Changes to Liaison / Instruction in the University Library: A Message from the University Librarian

Submitted by libpottier on
Filed under Library News:  Mills Innis Thode Instruction

The Liaison program which, in recent years, operated under the name 21st Century Fluencies, aimed to deliver customized research and teaching support services to faculty on a department-by-department basis. Librarians were assigned to specific academic or administrative departments within the University and were expected to support a broad spectrum of teaching, learning and research requirements. In practice, most focus was placed on delivering research consultations and instruction, while collection development continued to be done primarily by librarians in the Collections Division working directly with departmental faculty library representatives.

The Liaison Program has delivered many successes. For example, the Science Fluencies Librarian has become fully embedded in the Integrated Science (iSci) Program – with the program’s head office located in Thode Library. Similar successes can be identified in other areas such as Business, Classics, and History.

While Liaison did further the goal of connecting the Library to the academic activities of the University, it is a very resource-intensive activity. Due to budgetary realities, we no longer have the staffing resources required to assign librarians to specific departments, thus making the Liaison Program unscalable and unsustainable over the long term. This reflects a broader trend in academic libraries, where subject librarianship has been steadily scaled back over the past 10-15 years.

Against this backdrop, the University Library recognizes that alternative models are required to deliver high-quality instruction to a tech-savvy undergraduate population. Traditional strategies for delivering face-to-face information literacy sessions via a single visit to the classroom are labour intensive and fail to meet student needs for active engagement, simplicity, assistance at point-of-need and 24/7 convenience.

Going Forward

In response to these budgetary and pedagogical realities, the University Library has decided to adopt a new, more flexible approach to delivering high-level teaching, learning and research support to departments. 

University Library Collections: Responsibility for developing collections will continue to reside with our Collections division staff in conjunction with faculty representatives. Questions or requests related to your department’s acquisitions and subscriptions can be directed to Janice Adlington, Collections and Information Resources Librarian (

Research Support:  Olga Perkovic will be taking on a new role as Research Support Librarian.  In this capacity, Olga will build close working relationships across disciplines, promote knowledge and use of the Library’s resources, communication between the Library and McMaster scholars, and support for all phases of the research process. In accomplishing this, Olga will work collaboratively with other members of the Library staff to support collection development, assessment and access and the promotion of unique McMaster scholarship.  For further information about this new portfolio, please contact Olga Perkovic at

Research Consultations: Librarians will continue to provide expert research consultations to students, faculty and staff. Library Services staff will be happy to refer users to a librarian with the appropriate expertise to assist them with in-depth research questions.

Instruction: The Blended Learning project, a collaboration between the Library and the Centre for Leadership in Learning, will be rolling out new online modules for five courses in September 2011. Blended (or hybrid) learning means that students receive instruction in different media, combining face-to-face instruction and online learning. Online tools could be interactive presentations, screencasts, podcasts, self-directed worksheets, or other kinds of modules. For further information about the Blended Learning project, please contact Andrew Colgoni at

Faculty requests for in-person library skills instruction sessions, either in the classroom or in the library, should be submitted via the online form at /forms/library-class-request.  Information Literacy and Staff Development Librarian Karen Nicholson ( will assign a librarian or other library staff member to deliver the session. When appropriate, Karen will discuss the viability of delivering some or all of the content online.

The Library anticipates a dramatic shift toward the Blended Learning model in the next 2-3 years, especially for large-enrolment undergraduate courses.  This shift will allow librarians and other library staff to devote their energies to delivering more specialized research skills instruction where required.

The Transition:

We envision the Fall term as a transition. Given that we are fast approaching Labour Day and the instruction planning cycle is well underway, accommodations will need to be made. We appreciate your patience as we realign our practices to better meet your needs. If you have comments or questions about the transition, please contact the any member of the Library’s Leadership Team:

University Librarian                                                           Jeff Trzeciak

Associate University Librarian, Collections                             Wade Wyckoff

Associate University Librarian, Library Learning Technologies   Dale Askey

Associate University Librarian, Organizational Development     Vivian Lewis

Associate University Librarian, Services                                 Anne Pottier