This week’s readings about the many facets of collaboration got me thinking about how I would characterize the library-faculty relationships that I observe on a daily basis. I see 4 categories of relationships:
INTENSE library-faculty relationships run closest to the true collaboration and well-developed cooperation described by Leeder in Part 2 of her blog series on Collaborating with Faculty. These are working relationships where teamwork is the norm and communication is easy. They are near perfect marriages, to borrow Leeder’s analogy.
EMERGING library-faculty relationships are instances of first partnerships. They can be small forays into classrooms or disciplines where the library hasn’t had even a toehold before. First projects, if handled well, can foster an ongoing, deeper collaboration.
UNCHARTED relationships involve faculty who work in pockets of an institution…. in classrooms, wings or entire buildings…..where librarians never roam! The curriculum and the needs of the faculty, and their students, here are unexplored territory. Both parties are largely unaware of what might be gained by working together. Nothing has been ventured. Nothing tried.
RESISTANT relationships arise when librarians do venture boldly into uncharted territories but come away feeling unwelcomed or somehow thwarted in their efforts. (Perhaps this works the other way around more often than librarians realize!) Librarians can have long memories about such occasions, no matter how brief, where they felt rebuffed by faculty. Those impressions can get institutionalized in such a way that the library never launches another attempt at relationship-building with that faculty member, or even the department as a whole.
All of these types of relationships can be nurtured and, to some extent, each in its own way. A well-developed, intense library-faculty relationship can offer chances to experiment with more complete partnerships, like direct library involvement in assessment or student needs scanning. But the danger with intense library-faculty relationships is that they can be so reaffirming and all-absorbing for librarians that there is little time nor inclination to explore other pairings that are more uncertain. I think too that faculty on the outside of that inner circle of library-faculty coziness can sometimes feel excluded or at least perplexed about how to join in.
Emerging relationships need attentive care. Newly receptive faculty partners might get a better feel for library contributions through customized prototypes, for instance. Carefully tended emerging relationships are wonderful incubators for other new library-faculty match-ups. Capturing the enthusiasm of one faculty member in a department unused to library collaboration can provide an inside champion.
Uncharted relationships call out for other strategies. They might benefit from a descriptive menu of library services, like the brochure that Olivares developed for the College of Business at Saint Cloud State University. She wisely showcased a “spectrum of services” to be “as hands-on or as distant as the faculty member wished” (Olivaries 144). This strategic combination of proactive soft-pedaling is very similar to what Leeder encourages in her Five-Step Program. She suggests, for instance, that librarians avoid stoking their service menu with only technology-rich or complex scenarios that can scare off first partnerships.
Finally, resistant relationships need gentle cultivating too. Leeder and Olivares both display a bold, congenial and buoyant mix of attributes that can soften resistance or, at least, diffuse it. They both emphasize the importance of genuine curiosity and what Olivares refers to as “schmoozing”! They suggest simply making small changes in habits (eg., vary lunch venues, attend evening lectures) to broaden the chances of interacting, in an informal way, with a larger number of faculty.
No matter what descriptors we use to characterize library-faculty relationships, a healthy variety is certainly routinely juggled by librarians in institutions of all sorts. I like the idea, suggested by Leeder, that such relationships are not carved in stone but instead are part of a progression from, say, uncharted/resistant to emerging to intense. Librarians need to stay hopeful and engaged to greet faculty wherever they are and craft the next iteration of a genuine working relationship.