Library School Curricula in the US Should Address Liaison Responsibilities for Students Interested in Academic Librarianship

Nazi Torabi

Abstract


A Review of:
Attebury, R. I., & Finnell, J. (2009). What do LIS students in the United States know about liaison duties? New Library World, 110(7), 325-340.

Objectives – The two main objectives of this study were to determine the level of prevalence of liaison work in academic library job advertisements and to investigate whether the current library & information science (LIS) students are aware of liaison duties.

Design – The mixed methods used in this study are job postings analysis and online survey.

Setting – The research settings were the following:
(1) Online academic job advertisements published between November 15, 2007 and January 15, 2008 and collected from Chronicle of Higher Education’s Web site and lisjobs.com;
(2) Fifty-three electronic mail lists of ALA-accredited library schools in the US.

Subjects – The subjects of the study were 313 online academic job advertisements and 516 LIS students.

Methods – The sample size and methodology for the first part of this study were based on four previously published studies. Duplicated job postings were removed and the remaining were organized into 15 categories of access/public services, reference, instruction, bibliographer/subject specialist, combination (instruction and reference), archives/special collections, special libraries, director/dean, department head or coordinator, interlibrary loan (ILL), systems/web development, cataloguing, outreach, and acquisitions/collection-development. Only those job ads containing the term “liaison” were included in the analysis.

For the second part of the study, the authors conducted an online survey. They attempted to investigate the knowledge of LIS students on liaison librarianship, to measure the level of exposure to liaison responsibilities in their course work, and to gauge the confidence of the individual in their ability to become successful liaison librarians. The survey was distributed among 53 LIS school electronic mail lists, resulting in 516 respondents.

Main Results – The job ad analysis revealed that 29% of job postings were directly related to liaison duties. The liaison component of the positions related to access/public services, instruction, bibliographer/subject specialist, special, and outreach were the highest (50% or more). The liaison activities described in the job ads related to reference, a combination of reference and instruction, ILL, department head/coordinator, and system/Web development were also high (29% to 50%). The positions categorized as librarian, archives, director/dean, cataloguing, and collection development/acquisitions had less liaison responsibilities (<29%) (p. 331).

According to the survey results, LIS students are negatively affected by limited training for liaison work. Only 16.8% of students were introduced to liaison responsibilities through a required class and 16.5% heard about it in an elective class. When these results were limited to those who were interested in academic librarianship, the numbers improved somewhat to 20.8% and 23.9% for each group, respectively (p. 332).

The survey compared the degree in which those students who showed interest for academic librarianship, with or without exposure to liaison training, were aware of some fundamental aspects of liaison work. The first group provided better responses on a different range of liaison activities, appropriate communication methods, and confidence level. Among them only 1.3% responded that they had never considered liaison activity. On the other hand, more people in the second group (enthusiasm for academic librarianship with no exposure to liaison activity) provided the same responses (16.2%) (p. 332).

Similar results were obtained when they asked about communication methods that are appropriate for liaison librarianship. Self-confidence in the respondent’s ability to become a successful liaison librarian was also determined. Overall, the self-assessment indicated that 42.5 % of LIS students could see themselves in the position of a successful liaison librarian. The authors argued that this technique was not the best method to assess the level of self-confidence without taking into account personality characteristics and previous library work experiences.

Conclusion – The authors concluded that the liaison component of academic library positions is noticeable. The survey results showed that the liaison training has a considerable positive impact on students’ knowledge and confidence level (pp. 333-334).The library schools in the US need to undertake curriculum redesign to address different components of liaison responsibilities to LIS students interested in academic librarianship. The study did not present a specific liaison training model but some broad recommendations were provided.

Keywords


Job analysis; Education; Liaison; Curriculum development; Academic libraries

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