Role of the Library Liaison

Collection development is the full range of activities involved with building, servicing, and maintaining relevant library collections. To be most effective, a collection development program must be comprehensive and tailored to the needs of the institution served by the library. A comprehensive collection development program begins with collection development policies, which establish the guidelines to be applied in making decisions about the collection. These policies will begin with general guidelines that apply to the collection as a whole and progress to more specific guidelines that apply to the disciplines or specialties covered by the collection. They will address such factors as the purpose and scope of the collection. They will address the types of materials to be collected. The policies will identify the users to be served by the collections as well as the level of support that will be provided. The collection development policies establish the foundation for, not only what will be added to the collections, but also what will be weeded from them.

In most academic libraries, collection development is a shared responsibility. The library faculty work with the classroom faculty to build collections that meet the needs of the students and faculty of the institution. Librarians are required to have a second graduate degree and the collections for which they are assigned responsibility are usually related to the discipline of that degree. While classroom faculty are encouraged to make recommendations for purchases, the library faculty take the lead in managing the collections, maintaining overall knowledge of the collection, and making decisions about the growth and development of the collection. It is the responsibility of the library faculty to make sure that the collection grows in accordance with established collection development policies. They also take the lead in ensuring balance in the collection.

Under this model, librarians are assigned as liaisons to one or more academic department(s). The departments in turn designate one from their faculty ranks to serve as the departmental representative (rep). The liaison is expected to establish a working relationship with the departmental rep and the other faculty in the department(s) to which he/she is assigned. The liaison is expected to become familiar with the needs of the department(s) and to use that knowledge in making decisions about the collection. He/she is also expected to be familiar with the libraries' collections that are relevant to his/her department(s) and to use that information in his/her dealings with the faculty.

The library liaison normally receives purchase requests from the faculty in the assigned departments. He/she brings specific resources to the attention of the classroom faculty and solicits feedback on them. He/she works with departments as they prepare for accreditation reviews and other program evaluations. He/she might provide discipline specific research assistance to faculty and graduate students in the subject of his/her specialty. He/she might provide individual and group instruction in the use and interpretation of the resources of the discipline. He/she is also responsible for making decisions about what should be withdrawn from the collection, when lost items should be replaced, and when preservation care is needed. The liaison serves as a link between the library and the department and may be invited to attend departmental meetings. The liaison keeps the department informed of library news and other developments. The library liaison is the department's first point of contact on library matters. He/she will refer matters to a library department head and/or the dean as appropriate.

S. Ford
March 19, 2002