‘Liaison Librarians’ to take over as Research Librarians become phased out

Report by Tom Haskell

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Over the next eight months, Adelaide Uni will be losing 150 years of experience from its Library staff. This will come in the form of four highly skilled research librarians who are opting to retire from the Barr Smith Library as the Uni makes way for the introduction of ‘liaison librarians’.

Traditionally, research assistance in the library has been delivered by research librarians. These research librarians are highly specialised staff who focus on supporting specific disciplines rather than entire faculties. Under the ‘Library Liaison Support’ model to be implemented next year, research librarians will be replaced by liaison librarians who will deliver research support across entire faculties rather than specific disciplines.

This model will see research librarian staff reduced from three to four librarians per faculty to just two and even one in faculties such as Law and Music. The two staff members per faculty will be in the form of one librarian allocated to the ‘Learning & Teaching Team’ and another allocated to the ‘Research Team’. Of course, for Law and Music, the one staff member will be allocated to both teams for their faculty.

The University tells On Dit that while the current library research model has fostered extremely skilled research librarians around specific disciplines, they have identified some disadvantages of the current system. They cite “inequity and uneven support across the faculties; single points of failure as individuals have largely operated in isolation; and lack of support for knowledge sharing, succession planning or career development of the individuals who have become so specialised” as the most concerning disadvantages of this system.

However, there are significant concerns that shifting to the liaison librarian model will disproportionately affect certain students. As one research librarian has told On Dit, students seeking specialised research support could suffer. They say that these students will be the ones with initiative, mature age students, students with disabilities, and any other students requiring specialist support in research.

“The middle 80% of students will be largely unaffected by these changes, but it’s that top and bottom 10% that is really concerning. These will be the really curious students and those seeking assistance that will be largely affected”

They further expressed concern that reducing the number of specialised staff will significantly impede the ability of the library to deliver suitable services to students.

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Head librarian, Teresa Chitty, addressed these concerns, arguing that students will still receive the same standard of support as they currently do under the research librarian model.

“There will still be a discipline focus, but [liaison librarians] won’t be as specialised as the research librarians who are retiring.

“They may not initially have the same level of in-depth knowledge of specific disciplines, however our focus is to provide a better standard of support to students.

“There will be a broader focus on external engagement and outreach to students”

As well as restructuring the model of library research, liaison librarians will be paid on an HE07 classification, $10,000 less remuneration than what research librarians are currently awarded in their HE08 classification.

Teresa Chitty says that “this is an issue of position classification; they will still be able to deliver the same standard of service as our research librarians currently do”.

This restructuring comes as HE03 library staff were informed earlier this month that at least seven out of the twenty-seven staff will be made redundant following proposed downsizing by the University led by Teresa Chitty.

Under the plan, the remaining twenty staff will be assessed and interviewed for the remaining pool of twenty full-time equivalent positions.

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