Daily Archives: July 21, 2008

What Do Faculty Want from Librarians?

It’s official: I am now the librarian for psychology at the University of Connecticut, in addition to my responsibilities of working with folks in communication sciences. I’ve recently met with the chair of the department, who wanted to know what I “might be able to do to help psychology.” I know generally what he’s asking, so I have made copies of emails to the communication department touting my services, last year’s presentation to communication graduate students, and printouts of UConn’s web pages for psychology (databases recent books & faculty publications).

But the question got me thinking: what do faculty and academic deans want from academic librarians? I spend a lot of time thinking about what undergraduate and graduate students want – and can handle – from the library, but this question shifted my focus to faculty and department chairs.

I turned to my trusty Google Custom Search Engine, which searches over 30 faculty blogs and searched the word “librarian.” I found very few results; a blog commenter who said his parents were both librarians, and a couple of entries from Janet D. Stemwedel over at Adventures in Ethics and Science … because she’s linking to my e-buddy John Dupuis’ blog Confessions of a Science Librarian. A search on the word “library” returned more results, but they still weren’t relevant. PhDinHistory blogger Sterling Fluharty wrote an intriguing post about a year ago called Why History PhD Students Should Learn to Think Like Reference Librarians; although this is interesting, it’s more about making students independent of librarians rather than talking about what services they’d like to see from librarians. There was one post that, while it doesn’t answer the question, does nicely promote the library to new undergraduates: “[C]ollege libraries normally have professional librarians. These are people who are experts at finding information for you. Ask them if you need something. They can often find what you want even if that particular library doesn’t stock it.” Yay! Thanks to Astroprof for that nice shout out at “How to be an effective college student.”

Still, there’s very little from the horse’s mouth (as it were) about what faculty want from librarians. I think what they want includes:

  • Effective, efficient, and non-intrusive instruction for their students (graduate and undergraduate) on how to make good use of library resources. They don’t want students to use Google, but they also don’t want to give us much classroom time.
  • Easy access to identifying and getting full-text of relevant, important articles in their field. Perhaps also how to find out who’s cited them (or their colleagues, if they are on a tenure or promotion committee) – but they don’t want this finding to take too much time.
  • The ability to manage citations efficiently and effectively, and from multiple locations, for their own articles and for those they are co-authoring. But they don’t want to spend too much time on this.

Once we’ve identified these tasks, how can we best a) tell faculty that these are our simple goals and b) teach them these tasks in a manner they will understand? Lisa Hinchliffe blogs in The Librarians are Everywhere: “the best opportunities to connect with faculty come from seeing them at meetings, events, presentations” where informal conversations can take place. I’ve written about holding academic office hours, which is good for informally meeting both students and faculty.

But back to my chair’s question: what can the librarian do to help the department? I’m stumped for a “sound bite” sized answer. I guess it really boils down to telling them what I’ve said in this post, using language that faculty understand (which is pretty much the same as library language that undergraduates understand…), and then being where they are, talking to them informally, sending out short emails which point them to this or that nifty, time-saving resource.

Librarian blog readers, what can you do to help your department?