Relationships Between Librarians and Faculty Still Need Further Investigation

Giovanna Badia


Objective – To examine how the Key Mediating Variable (KMV) model of Morgan and Hunt’s Commitment-Trust Theory of Relationship Marketing can be used to look at the relationships between librarians and faculty as reported in the literature. Relationship marketing stresses customer retention and long-term customer relationships, rather than focusing on the product.

To also identify: 1) the methods reported in the literature to evaluate relationships between librarians and faculty; 2) the elements reported in the literature that lead to commitment and trust in librarian-faculty relationships; and 3) the elements reported in the literature that prevent commitment and trust in librarian-faculty relationships.
Design – A systematic review.

Setting – A university in the United States.

Subjects – 304 journal articles on librarian-faculty relationships were read and analyzed for variables included in the KMV model of relationship marketing.

Methods – The authors searched 20 databases to find publications in various disciplines. Their search strategy included, but was not limited, to the following keywords: faculty, librarian*, relationships, library users, information professionals, liaisons, academic, university, college*, collaboration, and perceptions. They initially selected 389 references based on the occurrence of search terms in the title or abstract, as well as the presence of related subject headings. The authors then read the abstracts and included/excluded references based on the following criteria:

Inclusion criteria: Academic libraries or special libraries. English language, any instance of collaboration or cooperation, subject term or mention of relationship, the words trust or commitment or antecedents or outcomes from the model included in the abstract. Exclusion criteria: blogs, books, emails, or any article that could not meet the subject inclusion criteria (p. 14).

Additional articles were identified by scanning the bibliographies of the articles selected at the abstract stage, searching the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and Google Scholar, as well as conducting a cited reference search in Web of Science and Google Scholar.

Among the 304 journal articles that the authors selected, read and analyzed, only 13 of these satisfied the last inclusion criteria of the systematic review in that they contained “a high presence of the KMV model’s antecedents and outcomes” (p. 15). Many articles concentrated on a service or project that librarians worked on with faculty and did not discuss the librarian-faculty relationship.

Main Results – 77 out of the 304 analyzed articles discussed research methodologies. The methods used in these articles to evaluate relationships between librarians and faculty were: surveys (53%); literature reviews (26%); interviews (18%); and focus groups (5%).
The 13 articles containing variables from the KMV model indicated the following positive antecedents as leading to commitment and trust in librarian-faculty relationships: communication (7/13 articles); shared values (7/13 articles); and relationship benefits (7/13 articles). The negative antecedent that hindered commitment and trust in librarian-faculty relationships was reported as opportunistic behavior in 4 articles (e.g., librarians seen as having an ulterior motive when they market their services to faculty). Cooperation (12/13 articles); functional conflict (2/13 articles); and uncertainty, i.e., faculty uncertain about the teaching ability of librarians (2/13 articles), were found to be the outcomes of relationships between librarians and faculty.

Conclusion – The authors found that “a focus on communication, shared values and benefits of the relationship would build stronger ties and foster commitment and trust with teaching faculty” (p. 17). Whereas the literature shows that collaborations between librarians and faculty are important to librarians’ work, very few studies have actually examined the librarian-faculty relationship. Future studies should explore in-depth the basics of relationship building between librarians and faculty.


academic librarians; faculty; relationships

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