Group Title: J Med Libr Assoc. 2009 Apr;97(2):145-8.
Title: Liaison librarian tiers: levels of service
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Title: Liaison librarian tiers: levels of service
Physical Description: Book
Creator: Ferree, Nita
Publisher: Journal of the Medical Library Association
Publication Date: 2009
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Bibliographic ID: IR00000333
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida Institutional Repository
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Brief communications: Oren and Watson

Liaison librarian tiers: levels of service

'Nita Ferree, MALIS, AHIP; Nancy Schaefer, MLIS,
AHIP; Linda C. Butson, MLS, MPH, AHIP;
Michele R. Tennant, PhD, MLIS, AHIP

See end of article for authors' affiliations.
DOI: 10.3163/1536-5050.97.2.015


The University of Florida's Health Science Center
Libraries (HSCL) serve more than 12,000 faculty,
students, staff, and administrators distributed among
6 colleges (dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy,
public health and health professions, and veterinary
medicine) as well as associated centers and institutes
(i.e., the Institute on Aging and the University of
Florida Shands Cancer Center). Clients from other
campus colleges such as liberal arts and sciences and
agricultural and life sciences are patrons as well.
The original li i- liaison program began at the
Gainesville campus in the spring of 1999 as an
outcome of strategic planning. Developed by a work
group appointed in January 1998, this program was
based on fifty-two potential liaison activities in seven
focal areas and aimed to increase communication with
clients and to customize services [1]. To increase their
effectiveness, liaison librarians would focus on the
subject matter of a limited number of disciplines, and
clients would have one contact person with whom
they could form a more personalized relationship [2].
Liaison iI .. .n. volunteered for, or were i 1. .1
to, specific colleges or departments based on their
knowledge, skills, and interests. Each served as a
"personal" librarian to local and distance education
clients with activities tied to the seven focal areas.
Individual librarians were assigned to the smaller
University of Florida Health Science Center (HSC)
C. .11, of T, 4 . Dentistry, Pharmacy, and Veter-
inary Medicine. The other librarians served depart-
ments in the two larger or more diverse colleges:
medicine and public health and health professions.
Ongoing program evaluations to address issues and
challenges were planned.
By 2001, 9 liaison librarian positions were funded
by the HSCL and 2 were financed by other HSC units
(the college of nursing and the Genetics I -1,- ; ) The
9 library-funded individuals served as liaison librar-
ians at least part-time. While the 2 unit-funded liaison
librarians performed the same ; -,-.... duties as the
other librarians, they provided additional services

J Med Libr Assoc 97(2) April 2009

Brief communications: Ferree et al.

Table 1
Liaison librarian levels of service

Level of service

Level one: services required of all liaisons

Level two: basic services

Level three: discretionary services

Level four: unit-based library liaison responsibility

Send library policy and other informational emails
Perform collection development and management
Pass along acquisition requests from users
Advocate for assigned unit and for the University of Florida Health Science Center Libraries
Participate in the liaison librarian forum, retreats, and related activities
Keep relevant statistics and write liaison librarian annual report
Develop subject knowledge in assigned liaison librarian areas)
Learn the politics and information needs of assigned units
Perform mediated searches
Perform email, telephone, and in-person subject-specific reference
Perform basic one-on-one consultations
Perform course-integrated instruction
Participate in program-targeted instruction and presentations
Participate in college or program curriculum committee
Help to set up subject alerts (SDIs)
Acts as library representative on academic unit committees
Create subject-specific professional conferences
Attend academic unit retreats
Travel to off-campus sites to teach
Coauthor articles or grants with academic faculty
Perform services to support grants
Search citations to help prepare tenure and promotion packets
Provide advice on where to publish
Assist with and/or place items on reserve
Provide in-depth, subject-specific, stand-alone classes
Monitor student emails after hours
Organize and/or moderate symposia, seminar series, and social events
Proctor exams
Perform as commencement marshall
Develop websites
Provide document delivery
Obtain copyright permissions
Retrieve materials from other areas of campus

requested by their units. In 2003/04, a formal
evaluation of the HSCL liaison librarian program
was undertaken with 2 surveys, one for patrons and
the other for liaison iI, .m.11 which provided
information on the use and perceptions of the
program's services and related issues. Further infor-
mation was solicited from liaison librarians in 2
follow-up emails. Of the total 323 faculty and students
who participated, 85.4% supported ,-t.;.v the
liaison bl.i.iiii program [3]. However, the liaison
librarian survey revealed some perceived barriers to
the effective . ;, ..i of 1; ,;-. ... .1. ii, it;, In partic-
ular, the librarians expressed a need for a more
structured approach to the program, more clearly
defined expectations for their performance, and a
formalized plan for training [4, 5].
Additional challenges arose to compound these
issues. In the following months, two librarians retired,
another took a year-long -. 1,1 if, 1. one left for a six-
month maternity leave sooner than planned and
eventually took a position elsewhere, and a fifth
librarian took an unexpected, extended medical leave.
As a result, in October of 2005, liaison librarians met to
discuss the evolution of the liaison librarian program,
reassignment of liaison Il .i i ... to departments and
colleges as staffing changes occurred, and issues that
were identified in the evaluations of the liaison
librarian program. This meeting resulted in the
codified, levels-of-service document shown in Table 1.
The document categorizes possible services into a
graduated list of those duties that liaison li:, :,c:.!,- are

expected to perform: basic services that can be offered
based on patrons' needs and willingness top" 6 -li. .
elective services based on client requirements and
librarians' time constraints, and an outline of possible
, t. ;t. -, that may be performed only by unit-funded
liaison librarians. It can serve a number of purposes
including aiding liaison librarians when they set priori-
ties, affording official sanction when deciding to accept
or decline a client request, reminding library adminis-
trators that they should consult with liaison librarians
before embracing new client initiatives, and assisting in
the planning process when services need to be suspend-
ed during staffing or budgeting fluctuations. During the
creation process, some liaison librarians expressed
concern about i .1 ,i0 in the services provided to
some academic units covered by library-funded liaison
librarians. All liaison librarians finally agreed that use
of the tiers document would address this issue.


The list of tasks was developed using three sources:
clients' expressed needs, the fifty-two potential
activities identified in the earlier evaluation [3], and
activities that liaison librarians were currently per-
forming. Inclusion in the list was also determined by
task characteristics: Which activities provided better
visibility for the library? How much time was
required in preparing for and performing the tasks?
Were some services being offered based simply on
librarians' perception of need? For example, stand-

J Med Libr Assoc 97(2) April 2009


Brief communications: Ferree et al.

alone bibliographic instruction classes were still being
taught although attendance had sharply declined.
Four levels of service have been identified and
codified. Table 1 illustrates types of liaison librarian
activities for each level of service. The activities
outlined in level one are informational and skill
building in nature and are expected of all liaison
librarians. This first level of services requires the
librarian to initiate and maintain communication with
clients regarding library services, news, and issues;
develop sufficient knowledge about the units in order
to advocate for specific resources; and become
familiar with the assigned subject areas.
Activities outlined in level two, basic services, are
provided based on clients' needs and willingness to
utilize a service or include a liaison librarian in an
academic activity. For example, a liaison librarian
cannot perform mediated searches, provide course-
integrated instruction, or serve on college or depart-
mental curriculum committees without client buy-in.
Thus, the majority of these services are not required of
3 ,i-,.., 1i1.,, ; u s unless ] i1 a -. request or agree to them.
Level three, 1" ;-, 1 ; q 4' services, consists of more
time-consuming and subject-specific services that are
provided at the discretion of the liaison librarian,
based on the librarian's experience and r ni .:'. time.
This level gives the librarian the most latitude for
making service decisions and the authority to accept
or decline the client's request.
Level four consists of those services that may be
performed only by unit-funded liaison i i.: 11: -
Because those librarians accommodate virtually all
their academic units' requests, the list of these services
is open to future additions. The activities are often
. .... .i 11 .. 1 librarian services, for example, planning
seminars or designing academic websites.
Since its adoption, the document has proved useful
in a number of instances. Several of the HSC colleges
with distance education programs have occasionally
asked a liaison librarian to travel to offsite locations to
teach. In the past, there has been tension between
liaison librarians and library administrators concern-
ing time allowed to travel and library compensation
for travel. During the creation of the tiers document,
I i.i _. negotiated with library administration to
resolve the situation. Today, if liaison librarians have
the time and library .1 .l,..,ii -. are met, they may
travel to distant sites to teach, provided that the
academic units are willing to compensate travel costs.
A second example concerns grading library-related
student assignments. While such grading is extremely
time consuming, the librarians were reluctant to give up
this opportunity as it highlights liaison visibility and
partnerships with HSC faculty in the educational mission
of the university [6, 7]. The existence of the tiers document
gives liaison librarians the freedom to ,- -.ti.l with
faculty and to explore various methods of grading. The
use of e-learning computer grading now saves one liaison
librarian more than forty hours each semester.
The liaison librarian can also use the tiers as a guide
for professional growth and a tangible measurement of

accomplishment. For example, meeting the require-
ments of level one strengthens the librarian's knowl-
edge and skills in the assigned subject areas. The tiers
document affords individuals the freedom to progress
at their chosen pace to gain confidence and expertise.
%',, 1' presented with exciting opportunities, such as
,--. 111 -i .i,-,i with clients for research and pu 1.-. C,
librarians can gauge whether or not they have the
required proficiency and time to participate. The tiers
document provides the sanction for these decisions.


The liaison I1i.i i., 1 tiers document has a number of
potential advantages. A clearly articulated list of
expected activities can help guide liaison librarians
in their work. It also protects library-funded liaison
librarians by providing authority to decline requests
for level-four services, such as obtaining copyright
permissions or providing document delivery for faculty.
Such a list could offer direction in prioritizing
duties during times of budgetary and l.-i,.,.
shortages. Using the levels as a "pricing guide"
would facilitate the pursuit of financial assistance
from i. 11, ., to fund additional unit-based liaison
librarian positions and aid in designing appropriate
job descriptions for those positions.
On the other hand, strict application of such a
document might prove detrimental. If an academic
unit could not afford to fund its own liaison i .... mi
yet required only level-four services, the unit's
request would have to be refused. This could cause
harm on several levels. Restricting services could limit
the librarian's opportunity for professional growth
and desire to respond to client needs and could
undermine the library's relationship with the unit and
ultimately dilute the overall positive impact of the
liaison program. While fairness seems to demand
equal services, the makeup and changing needs of
diverse academic units certainly require individual,
personalized, and nonidentical services [4].
In 2007/08, the University of Florida underwent
extreme budget cuts. Funding for three open HSCL
librarian positions was eliminated. Given what will
almost certainly be permanent staff reductions and the
continued -. -i-, of the client base, the viability of the
liaison librarian program in its present form is uncertain.
A new HSCL strategic plan is being formulated, and the
librarians are exploring ways in which the liaison
program can evolve to meet ongoing challenges and
opportunities. A future survey of the liaison librarians is
being planned to determine if they have used the liaison
librarian tiers document, particularly if they have found
it helpful in deciding whether to accept or deny services.


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2. Livingston J. The benefits of library liaison programs for
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3. Tennant MR, Cataldo TT, .. .l P, Jesano R.
Evaluation of a liaison librarian program: client and liaison
...: -p... : -.. J Med Libr Assoc. 2006 0. ,* :1., i; --9.
4. Macaluso SJ, Petruzzelli BW. The library liaison toolkit:
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'Nita Ferree, MALIS, AHIP (c .... :...l author), Assistant University Librarian; Nancy
Schaefer, MLIS, AHIP, 1'.'. _..: .- ..., Assistant
University Librarian; Linda C. Butson, MLS, MPH,
AHIP,, Assistant Director for Access
and Outreach Services; Health Science Center Libraries,
University of Fi..., 1 < Gainesville, FL 32610; Michele R.
Tennant, PhD, MLIS, AHIP, i. iti.... i) r. tIi. In.Bioin-
formatics Librarian, Health Science Center Libraries
and University of Florida Genetics Institute, University
of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610

Received October _' accepted December 2008

J Med Libr Assoc 97(2) April 2009

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