Get to Know Your Functional Specialists – Liaison Update Forum

The Liaison Update Forum on Oct. 4 featured short presentations by UTL’s functional specialists, who explained what they do and how their services can be useful to liaisons. Below is a list of speakers and any slides or resources they provided with their presentation.

Suggestions for Improving the Connection between Functional and Liaison Librarians

At table discussions after the presentations, a number of suggestions came forward on how to advance collaborations between functional specialists and liaison librarians:

  • invite liaisons who may not regularly teach, to co-teach or be present during information literacy workshops
  • create a directory of functional specialists in Confluence
  • functionals could do more with liaison clusters during the pilot – come in to talk more about opportunities
  • highlight some of the tools that liaisons could promote or use (e.g. Omeka, Islandora)  as spotlight articles in In the Loop – a way of showcasing these tools to staff who may not be aware of them
  • create a visualization/flow chart of a digital project, from genesis to execution – to illustrate how projects come to be, and the path to execution and completion. This could serve as a model to faculty members who may want to make their own collections of content/images available online.
  • Add the work of functional specialists to the Library Resources for Faculty guide, to better highlight their work and increase awareness


Liaison Librarians Update Forum March 1 2016

The March 1 Liaison Update Forum featured a presentation from Professor Susan McCahan, Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education, on trends in undergraduate education that have impact on her portfolio at the U of T.  The forum also  showcased 3 additional lightning round presentations.  Each presentation was followed by small group discussion and an open Q&A session.  Presenters kept track of the questions  and have kindly recorded and shared their responses for this post.

  1. Professor Susan McCahan, on Trends in Undergraduate Education Watch the video (best in IE – volume is a little low in the beginning)
  2. Laure Perrier, Gerstein Science Information Centre, on Research Data Management: UToronto Libraries Update Powerpoint || Q&A
  3. Erica Lenton, Gerstein Science Information Centre, on Creating a service through community & collaboration  (Evidence Synthesis Service) Powerpoint || Q&A
  4. Courtney Lundigan, Graham Library, Trinity College, on Re-imagining Liaison at UTL (update on progress of the Liaison Future Directions Working GroupPowerpoint || Q&A


Debrief Meeting with Cross-departmental Tri-agency Team, June 26 2015

A message from Julie Hannaford:

Debrief Meeting with Cross-departmental Tri-agency Team, June 26 2015

One of the key recommendations from the external liaison report is the need to re-conceptualize how we respond to faculty and student needs. The reviewers suggest using nimble teams that can readily respond to requests as they arise from our various stakeholders.

Recently, a small group had to coalesce around university requirements related to the Tri-Council Open Access (OA) policy. We realized that we had formed a cross-departmental, responsive team, just as the report recommended and considered it to be both an excellent experiment and learning opportunity. While there is much discussion that needs to occur related to unpacking all of the recommendations from the report, we feel that this teamwork has lessons to share with everyone. We met recently to review our progress. What follows is a summary of our discussion.

Group: Bobby Glushko, Julie Hannaford, Mariya Maistrovskaya, Steve Marks, Sian Meikle, Rita Vine

 Purpose: Lori Ferris, Associate Vice-President for Research Oversight and Compliance requested advice related to how the library could support faculty compliance with the Tri-Council OA policy


  • Production of a one-pager that outlines the main services that the library offers to support faculty
  • Production of a PPT presentation that can be tailored to different faculties, outlining the OA policy, key issues and library programs and services that support faculty with their compliance
  • Delivery of two presentations: one to the Research Advisory Board and another to the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering


  • Such teams need a leader – someone who is accountable for the completion of the project’s tasks and timelines to ensure project success.  That person should have accountability, and be able to follow up legitimately with group participants. While that person may not be a supervisor in the official sense, he/she needs to be given the mandate/authority to lead and coordinate as required.
  • If we move to a more team-based model, people will need training so that they have the skills they need to lead projects.  This could take the form of a group session(s) on project management. Another idea would be to pair up a new team lead with a more experienced one to co-lead a project. The more experienced person could then provide mentorship, feedback and guidance.
  • When a team disbands, there needs to be a plan in place, including how to archive content that we made, make it available to others and/or move any ongoing work into the workflows of existing units. There could be a role for a resurrected intranet to hold this kind of content when it leaves Confluence.
  • There needs to be careful thought given to whether a team model makes sense for a given project and if so, who the right people are for the project’s requirements.
  • To find the right people to bring to the table, we all have to know what everyone else is doing. Given our scale and complexity, this can be very hard. Is it worth reconstituting the idea of individual (non-public) optional profiles so that we could look up each other’s skills more easily?  ACTION ITEM: Sian to provide options
  • For a team to coalesce, everyone has to pull together. This team was very successful at ignoring boundaries and traditional structures; thinking more flexibly and openly about how the work could be done.
  • Moving forward, if we establish more teams, we need to reconcile the role of a team with the role of a committee, to ensure no overlap.  We need to be clear in our minds what committees do versus teams. In general, committees can be very good for obtaining feedback and input, which is very important and wanted across the libraries.  Some of the larger committees may be less suited for actionable items because they are so large, but could have sub-committees/working groups form that report into them.
  • There is an open question regarding who should constitute a team. A lot of impetus will come from Senior Staff and UTLExec but there are also great people making their own teams.  There have been some small groups formed to fix problems on the fly (e.g. Libcal2 migration, training), which have a defined end.  A cross-departmental team may be better for a longer, more complex project or initiative, part or all of which will continue over time. Small groups solve problems and don’t necessarily need management prior approval. Big groups implement new initiatives and projects and will likely require management approval.
  • ITS often plays a role in projects, which puts many demands on their resourcing. Could ITS train staff in other departments so that they can contribute more to projects and free up ITS? An excellent example is the recent placement of Judith Logan in ITS who was able to contribute significantly to the recent website redesign and launch. Encouraging more cross-departmental placements in ITS (and other departments as well) is one mechanism that can help in this area.   Such exchanges allow librarians to contribute to a defined project in new areas. ACTION ITEM: Julie to do a new call for expressions of interest for cross-departmental placements.



Re-imagining Liaison: Faculty Liaison Program Assessment 2014-15

extracted email from Rita Vine April 21 2014

The ​UTL ​faculty liaison program has been in place for several years now, and many of you have done some wonderful work making strong connections with our faculty.  To build on our success​,​ and to align the program with our new Strategic Plan. ​

I’m writing to you today with information and a tentative timetable to take a fresh look the U of T Libraries’ faculty liaison program​.

I have met with many of you during departmental meetings to get input on a process to reimagine faculty liaison, to advance both the Library’s Strategic Plan and the University’s strategic directions. I want to thank you for your contributions to those discussions ​. ​Many of your ideas have been incorporated into the process outlined below.

Starting this Spring, there will be an opportunity for all librarians to re-​think and re-​imag​ine​ our faculty engagement work in the next five years and beyond.  To ensure a process that is both transparent and effective, I’ve looked to the well-established UTQAP review process (see section 5.5, in particular) as inspiration and guidance, and I am proposing the following:

  1. Self-study activities: Facilitated librarian focus groups with analysis and report; facilitated focus groups with faculty about liaison work; identifying, gathering and reviewing of collected data that can help us understand both our reach and gaps (Spring-Summer 2014)
  2. An external review of the faculty liaison program (Fall 2014)
  3. Administrative evaluation of the self-study components and the external assessment report resulting in recommendations for program quality improvement (Winter 2015)
  4. Preparation and adoption of plans to implement the recommendations and to monitor their implementation (Winter 2015)
  5. Follow-up reporting on the principal findings of the review and the implementation of the recommendations (Spring 2015)

My intention is for reporting and follow-​up discussion to take place at every milestone in the process, and to share reports and data widely.
In the next ​few days,  ​all ​librarians (both liaison and those in functional roles) will receive an invitation to attend one of several facilitated focus groups. These focus groups will provide an opportunity for you to reflect on your own liaison work to date, share​ with colleagues from across the UTL​ how you see the future  ​of librarian-faculty engagement, and ​collectively ​imagine how you will work alongside faculty in the  ​future. Focus groups will be scheduled for librarians at UTM and UTSC as well. There are enough spots in the focus groups to accommodate all librarians.

I hope that you will participate in the focus groups; your input will be important and your voice is critical to enhancing the liaison program.


Update February 24 2015:

A summary version of the Report of Findings UTL Liaison Librarian Program Focus Groups is available. 

Dr. Debra Wallace and Ms. Lisa Norberg have agreed to serve as external reviewers, and will be on campus for meetings on April 15-16 2015.  The reviewers’ terms_of_reference are also available.

Update June 3 2015: The final report is now available.

Report on External Review: University of Toronto Libraries Liaison Librarian Program (May 2015)