Academic Law Librarianship
Elizabeth Manriquez; Michelle J. Penn; Thomas “TJ” Striepe; and Kris Turner
Faculty services are one of the most important job responsibilities of Law Librarians. Often, the law librarians working in faculty services are the most visible to patrons. These services encompass a wide variety of topics, including research, instruction, scholarly impact, and outreach. This chapter will explore different ways for law libraries to structure faculty services, discuss the different types of services that Law Librarians provide to faculty, and examine how law librarians have implemented these services.
- Faculty Services can be structured in many ways and provides a wide range of services to law faculty.
- Scholarly communications is a rapidly growing area of academic law librarianship.
- Outreach for effective Faculty Services involves many different approaches, and strong relationships can be mutually beneficial.
Structure of Faculty Services
Law libraries have many different approaches to faculty services. These approaches range from library liaison programs, individual faculty service librarians, using a technology platform for requests, to hybrid approaches that combine aspects from each of these approaches. Each approach to faculty services has different benefits and downsides, though libraries are increasingly moving towards adopting technology platforms and hybrid approaches.
Library Liaison Programs
Many librarians have a law library “liaison” program. In this program, faculty members are assigned an individual reference librarian. The liaison reference librarian serves as the main library point of contact for the faculty member. The benefit of this approach is that all of the reference librarians can gain experience with faculty research and develop relationships with faculty members. Likewise, faculty members can contact ‘their’ librarian about any matters relating to the library; there is no confusion about who is the ‘right’ person to contact. Additionally, librarians are able to become very familiar with specific faculty research projects. If reference librarians are paired with faculty members in areas of their expertise or interest, reference librarians can offer specialized research assistance. If reference librarians are paired with faculty members in research areas that they are unfamiliar with, this allows librarians to expand their areas of expertise.
A major downside to liaison programs arises when there is high librarian turnover. A faculty member might feel that they are shuffled from one librarian to another and have trouble keeping track of who is their library contact. This approach may also result in inequitable work distribution for librarians as some faculty members may keep their liaison librarian much busier than others. Further inequitable work distribution can also occur if one faculty member finds that they prefer the work of a reference librarian who is not their liaison and bypasses their official liaison relationship.
Faculty Services Librarian
Other libraries have a dedicated faculty services librarian. This librarian serves as the main library point of contact for faculty. This approach has the main benefit of having one point of contact for the library. As with the liaison librarian, as long as the faculty services librarian has done sufficient outreach, it is likely that most faculty members know who they can contact about library services. The faculty services librarian may conduct the bulk of the faculty research, and/or they may be responsible for delegating faculty research to the rest of the library staff or library research assistants. Thus, this approach allows other members of the reference staff to gain experience with faculty research and develop relationships with faculty. The faculty services librarian may delegate research based on librarian interest or expertise and/or need. This variation of the dedicated faculty services librarian has the advantage of having the full support and resources of the reference staff available for faculty research support.
One downside to a single faculty services librarian occurs if all of the research and faculty interactions with the library occur through the faculty services librarian. If this librarian leaves, the reference staff may be left without a deep institutional knowledge of faculty research.
In lieu of having a single faculty services librarian, technology can also fill the role of having a central contact for the library. This can be as simple as having a reference email for faculty to contact and/or a webpage for faculty to submit requests. LibAnswers and other platforms can provide centralized locations for faculty requests to be located. This centralization allows multiple librarians to coordinate and communicate about a request easily.
Of course, these technology platforms can also work with other aforementioned approaches, e.g., a faculty services librarian can delegate and coordinate faculty requests through LibAnswers or a similar platform, and liaison librarians can respond to their liaisons and communicate about requests through such a platform. Other combination approaches may include both a liaison program and a faculty services librarian, where the faculty librarians coordinate library support on issues outside of the traditional liaison program (e.g., creating a faculty newsletter, etc.), or opt-in variations such as a liaison program that faculty members may choose to participate in.
Research Assistance, Instruction, & Current Awareness
Law librarians working in an academic law library conduct a variety of projects for faculty. These projects can take a few minutes to a few months. The previous section discussed how these projects are facilitated between liaison programs, a dedicated faculty service librarian, or research assistants, using a variety of technological interfaces and communication methods. This section will discuss typical projects that an academic Law Librarian receives from faculty, whether it is for their research, their instruction, or keeping them current in their field of study.
Service to Faculty
The types of services from faculty will vary widely across law schools. This variance will depend on a number of factors, including the number of law librarians, availability of law library research assistants, the law library’s budget, the mission of the law school, and the culture of typical law library services provided to faculty. Law librarians need to undertake faculty services in accordance with their law library’s mission and policies.
Research Support for Faculty
Research for faculty members at an academic library comprises the largest amount of effort for faculty services. The type, format, and frequency will vary widely for each faculty member. Some faculty members rely solely on the law library, some rely on their own research assistants, but most faculty members tend to have a blend of using both their own research assistants and the law library. This sub-section will describe projects that are frequently received by law librarians.
Literature reviews for faculty members can be done for a variety of reasons. Initially, they will be conducted to ensure that the faculty member’s research topic has not been written about previously. Once it has been determined that the research is a novel concept, then law librarians will use a literature review to inform the faculty member about what has been written on his or her legal topic. A law librarian’s goal is to provide a list and summary of articles that discuss the topic but do not directly contemplate the faculty member’s thesis.
Research on a Specific Topic or Issue
Law librarians will receive an assortment of requests on specific legal issues or topics. Some examples of these types of requests include: (1) Find different examples of corporations making international law; (2) Create a list of Supreme Court cases which hold that ambiguous terms in statutes should be interpreted to promote or comport with public policy; or (3) Determine whether any federal cases in which a plaintiff has been deemed a public figure, have succeeded in showing actual malice in a defamation case. It is important that law librarians discuss these types of projects at length with the faculty member because he or she can provide some helpful insight and background so the research can be conducted more efficiently.
From time to time faculty members require a legislative history. Legislative history is defined as “[t]he legislative proceedings leading to the enactment of a statute, including hearings, committee reports, and floor debates.”1 Legislative history also needs to review the different versions of the enrolled bill, related bills, amendments to the enacted statute, and committee prints.
When doing a legislative history project, the researcher is trying to obtain the meaning of a statute by reviewing the testimony and comments at hearings, the information included in the house and senate reports, the speeches during the floor debates, and the amendments to the original bill or statute. This can be a labor-intensive process, so law librarians will want to make sure they utilize resources that have already compiled these documents. These can be found in legal databases such as Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg Law, HeinOnline, and ProQuest Legislative Insight.
Cite-checks for faculty arise after they have a draft of their article and help faculty members get correct footnotes. At this point, they want the law library to either (1) check that a footnote stands for the proposition being asserted by the author in the article; or (2) locate a source for a proposition. Typically, law librarians will utilize law library research assistants or the faculty member’s research assistant(s) to accomplish this task and supervise them through the process.
The Law Librarian can assign students to check that the sources cited in the footnotes are correctly being quoted or paraphrased. The only issues that arise in this type of project are when a student cannot locate a particular resource, or the student encounters an unusual citation. Law librarians will need to have knowledge of the resources available at their law library as well as their parent institution, if applicable. Law librarians should also be familiar with their institution’s interlibrary loan process in the event a resource is not available through their law library or university.
Law librarians also locate resources for a footnote to a proposition or fact made by the faculty member in his or her article. This, too can sometimes be done in connection with research assistants depending on the complexity of the resource or the fact they are trying to locate. Law librarians may need to consult law review articles, articles from other disciplines, books, newspapers, census data, and other resources to find a source for the fact that is being asserted.
Some law libraries provide bluebooking services for faculty members, while other law libraries have elected not to provide this service. At my institution, faculty have found it very beneficial for the law library research assistants to help with bluebooking their articles. The research assistants can consult with each other as well as the law librarians on difficult citations. These bluebooking projects do take a substantial amount of time to complete, so law librarians need to determine if they have enough research assistants available to work on these projects prior to committing.
Other Research Services
This section is not meant to be an exhaustive list of research services provided by academic law libraries. There are many other services that law libraries provide to faculty, such as empirical support, assistance with submitting articles to law journals, SSRN, and institutional repositories, editing, technology assistance, database training, and many more. One of the best parts of being an academic law librarian is the variety and novelty of requests that law libraries receive. Faculty demand for these services is increasing each year and will continue to do so. There is another service that law librarians provide to faculty that also accounts for a substantial amount of a law librarian’s time, instructional services.
Instructional Support for Faculty
While instructional support does not take as much time as research support, this service from law librarians in conjunction with the law school IT department is critical. There are several ways that law librarians provide support for faculty instruction:
Frequently, faculty members have law librarians come in for one to two classes to provide a guest lecture on a specific legal topic. Law librarians teach lectures on a range of legal topics such as tax law, environmental law, securities law, health law, and others, so students can obtain a strategy to research distinct fields of law. Faculty have also benefited from having law librarians come into their courses that require papers. Law librarians are able to introduce students to different resources available to them outside of the normal legal databases such as Westlaw and Lexis. This results in a better work product from students and saves faculty members’ time.
Embedded librarianship can take a variety of forms to assist faculty and students. One type of embedded librarianship is to have law librarians physically embed within a class. This may be structured so that they attend each class, or they could visit a class on a weekly or monthly basis. This type of arrangement usually takes place in legal clinics where law students and faculty members use the law librarians to assist them with researching legal issues they are encountering with their clients.
Other forms of embedded librarianship include holding regular office hours for students in specific classes to assist them in researching their papers or legal issues they are contending with in a course, legal clinic, or externship. Law librarians can also embed on a class page in a course management system such as Westlaw’s TWEN, D2L, Blackboard, or Canvas. In this situation, law librarians can post links to useful resources, moderate a discussion board on legal research on the course’s topic, conduct chat sessions, and create and post online instructional videos.
Course Research Guides
Another useful instructional service that law libraries provide is creating research guides through libguides or web pages for specific courses. These research guides will point students to the major primary law sources, secondary sources, websites, current awareness resources, and discuss research strategies. You can review some examples of these guides here: Banking Regulation – https://libguides.law.uga.edu/banking and Children and International Law – https://libguides.law.uga.edu/childreninternational.
Law libraries assist faculty with creating electronic reserves on their course management systems and building physical course reserves for treatises, casebooks, and study-aid materials. Law librarians will locate pdfs of articles to place in a faculty member’s course management system and place physical copies of books on reserve.
CONCEPT IN ACTION: MANAGING EXPECTATIONS
A faculty member wanted to keep the costs of textbooks down for her students. She contacted Bryan and asked him to scan in four chapters of a ten-chapter book and put the pdfs on her course management system. Bryan knew that this probably does not qualify as a fair use exception under copyright because the amount of the book that was to be scanned was too much. After reviewing his university’s policy on fair use, Bryan explained to the faculty member that some of the material in the book could be placed on course reserve, but it needed to comply with the fair use policies of the university. The faculty member put a smaller portion of the book on reserve, and Bryan assisted her in locating other resources for readings that complied with the fair use exception.
With more and more law school courses going online, technology assistance for instruction is rapidly increasing. Law librarians need to be aware of different instructional technologies and also work in conjunction with the IT department to ensure that faculty members are getting the level of support they need. Law librarians can assist faculty members with different types of interactive polling software, in-class assessment, understanding various learning management systems, and introducing faculty members to other technologies that will enhance both in-person and online classes. They can work with IT to develop tutorials on using these technologies, provide guides on how to edit videos, provide resources to create asynchronous and synchronous courses effectively, and generally provide answers to questions about technology in the real or virtual classroom.
The last service this section will address is current awareness. Current awareness has become a much less labor-intensive process with the advent of digital publications and alerts. Very few resources are physically routed to faculty members at this point, and there are numerous services to assist law librarians in curating a faculty member’s current awareness materials.
Faculty members need to be aware of new articles and changes to the law that they focus on. Faculty members already have blogs, newsletters, and listservs that do a good job of keeping them informed about new things going on in their area of law. However, law librarians can also recommend other services that can keep faculty informed on new things happening in their field. Some of the more common resources law librarians use to provide current awareness include Law360, alerts in Westlaw and Lexis, Bloomberg Law Reports, SmartCILP, which tracks new law review articles based upon topics, CCH Newsletters, and E-journals in SSRN. Law librarians can also let faculty members know about websites and other publications that track the law in certain topics. Some law librarians have created individualized portals for faculty members that have links to all of the resources and current awareness tools a faculty member commonly uses.
Law librarians should also create current awareness tools that focus on legal education generally. The Chronicle of Higher Education, Journal of Legal Education, and the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) are all great resources to see trends and new concepts in law school admissions, teaching and learning, communication, and governance.
Law librarians need to have the skills, knowledge, and expertise to provide all three types of these services. Faculty services are one of the most critical and public-facing aspects of academic law librarianship, and law librarians need to ensure they are being handled efficiently and accurately. These services described in this section will continuously change and adapt, so law librarians need to look for new ways to provide these services or deliver novel services that will assist faculty research, instruction, and current awareness.
Repositories, Citation Counts & Promoting Faculty Scholarship
Creation and Maintenance of Institutional Repositories
An emerging area in Faculty Services, digital repositories are an important tool for promoting faculty scholarship, institutional heritage collections, and legal research. Digital repositories require the Faculty Services Librarian, often referred to as the Scholarly Communications Librarian in this context, to foster partnerships between major stakeholders across campus and cultivate an array of librarian skills. These efforts lead to greater visibility of faculty publications, library resources, and primary source materials. This section will introduce the basic types of repositories, their utility, and the skills needed to maintain them.
There are two main types of institutional repositories (IRs), vendor-hosted and open-source. Most law schools contract with vendors, such as Bepress Digital Commons, to host their IRs. Those using open-source IRs, such as Omeka or DSpace, either have access through their affiliate university or host their IR within the law library. The main difference between these approaches is the amount of control the Scholarly Communications Librarian has over the IR. When weighing the pros and cons of vendor-hosted and open-source, the library must evaluate the resources available to them, such as staff time, staff skill sets, and budgets. Vendor- and university-hosted IRs offer less control over how the IR looks and functions but require less librarian time and fewer programming skills. In contrast, IRs hosted in the law school using open source software afford the Scholarly Communications Librarian vast control over the appearance and functionality of the repository, but are limited by the skills and time of the Scholarly Communications Librarian and other law school stakeholders, such as Metadata Librarians and the Information Technology staff. Cost is also a serious consideration when a law library deliberates whether to contract with a vendor or host their own IR.
After a library has decided what type of IR they would like to create, they then need to decide what type of collections they would like to host within the IR. Common collections include faculty scholarship, alumni photos, and conference proceedings. Some libraries include collections unique to their law school, such as a speaker series, historical newsletters, or photos from law school events. Other libraries partner with institutions in their area and host collections of court briefs, unique legal collections, or primary law documents. Relationships with faculty and community members are vitally important in creating and maintaining your IR collections.
While relationships with faculty will be more thoroughly examined later in this chapter, it is important to note the Scholarly Communications Librarian working within IRs must possess interpersonal skills, the ability to strategically plan, and an attention to detail. The Scholarly Communications Librarian must be able to conceive a possible collection, engage with the owner of the collection, manage the workflow for adding the collection to the IR, and maintain the collection for currency. Each Scholarly Communications Librarian will create their own workflow unique to their IR and academic institution. Still, a successful IR will preserve past scholarship and legal knowledge while also showcasing recent faculty publications. Increasing the discoverability of faculty scholarship is an essential function of the Scholarly Communications Librarian. IRs are an important tool for this task.
Another means for increasing the discoverability of faculty scholarship are faculty profiles within various citation metric tools. Citation metric tools seek to measure scholarly impact through the examination of bibliometrics, such as citation analysis. Citation analysis counts the number of times a work is cited in scholarly literature. Scholarly impact can also be measured using altmetrics, which instead count more modern forms of communication, such as social media mentions or IR downloads. Bibliometrics and altmetrics are complementary ways to measure scholarly impact, and both can benefit faculty promoting their work.
Successful promotion of scholarship requires the faculty and the Scholarly Communications Librarian to consider multiple ways to measure impact and various platforms that host citation metric tools. Greater participation across platforms will increase the faculty’s online presence and should be encouraged. The most common citation metric tool in legal literature is HeinOnline’s Author Profile Page. Completing a faculty member’s Author Profile Page allows for the aggregation of their works across the platform. They can then view various statistics on their publications, such as the number of times the article was cited by articles in the last 5 years, 10 years, or total.
Other examples of platforms with citation metric tools and author profile pages include Google Scholar, the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), and ResearchGate. In addition to these platforms, different methods for measuring citations include the software program Harzing’s Publish or Perish, the Leiter Method (available on Westlaw), and Scopus. Although not a method for citation, the Open Research and Contributor ID (ORCID) is a persistent digital identifier that allows an author to link all their scholarship across platforms to one identity. It works in tandem with many of the citation metric tools discussed above and has become increasingly important if publishing in scientific journals.
The Scholarly Communications Librarian must be familiar with these platforms and stay aware of current trends in citation metric tools. Faculty members have varying levels of comfort with online platforms and citation tools; the Scholarly Communications Librarian can greatly assist by working with the faculty in completing and curating their profiles. These meetings can also be the perfect opportunity for the Scholarly Communications Librarian to learn more about the faculty’s research interests, their current projects, or ideas for possible collections for the IR.
Other Methods for Promotion of Faculty Scholarship
It is important for Scholarly Communications Librarians to have familiarity with the research interests of their faculty and what projects they have recently completed. They can use this knowledge to increase the visibility and discoverability of faculty scholarship and to better advocate for technologies that would assist the faculty. By combining these two areas of knowledge, the Scholarly Communications Librarian is poised to promote faculty scholarship on campus, in the law school, and on the internet.
Many law schools are part of a larger university system, and therefore a greater general library system. Creating working relationships with the librarians in the general library systems can be an excellent way to learn of interdisciplinary events on campus or best practices for new technologies in scholarly publishing. Partnerships with the general library system can also be perfect opportunities for hosting campus campus-wide events, creating greater awareness of open access principles and data literacy.
CONCEPT IN ACTION: STRATEGIES TO USE IN BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS
Prof. Johnson is a well-known faculty member currently serving on a hiring committee at your university and is very interested in scholarly visibility and impact. You were hired six months ago and only know Prof. Johnson by reputation. With the skills you’ve developed as a law librarian, you quickly create a report that highlights the scholarly impact of potential faculty hires for the law school across a series of databases and review the websites that heavily influence rankings. After the first meeting, you suggest meeting on a yearly basis to check on Prof. Johnson’s scholarship and scholarly impact to ensure his impact is accurately measured, ensuring a strong and ongoing relationship with an important faculty member at your school.
Within the law school, there are even greater opportunities for promoting faculty scholarship. Using tools such as social media, podcasts, blogs, and newsletters, the Scholarly Communications Librarian can raise awareness within their law school community of the important work being done by their colleagues. Often, there are departments within the law school, such as External Affairs or Alumni Relations, which the Scholarly Communications Librarian can partner with to further promote faculty scholarship. These departments often have marketing skills and a network of people invested in law school happenings events. These departments can be key partners in hosting events or utilizing social media for faculty promotion.
In addition to community partnerships, there are effective methods for increasing the discoverability of faculty scholarship on the internet. These methods are based in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) principles. SEO can increase usage, readership, and citations for articles. For instance, preserve articles in an open access repository whenever possible. Include abstracts and keywords in your metadata. Be consistent in metadata as much as possible. Figures and tables should include machine machine-readable text. By employing these practices, the Scholarly Communications Librarian can assist the faculty in the preservation and promotion of their scholarship.
Building Relationships with Faculty
Effective faculty services do not spring up fully formed. Instead, law librarians must take time to foster lasting and trusting relationships that are mutually beneficial to both the librarian and faculty member. While it helps that librarians are often one of the most trusted professions by the general public, faculty services librarians must find ways to build upon this fundamental trust to create a relationship that enhances the work of the librarian, the faculty, and the law school itself. When carefully built, the relationships between librarians and faculty members are engines that drive ground-breaking research, scholarly visibility, and effective instruction and outreach.
Skills to Cultivate & Emphasize to Build Faculty Relationships
Many Faculty Services Librarians may at first be intimidated or unsure about how to begin the process of building faculty relationships. This is understandable. Many law school faculty members are, by default, highly educated, well-respected and sometimes a nationally-known figure. Nevertheless, the benefits of a well-built faculty relationship are numerous. As you begin to build faculty relationships, the skills discussed below will help you reaffirm the important role of the law library in the faculty’s typical work and highlight other services you provide.
Be professionally proactive
An excellent way to instill in faculty the important role that you provide as a Faculty Services Librarian is to connect with them before they know they need you. If you are a new hire yourself, you can reach out to your assigned faculty and review the services and resources that you offer. A friendly, professional, and brief email may be considered welcome outreach as you begin building your relationship. At worst, the faculty may ignore the communication, leaving you in the same place as if you hadn’t reached out. This simple gesture reminds and informs faculty about your friendly offers of assistance and is a quick and effective way to connect more fully with your faculty.
Once you are more established at your law library, you will still want to reach out to new hires. You can ask your Human Resources office if they are willing to share start dates for new faculty or simply monitor administrative communication for when faculty members start at your school. We are all familiar with the intimidating and stressful experience of starting a new job, and a collegial and prompt welcome from a librarian is an excellent way to both instill trust in you as the Faculty Services Librarian and to begin to highlight the many services you can provide to the new hire. By making a connection with new faculty and not waiting for them to “discover” you, you are creating a positive first impression of your library. By proactively and professionally contacting new faculty, you have laid the groundwork for a lasting and beneficial relationship.
Create Opportunities for Interaction & Support
Law Librarians, especially Faculty Services Librarians, can no longer afford to sit in the library and let faculty come to them. Instead, similar to Student Services Librarians, Faculty Services Librarians should look for opportunities to interact with faculty on their terms and be quick to point out the numerous ways that law libraries can support the faculty work. Many of the aspects of a Faculty Services Librarian’s position that were discussed earlier in this chapter, ranging from scholarly visibility to current awareness to guest lectures, may not be considered a traditional library role by many faculty. It will be your role to advocate for the services you provide. To do that, you must always be aware of opportunities to do so.
Faculty are always busy. When they aren’t teaching, they are writing or researching a complicated topic. In addition, many faculty also take on important roles in their communities or professional organizations. Because of their busy schedules, they may not always have time to do more than respond to an email, if even that. However, there are times when you can pique faculty interest in a specific topic or offer a service that directly appeals to their professional needs. Among the most effective ways to capture the faculty’s attention is to be aware of issues that affect them professionally. As discussed above, scholarly visibility is becoming increasingly important and falls within the purview of an academic law librarian. Once you feel comfortable, consider creating a faculty workshop on the basics and set up individual consultations on how to best enhance each faculty’s standing. Other faculty may value a librarian’s ability to create effective guest lectures focused on specific resources or a librarian’s skills at training student assistants on efficient legal research.
As you become more familiar with your faculty, you will also become more acutely aware of their specialized needs and, just as importantly, the areas that they may be most interested in learning more about. This skill does require that librarians remain alert to ongoing changes and hot-button issues with law faculty. Subscribe to newsletters, blogs or alerts that track faculty discussion or attend faculty meetings if you are able to do so. The more you understand the larger issues that directly affect faculty, the more likely you will anticipate questions you will receive as you reach out. Faculty Services librarians who tailor their skills to work in areas of high faculty interest will quickly find themselves building long-lasting faculty relationships.
Don’t stop with Faculty: cultivate relationships with administration & staff members
Faculty cannot do their work on their own. Each law school also employs a phalanx of support staff and administration, with faculty at times taking on these roles themselves. If your role involves faculty services, then these staff can play an integral role. They may be aware of what specific needs the faculty have or be able to work with you on complicated projects that sprawl beyond the realm of the law library. A relationship with faculty assistants, external affairs staff and other staff that work “in the trenches” will also provide you with a greater understanding of the workings of the law school in general. If your responsibilities involve repository or historical documentation, these relationships may prove to be a gold mine.
In addition to working with staff around your law school, you can also reach out to administration in an effort to provide them with a better understanding of your support. Many faculty assume roles as Deans of Faculty or Instruction and they may be able to promote your services and skills to a large group of faculty. Working with your library director to determine the most effective plan to connect with faculty will provide you with the best ‘roadmap’ for your specific school; perhaps there is one Dean, faculty, or staff member crucial to allowing you access to a wider and more receptive audience. The important skill to cultivate here is to not necessarily limit yourself to tenured faculty. Instead, keep an open mind and work with people in other roles at your law school, which in turn allows you to build a wider coalition of relationships in the building.
Each relationship is built differently. Have a “grab bag” of approaches available.
Not all faculty will respond to an email, no matter how friendly or engaging it may be. Others will never attend a workshop or possibly ever encounter you in-person. As with any professional relationship, flexibility, and sometimes creativity is crucial in connecting with faculty. If you begin by reaching out with emails, you may not get the responses that you would hope for. That’s okay; there are other ways to connect. Patience and collaboration with your colleagues will help. Research the topics that your faculty are working in. The more specialized help you can offer, the more likely they will respond. Consider embedding yourself in the faculty area of the building where you are highly visible. If your faculty use an online platform in coordination with their classes (often called a Course Management System, or CMS), you may be able to embed yourself to assist their instruction digitally. The options are numerous and go far beyond rote email templates.
By diversifying your outreach, you will inherently make yourself more approachable and more available to faculty. As with many public service librarian positions, you will work with a near-infinite range of personalities. Building relationships means you will be tasked with understanding how each person responds to your liaison work. They may want more personal connections with in-person meetings and phone calls, while others will be content with emails. As you continue to build up the relationships, you’ll be able to ascertain which method each faculty member prefers quickly. If you have already laid the proper groundwork for the relationship in a friendly, professional and skillful manner, they will reciprocate and provide you with a strong connection that proves the necessity and importance of law libraries in general and faculty services in particular.
- Buehler, Marianne A. Demystifying the Institutional Repository for Success. Philadelphia, PA: Chandos Publishing, an imprint of Woodhead Publishing, 2014..
- Diaz, Jose O. and Mandernach, Meris A. “Relationship Building One Step at a Time: Case Studies of Successful Faculty-Librarian Relationships.” portal: Libraries and the Academy 17 no. 2, (2017): 273-282..
- Schilt, Margaret A. “Faculty Services in the 21st Century: Evolution and Innovation,” Legal Reference Services Quarterly 26, (2007): 187-207.