Earlier this month, I was on the agenda of a faculty chairs meeting (the library is considered academic affairs but not faculty at my current institution). My goal was to talk about database changes that have been a long while coming, but that we've finally put into effect. I especially needed to ask all the chairs to please follow up with the faculty in their departments, particularly with their adjuncts, to make sure everyone was on the same page. (We've all got faculty at our institutions that use the same assignments again and again, and I know there are some that point students towards specific databases we no longer have.) While I was at the meeting, we also spoke about collection development, both acquisitions and deacquisitions. In general, it felt like a good conversation and I left there feeling like I put another few bricks in the bridge I've been trying to build since I started.
The next day, I took a moment to read the Library Journal piece about a recently published study, "Bridging the Librarian-Faculty Gap in the Academic Library." I have to admit I haven't yet read the actual study, but that report coming so soon after my attending the meeting of faculty chairs seemed too good a coincidence not to write about it right away.
You see, none of the findings I saw surprised me. It's more like they showed me I'm on the right path with building that bridge I mentioned above. Of particular interest to me, though, was the disparity between how faculty and librarians perceive our relationships and how we communicate. 98% of librarians think we could communicate better with our faculty counterparts, whereas only 45% of faculty see a need for improvement. I don't take this as comfort, as in "we're doing a better job than we think." No, I see this as a further call to action, a reason to try harder.
We librarians know all we do to support the communities we serve, and wish people realized it. We made so many things seamless and painless. They don't see a need for communication because they don't know what all we are doing and can do. In some ways I like that our faculty and students and staff take these resources for granted. It means that what we've done works. But in the same way it is good to know they've grown accustomed to what we can do, it's uncomfortable being undervalued.
And yet, I think the onus is on us, as librarians. I know we're all busy - trust me, I know. But faculty and staff and students are busy, too. But if it's important to us, and I believe communicating and building relationships is central to our jobs, we need to make the time. I haven't seen many think pieces about the lack of relevancy of STEM going around. I have thoughts about why people pick on libraries so much (gender being primary among them), but if we proceed from the place of knowing we are important to the academy even when the academy doesn't, it's obvious we need to communicate that to our constituents. Besides, it can only help improve our relationships with members of our community. Librarians need to be the one building the bridges as much as possible.