Sha Towers and Ellen Filgo Share Insights in Liaison Librarianship Success

Associate librarian and director of Liaison Program, Ellen Hampton Filgo, and associate dean of Research and Engagement and librarian, Sha Towers don’t just work with books, they write them too. Filgo and Towers, both longtime employees of Baylor Libraries, are co-authors of the new book, Liaison Engagement Success: A Practical Guide for Librarians (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2021).

The book, which offers practical skills and strategies for liaison librarianship, recognizes that the library profession has evolved from a collections-centric to an engagement-centric model, which requires new competencies for liaisons. Moreover, Liaison Engagement Success: A Practical Guide for Librarians serves as a framework for how to better engage with diverse constituencies and stakeholders in the field of librarianship.

With a combined 40 years of experience working in library services, Filgo and Towers have spent much of their time in the library profession learning how to engage with campus constituents. Many of the strategies offered in the book are a culmination of years of experimentation, evaluation of successes and failures, reflection, and lots of relationship-building.

“For me one of the most significant aspects of this work centers on relationship building and recognizing that some of the building blocks for successful relationships might seem insignificant at first glance or perhaps not seem directly relevant to the desired outcomes,” Towers said. “This work is relational rather than transactional. Relationship building is the critical foundation to any real success,” he continued.

As leaders and liaisons in the library, Filgo and Towers have been researching and writing about academic library liaison work for many years. They’ve spent their careers thinking about how librarians engage with the faculty and students in their liaison departments, and how that engagement leads to exciting opportunities to collaborate and new ways to provide research services. Over time, they’ve found meaningful ways to approach and engage with students and faculty.

“Library public services have moved away from a passive ‘sit at the reference desk and wait for people to come ask questions’ model to a proactive ‘get out there and engage with your patrons’ model, but there aren’t a lot of books that talk about the practical ways that liaisons engage with their departments,” Filgo said. “When we had the opportunity to write that book for the Practical Guides for Librarians series, we jumped at the chance,” she continued.

Moreover, their motivation for writing this book was to share the strategies they’ve found to be successful over time. The book offers specific strategies for topics in liaison librarianship such as getting to know a user community, finding effective strategies for proactive outreach, collaborating with others for effective engagement, and evaluating and assessing the engagement that is happening. Many of the strategies in the book are focused on self-awareness, reflection and related skills such as listening, reading body-language and communicating clearly.

Liaison Engagement Success: A Practical Guide for Librarians features practical tips and case studies for engagement with different disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, STEM, arts, professional disciplines, and with non-academic units.

A common thread for the tips and tactics shared in the book is the focus on adaptability and flexibility. While Towers and Filgo recognize that every community is different, they believe the most successful liaison librarians are the ones who can adeptly pivot to respond to the ever-changing landscape of librarianship.

In addition to their own experiences, Filgo and Towers solicited stories of engagement from liaisons all over the country. Each of these people share creative ways liaisons have been able to engage with their constituents and adapt to changes from the nature of information resources to technologies, expanding literacies, new faculty, evolving pedagogies and more.

By gathering these supplemental stories, Towers and Filgo crowdsourced expertise to provide examples of creative engagement spanning a variety of subjects from art, journalism and film to biology, health studies and engineering.

Towers and Filgo hope that those who read their book will walk away with the confidence that they can be successful in their jobs. Moreover, the two authors’ wish for readers is to feel equipped with a feast of suggestions and advice for how to think about successfully engaging with their constituents, ultimately leading to rewarding and enriching work.

Published by Rowman & Littlefield, Liaison Engagement Success: A Practical Guide for Librarians will be available for paperback, eBook and hardcover purchase in June 2021, but is available for pre-order now by the publisher, on Amazon and at select bookstores.

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