There is No Association Between Subject Liaisons’ Perception of Their Work and Faculty Satisfaction with Their Liaisons
Keywords:academic libraries, embedded librarian, subject liaison, survey, college faculty
AbstractObjective – To determine the relationship between librarians’ self-assessment of their liaison responsibilities and faculty’s satisfaction with their liaison’s performance, and the factors influencing these perceptions.
Design – Web-based survey questionnaire.
Setting – The survey was conducted over the Internet through email invitations.
Subjects – 354 librarians and 140 faculty members from selected universities and colleges in the United States.
Methods – 602 colleges and universities were selected based on institution size, degrees offered, and financial status using U.S. Department of Education’s 2008 institution data. Each institution was randomly assigned one of three subject designations: chemistry, psychology, or English. A randomly selected faculty member from the designated subject department and their corresponding subject liaison librarian (“liaison”) were contacted for the survey.
Institution websites were used to locate faculty and liaisons. If a list of liaisons could not be found, then a librarian from the website’s available contact list was randomly selected instead. The chosen individuals were invited via email in April 2010 to participate in the online survey. Before the survey closed in mid-May, up to two follow-up emails were sent to those who had neither responded nor asked to be removed from the contact list. The survey questionnaire was delivered through the Lime Survey platform and consisted of 53 items in 15 questions.
Main Results – The survey had an overall response rate 41.0%: 58.8% from librarians and 23.3% from faculty. Three hundred and four of the 354 librarians surveyed (85.9%) were self-identified liaisons, although researchers were unable to identify 61 of them through their library websites.
Most liaisons surveyed had responsibilities in the areas of collection development (96.1%), instruction (87.2%), and reference (82.6%). They provided an average of eight types of liaison services, some of which fall under these categories. The liaisons worked with an average of four academic departments (M=4.12, SD=2.98) and spent approximately 10 hours per week (M=10.36, SD=9.68) on their subject responsibilities.
The majority of liaisons felt they were successful (62.5%) or very successful (13.8%) in their liaison services and were either satisfied (50.7%) or very satisfied (12.2%) with the liaison relationship with their departments. E-mail (97.2%) was the liaisons’ most frequently cited communication channel. The frequency of contact with their departments had the highest correlation (gamma = -0.567, p < 0.05) with liaisons’ perception of their own performances.
Of the 140 faculty surveyed, 104 indicated that their library had liaisons and 66.3% of them had had some contact with the liaison within the previous 6 months. Faculty who knew their liaison by name (gamma = 0.668, p < 0.05) or who had recent contact with the liaison (gamma = -0.48) were more satisfied with the liaison services than those who did not. Faculty who received more services from their liaisons (gamma = 0.521) also indicated greater satisfaction than those who received fewer services.
Faculty assigned higher importance than liaisons did to three liaison services: faculty participation in collection development, new publication notices, and copyright information. On the other hand, liaisons ranked the importance of information literacy-related services, including in-class library instruction sessions and integration of library instruction into the curriculum, much higher than did faculty.
Furthermore, 66 pairs of liaisons and their corresponding subject faculty completed the surveys. Forty-nine of the faculty members out of those matched pairs knew their liaisons and were more satisfied with the liaison services than those who did not. However, no other relationships, such as correlations between faculty satisfaction of their liaisons and liaisons’ assessment of their own performance, could be found between responses of these matched faculty and liaison pairs.
Conclusion – This study highlighted the disparity between faculty’s and librarians’ perceptions of library liaison programs. Most notably, there were no statistically significant relationships between liaisons’ perception and satisfaction of their work and their faculty members’ satisfaction of the liaison services. Faculty and liaisons also differed in their assigned importance to various types of liaison services.
Moreover, while faculty’s satisfaction with liaison services correlated with the frequency of their contact with and the number of services received from their liaisons, their satisfaction did not translate into approval of the library. No statistically significant relationship could be found between faculty’s familiarity or interaction with their liaisons and their satisfaction with their libraries overall.
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