Part of the restructuring of librarian responsibilities that’s happened around here in the last two years involves liaison work and collection development. Previously, our (now retired) director did all of the collection development work and I did all of the liaising. These days, both of those responsibilities are distributed into a more formal liaison program with boundaries that are still a bit fuzzy. I coordinate the liaison program but not collection development although collection development is a responsibility of liaisons.
I am liaison to two of the most difficult programs on campus in terms of library-faculty relations, Culinary Management and Business and Hospitality. I don’t know how things run for other places, but here it’s like pulling teeth to get any feedback from the faculty on collection development. Asking for lists generally produces less than 20 recommendations per year. Simply opening the door and saying “let me know how I can help” has a predictable result. And I find that simply opening the floor to feedback generally doesn’t produce anything actionable. So what’s a liaison to do?
I had an idea to sort of prime the opinion pump. Rather than asking for a full blast of all the opinions ever on the library’s collection development, I would be like a magician directing the faculty’s attention where I wanted it to go. First I asked myself what I wanted to know and what action I was hoping the resulting data would indicate. Then I designed a short survey that looks something like this:
The full survey contains 5 books purchased for that department in the last few months and asks for directed feedback on those books. It also contains three short questions at the bottom, asking faculty how often they use library resources, how often they recommend students to the library, and if there is anything they would like us to do differently in purchasing resources. It’s meant to be deployed in person, on paper, at the beginning of a department meeting, to be collected at the end. Basically, I’m hoping to entice direction from the faculty without asking them to approve book lists.
By carefully selecting the books to cover a range of topics and interest levels, I hope to have more information on what kinds of books the faculty would like us to purchase. Asking about library usage will hopefully provide jumping off points for future conversations. And, of course, providing room for open response will allow for any opinions that might be lurking under the surface. Deploying in person, on paper, during a set time period will hopefully mean that the surveys will be filled out. And, fingers crossed, we will have data that we can use, however minimally, for this spring’s collection development binge.
I can’t promise that the books will get checked out, but it’s a start.