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In a 2016 survey by Cengage subsidiary Gale and Library Journal Magazine, 98 percent of librarians said they wanted better communication with faculty. Meanwhile, only 45 percent of faculty see the need for better communication with librarians. This is due to a number of factors, but the truth is that the role of the library on campus is growing. Now, it’s time to enhance communication and demonstrate this new role.

“One of the interesting things I’ve found is that researchers at institutions are not always aware of the resources available to them,” says Ray Abruzzi, a vice president of digital collections at Gale. “It’s not that libraries aren’t promoting them, not that they’re not trying to market acquisitions. They’re just not connecting with faculty in the way they could or should.”

Enhancing communication

The key to effective communication, says Abruzzi, is to address researchers as individuals. Instead of simply telling a department that a new book has come in, for instance, librarians should send personalized emails to the researchers whom the book will help most.

By reading faculty research profiles, librarians can get an idea of what each faculty member is focused on. Then it’s just a matter of reaching out when there’s an update which might be useful to them personally.

“Effective communication seems to be ‘dear professor, I know your research is on this, here’s a resource and here are some results that tie directly to what you’re working on or teaching, and I thought you’d be interested in seeing it,’” says Abruzzi.

This can extend to any update an individual researcher would find useful, like trends in the field or impact data.

The important thing is that the information be useful on an individual level. This type of engagement becomes the beginning of a research partnership. Librarians can give researchers information which is personally valuable to them – whether that’s information on the newest holdings or metrics and impact data. Faculty members should then start to see librarians as people who can help find solutions and new sources that demonstrate their value.”

Even researchers who may assume that they’re aware of sources relevant to their work often miss things, and this partnership opens opportunities for librarians to show them sources they’d never have thought to ask about.

“At the American Historical Association, we’ll have a conference and I’ll talk to this professor for 20 minutes, show them this resource that ties directly into their research,” says Abruzzi. “They’re thrilled, they’re going to their librarian right away, and it turns out they’ve had it for five years and they just never knew – they didn’t look.”

Demonstrating value

And that’s the value of a 21st century library. Librarians should take the role, not only of passive helpers but also active partners. Even in universities with research offices and other research support, librarians are uniquely qualified to participate in the research process on an ongoing basis, solving problems and honing ideas for their best impact.

“Librarians are, in fact, scholars,” Abruzzi says. “And they should be engaged as scholars, not as a means by which I’d buy a book.”

Librarians can also help universities with the recruitment and retention of faculty. Library holdings are incredibly important to researchers and can be the deciding factor between two schools. Librarians who take an active role in helping prospective professors understand their resources and skills get a head start in showing their value to the professor once they’re hired. They also connect more deeply with university administration.

Because metrics and citations are an increasingly important part of building researcher reputation, librarians can also help researchers understand how to increase their impact. Librarians with an ongoing relationship with researchers can help them understand where they fall in their field, what the most successful people are doing, and how they might be more competitive.

“It’s not just being a repository for information anymore,” emphasizes Abruzzi. “They have to actively engage on a service level.” Download Impact Measures for more ideas on engaging with researchers.