v32#4 Full Speed Ahead: From Basic Subject Librarian Model to Engaged Librarian Model at University of Central Florida Libraries

by | Sep 30, 2020 | 0 comments

by Barbara Tierney (Head, Research & Information Services Dept., University of Central Florida Libraries

Building a Basic Subject Librarian Service Model in 2013

In 2013, the UCF Libraries Research and Information Services Department (RIS) initiated a basic Subject Librarian service model which ensured that every student and faculty member had a one-stop librarian to support all library-related facets of their teaching, learning, and research activities.  At that time, each of ten generalist RIS Reference Librarians was assigned particular academic departments based on his/her subject expertise, credentials, and experience and was asked to take over the outreach, instruction, research consultations, and collection development for the assigned areas. 

To allow the newly minted Subject Librarians the time necessary for their new subject-specific duties, the Head of RIS reduced their assignments at the Research Desk and at “Ask A Librarian” virtual reference from ten hours to four hours per week and hired highly qualified part-time librarians to assist with desk and virtual reference responsibilities.  In order to make informed staffing decisions, the Head of RIS utilized LibInsight software to analyze Research Desk and virtual reference statistics and created a compelling, evidence-based justification for requesting funding from Library Administration to cover the cost of hiring and training part-time librarians.  

Subject Librarian Training

To ensure that the new Subject Librarians had the necessary skills to begin their duties, special training was provided for them.  An all-day spring 2013 RIS Retreat provided basics on how to tackle curriculum mapping and curriculum-integrated instruction, profile academic programs and faculty, and plan outreach strategies.  A summer 2013 series of ACRL Scholarly Communication Roadshow workshops was provided, and UCF Libraries’ Office of Scholarly Communication and Collection Development Departments partnered with the RIS Dept. to provide series of training sessions for Subject Librarians on topics such as open access, copyright, and collection development activities.

Subject Librarian Evaluation

At UCF Libraries, each Subject Librarian meets regularly with the Head of RIS to create or update his/her AAPD (annual assignment/position description) and goals, with definite assignment percentages provided for outreach, engagement, instruction, collection development, scholarship and service.  The AAPD also serves as the template for a written monthly activity report and an annual self-evaluation that each Subject Librarian shares with the Head of RIS and Library Administration.

Evolution from a Beginning, Basic Subject Librarian Service Model to an Engaged Librarian Model

In 2016, inspired by the document “A Framework for the Engaged Librarian” highlighted in the Nov. 2015 ARL SPEC Kit 349 https://publications.arl.org/Evolution-Library-Liaisons-SPEC-Kit-349/153 UCF Libraries began its evolution from a beginning, basic Subject Librarian service model to a fledgling Engaged Librarian model that sought a higher level of sustained, high-quality interactions with academic programs, departments, faculty, and students.  Engaged Librarian goals included developing strong partnerships with academic faculty in order to enhance collection building, teaching and learning, research, grant proposals, the development of research assignments for students, and interdisciplinary projects. 

Examples of UCF Subject Librarian Activities: 
Beginning/Basic and Engaged 

Outreach — Beginning/Basic

In 2013, the UCF Subject Librarian service model began by emphasizing the importance of outreach and encouraged Subject Librarians to become more visible and mobile and to proactively interact with their assigned academic programs, faculty, and students. 

Subject Librarians were asked to work closely with their undergraduate and graduate program coordinators, department chairs, and library representatives;  participate in college and department meetings;  proactively seek information and news about their assigned subject areas;  and inform their constituencies about library resources, services, and research opportunities.

Outreach — Engaged

In 2020, UCF Subject Librarians are attending discipline-specific professional association conferences such as SPIE Photonics West, the American Physical Society Conference, the Adult Higher Education Alliance Conference, and HASTAC (the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) and partnering with their assigned faculty and students by making joint-presentations at these events.

Research Support — Beginning/Basic

In 2013, the new Subject Librarians began promoting one-on-one research consultations to students and faculty and designed an online consultation request form mounted on the library website.  Subject Librarians also created online research guides (both general and course-specific) and a basic library research skills webcourse and  library toolkit were created and embedded in UCF’s Canvas courseware.

Research Support — Engaged

In 2020, Subject Librarians are:

• creating and embedding their general or course-specific research guides into UCF’s Canvas courseware system through the IMS Global  LTI “Learning Tools Interoperability” system;

• scheduling research consultation appointments using Springshare’s “LibCal” tool which makes librarian schedules available online to clients;

• offering subject-specific “Graduate Research Essentials workshops” as part of a graduate workshop series coordinated by the RIS Graduate Research Engagement Librarian partnership with UCF’s College of Graduate Studies; 

• working with particular academic programs to create detailed subject-specific online tutorials and videos that provide step-by-step strategies about how to proceed with a research assignment; then partnering with UCF’s Center for Distributed Learning to film interviews with UCF students enrolled in those programs who describe the particular steps he/she took to tackle these research projects; 

• creating interdisciplinary Subject Librarian teams to plan and implement services for particular interdisciplinary projects.  For example, the Science and Education Librarians partnered to consult with Chemistry faculty who needed assistance in writing a Chemistry Education grant proposal;  the Science and Scholarly Communication Librarian collaborated on a workshop to assist STEM faculty and graduate students identify the most promising journals in which to publish; the Engineering and Science Librarian collaborated on a Citation Metrics workshop that taught STEM faculty and graduate students how to  measure their research impact; 

• establishing research mentorships with students who are writing undergraduate theses.  For example, Subject Librarians have a partnership with the UCF Honors College “Honors-undergraduate thesis”(HUT) program, whereby Subject Librarians provide general research orientations at the beginning of the semester followed by subject-specific research workshops and one-on-one consultations with undergraduate students later in the semester;

• creating research portals and virtual tools that link library resources to UCF’s academic department websites.  For example, the RIS Undergraduate Research Engagement Librarian arranged for a UCF Libraries’ libguide on “Research Intensive Designated Courses” to be linked to the UCF Undergraduate Research website; 

• conducting library orientations and workshops for students enrolled in the Summer Research Academy, the Learning Environment and Academic Research Network (a NSF grant-funded program that invites STEM students to become part of a supportive living-learning community), and the Introduction to Research and Creative Scholarship Opportunities program (a semester-long, immersive, classroom experience);

• offering Subject Librarian instruction and research guides to faculty who teach research-intensive courses and require students to use primary resources for their research.

Instruction Services — Beginning/Basic

In 2013, the new service model began by encouraging Subject Librarians to systematically review course syllabi in their assigned subject areas to identify courses with research components.  Then they were encouraged to reach out to particular courses and their instructors to offer library instruction and assistance with the research assignments designed for the identified courses. 

Instruction Services — Engaged

In 2020, Subject Librarians are providing research support in multiple modalities.  Subject Librarians provide instruction, workshops, and research consultations via Skype, Zoom, libguides, email, and telephone.  Examples of interdisciplinary instruction teams include the Science and Legal Studies librarians collaborating to teach a Forensic Chemistry class, the Patent Librarian providing information on plant patents during a Botany class team-taught with the Science Librarian, Subject Librarians assisting faculty who are designing “research intensive designated courses” for undergraduate students by adding primary resources to their instruction and helping the instructor design student research assignments.

Collection Development — Beginning/Basic

In 2013, each Subject Librarian was annually allocated approximately $3,000 to purchase print and eBooks, videos, and other resources for each of his/her assigned departments.

Collection Development — Engaged

In 2020, each Subject Librarian creates his/her subject-specific collection development policy which is linked to the over-arching UCF Libraries’ CD policy and works with his program coordinators or department liaisons to select particular resources to support new academic programs or tracks.  Also, Subject Librarians strive to reduce textbook costs through Subject Librarian/faculty collaborations to identify library-sourced resources or open-educational-resources in lieu of costly textbooks.

In addition, Subject Librarians work as interdisciplinary teams to support the resource needs of interdisciplinary faculty clusters.  Also, interdisciplinary teams of Subject Librarians collaborate to write “library collection analyses” for new interdisciplinary academic programs.  For example, the new UCF doctoral program “Sustainable Coastal Systems” involved input from six Subject Librarians (Biology, Public Administration, Inter-disciplinary Studies, Sociology, Engineering, and Hospitality Management);  the new cross-departmental BS degree in Data Science required input from a team of three Subject Librarians (Mathematics, Computer Science, Industrial Engineering and Management Systems);  the new Master of Science degree in FinTech involved input from two Subject Librarians (Computer Science and Finance).  Purchasing library resources to support UCF’s new Learning Sciences faculty cluster included input from seven Subject Librarians (Education, Engineering, Hospitality, Management, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Sciences).

Public-facing Programming — Beginning/Basic

In 2013, at the beginning of the Subject Librarian service model, the only “programs” expected of Subject Librarians were instruction sessions and an occasional workshop.

Public-facing Co-curricular Programming — Engaged

In 2020, Subject Librarians collaborate with faculty in their subject areas to offer outstanding co-curricular programs that celebrate scholarship and promote an inclusive environment.  

Examples of this include:

• the Science Subject Librarian developed programming partnerships with the College of Sciences, the College of Optics and Photonics, and the NanoScience Technology Center.  She also worked with the Physics Department’s Planetary Sciences faculty to create programming to commemorate important astronomical viewing events such as the International Observe the Moon Night and the Mars Transit event.  During these events, UCF Libraries installed a pop-up library at the event to display library resources that patrons might not have known were available for check-out.  The library also hosted lectures by Planetary Science faculty to help boost interest in Astronomy and promote research at UCF.

• the Science Subject Librarian also partnered with Biology faculty and the UCF Arboretum to host and promote conservation by presenting “Earth Month” programming that helped to conserve the environment.  UCF Libraries also sponsored conservation film screenings with commentaries delivered by Botany faculty.

• a Subject Librarian team (comprised of the Business, Science, Engineering, and Patent Librarians) successfully applied for a UCF Quality Enhancement Program grant to create and implement a four-part entrepreneurship workshop series titled “Libraries Bridging the Gap between Innovation and Entrepreneurship” in collaboration with their campus partners:  I-Corps, the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, the Small Business Development Center, the Office of Technology Transfer, and the Office of General Counsel. 

• a Subject Librarian team collaborated with IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) to give an “Innovation and Entrepreneurship Seminar” at the library for students and faculty.

• the RIS Graduate Engagement Librarian (in collaboration with the UCF College of Graduate Studies)  coordinated a series of  “Thesis & Dissertation Forums” at the library for UCF graduate students.

• other Subject Librarians coordinated programs such as a UCF Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society job panel and PTRC (Patent Training Resource Center) programs held in conjunction with the Inventors Council of Central Florida.  

• another programming objective of the UCF Patents Librarian was to introduce patents and trademarks to a broader range of UCF students.  To do this, she created a 15-minute course presentation on intellectual property that can accompany library instruction in any subject area.  For example, a recent talk to a Biological Sciences Research class led to a partnership with the UCF Botanical Society of America student chapter to provide further instruction on plant patents and associated intellectual property protection.

• STEM Subject Librarians collaborated with the Scholarly Communication Librarian to present programs for faculty and graduate students that cover topics such as predatory publishers, how to identify journals in which to publish, and copyright information. 

What Does the Future Hold?  Full Speed Ahead to Even Higher Levels of Engagement

While the global pandemic has made it necessary for UCF Subject Librarians to work remotely since March 19, 2020, it has not slowed the level of their engagement.  Almost immediately following the COVID-19 lockdown at UCF, Subject Librarians transitioned to online synchronous and asynchronous interactions with their assigned faculty and students by providing virtual office hours, library instruction, workshops, and research consultations.

One of the first documents distributed to the Subject Librarians during the transition to remote work was a detailed spreadsheet showing all library instruction classes provided in the past year, so that each librarian had the necessary information to contact course instructors to offer virtual library instruction for summer and fall 2020 classes.  Subject Librarians also created online subject-specific tutorials and videos for course instructors to imbed in their courseware and arranged to make virtual appearances at online student orientation sessions.

In an effort to maintain and even increase the level of connectedness amongst Subject Librarian colleagues, the RIS Department upped the ante on departmental meetings, from one a month to weekly.  To keep the Engaged Librarian model uppermost in UCF Librarian priorities, the Head of RIS invited colleagues from North Carolina State University to make virtual presentations on their Engaged Librarian model at the UCF – RIS annual retreat.  In addition, UCF Libraries invited librarian colleagues from Northern Arizona University, Ohio State University, and the University of Calgary to make virtual presentations about their outreach strategies and Engaged Librarian activities at RIS departmental meetings.  

Name of university or college:  University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL 

Website:  UCF.edu

Carnegie classification:  RU/VH (Research Universities/Very High Research Activity

Number of undergraduates:  59, 483

Number of graduates:  9,553

Number of faculty:  1,970

Highest degree offered:  Ph.D

Name of library:  University of Central Florida Libraries

FTE librarians:  44

Other FTE staff:  59

Library annual budget:  $14.6 million

Annual circulation:  293,642

Annual gate entries:  1,256,387

Hours:  Mon.-Thurs.7:30 am – 1 am; Fri. 7:30 am – 7 pm;

Sat. 9 am-7 pm; Sun. 12 pm – 1 am

Physical service points in the library:  4

Staffing innovation:  From beginning/basic Subject Librarian model to Engaged Librarian model

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