In most Universities there is some kind of formal liaison between the library and the academic departments. Obviously all subject librarians are essentially ‘liaison librarians’ to their specific schools and departments, but often the department itself will have an academic who is designated the library-liaison, or a committee of nominated people on which the librarian also sits. This is to everyone’s advantage, as the library gets to understand the needs of the departments, and the department gets their needs heard. The library can also manage expectations etc, though having an established line of communication. Having a first point of contact in this way is extremely useful, because it creates a bridge between the two worlds. Even if the people designated as liaisons don’t always have to cross the bridge themselves, they facilitate others doing so by putting them in touch with relevant people.
At a CILIP session the other day, we were discussing the idea of taking a version of the Graduate Day on the road (as currently most attendees come from London and the South-East, so it would be great to make the whole thing more readily available to those across other regions). We were discussing the fact that CILIP membership might be of relevance to people who don’t actually consider themselves librarians or Information Professionals at all, from other industries such as Law, Education, IT, the media, and of course the more closely related fields of archiving, museum curation and so on. How to advertise to those sectors that such an event as a regional CILIP day exists?
Wouldn’t it be useful if there was the equivalent of a library liaison academic in all of those other areas? Obviously in an area like Law there are plenty of very proactive Law librarians about, but even then is there any direct link between CILIP and BIALL, for example? It would only take a CILIP Liaison Officer at BIALL, and a BIALL Liaison Officer at CILIP, to establish a potentially fruitful direct link between the two organisations. Similarly, the National Union of Teachers or the Association of University Administrators or the Society of Archivists or even you-never-know-how-useful-we-might-be-to-each-other-until-you-try type organisations like the Association of Fundraising Professionals etc etc. This would be mutually beneficial for all concerned, surely? CILIP and its members would have a route in to the resources and members of other organisations, and they would have a similar route into ours – a point of contact to facilitate others crossing the bridge. And presumably not a whole lot of work for each person involved, as the opportunities for collaboration and liaison wouldn’t be so much as to be overwhelming.
I’m aware I could be one of those people who happily ‘comes up with’ an idea which has in fact been doing the rounds for ages, or has been suggested and rejected as unworkable before, or which others simply don’t reckon there’s a need for… Maybe it’s already been done and I’ve just missed the news! But I’m fairly sure there would be circumstances where such a relationship with another organisation could bear fruit (and the organisations themselves could perhaps kick things off by giving free membership to a designated liaison officer from the others!).
p.s Incidentally, I read today that in the UK we import almost exactly the same amount of GingerBread as we export (465 tonnes in, 460 out - I've got an idea, how about we just import 5 tonnes and leave the rest of the GingerBread where it is), a phenomenon known as 'boomerang trade'. Similar trading parity applies to Chocolate Waffles (I've never even seen waffles with chocolate built in already), toilet-paper (we gave Germany 4000 tonnes of it, they gave us 5000 tones back - brilliant) and even Ice-Cream to Italy (what on earth do Italians want with our ice-cream for Chrissakes?!).
If ever there was an argument for liaising, and opening the lines of communication, that's it right there...