come to libraries for print materials and environments for self-directed learning but also increasingly for assistance in finding and utilizing information. These changing conditions, as well as a scarcity of seating in library spaces, have challenged us to explore ways to bring the Libraries to the campus community. The approach of embedding Liaison Librarians around campus, in environments where our community already works, is one way we aim to partner with departments to bring information guidance and expertise directly to students,” dean of libraries Danuta A. Nitecki notes.

Liaisons for math, science, engineering, health sciences, and media arts & design are experimenting with different strategies for embedding their expertise into departments where they already have strong relationships and involvement.

Liaison librarian for science and math, Peggy Dominy, was one of the first to adopt this model, providing coaching to biology and environmental science graduate and undergraduate students near their lounge in the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building. “Many of my students spend a lot of their time in the lab, so I thought I would experiment with bringing library expertise to them, closer to where they spend the majority of their time. I brought my computer and let a small group of students know when I would be available. Word has spread and students seem to appreciate the convenience of having faculty, labs and library experts in one location,” Dominy said.

For health sciences librarians, this is not a new concept. “Health sciences librarians have, for many years, attended medical school departmental grand rounds, which are lectures or case conferences attended by residents, faculty, staff and students working in a program,” associate director of health science partnerships Linda M. G. Katz explained. “Further, health sciences librarians routinely participate in weekly and monthly departmental meetings of the programs they support. These are all wonderfully collaborative experiences for all, where faculty, residents, students, and staff from many areas interact and offer feedback.”

Jay Bhatt, liaison librarian for engineering, sometimes just steps out of his office to take a quick walk around Bossone, a building with predominately engineering programs, to get a little extra face time with faculty and students. During these walks he often has conversations about journal subscriptions, the new Faculty Portfolios program and other library initiatives, as well as new courses or research projects underway in the College.

“One of the best features of this strategy is that it is organic in nature. It evolves based on what works best for faculty, students and librarians, which could be drastically different for each department and program. We seek to be present to offer guidance to students where they study, to consult with faculty where they design courses and to partner with researchers to advance scholarship where they seek and organize their data. This process also extends to cyberspaces.  Through these explorations and collaborations with experts around campus the Libraries actively work to improve the Drexel’s student academic experience and to help build its nexus for innovative research,” Nitecki said.