Getting Liaison Librarians To Talk Scholarly Talk Via Boot Camp

Jeanne Hoover and Cindy Shirkey
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Jeanne Hoover
Cindy Shirkey

Jeanne Hoover is the scholarly communication librarian and head of service for the research and scholarly communication department; Cindy Shirkey is head of collection development at East Carolina University. The library system is a leader in offering “innovative, efficient, user-centered services and resources for the ECU and Eastern North Carolina communities.” Hoover and Shirkey recently offered their take on getting liaisons up to speed on scholarly communications by hosting “boot camp” sessions.

When liaison librarians and faculty communicate, the challenge is often to find a shared language. Scholarly communication can serve as that shared language. With increased pressure on research output, both librarians and faculty stand to gain much by working together on projects and papers.

However, prior to 2015, liaison librarians at Joyner Library, East Carolina University (ECU) didn’t receive systematic training in scholarly communication topics. Faculty members were asking increasingly complex questions about publishing, copyright, and digital scholarship. Topics might be mentioned in general meetings — or some liaisons might serve on the scholarly communication committee. Typically, it was each liaison’s responsibility to stay current with changes in scholarly communication topics in their assigned areas.

Designing Outreach Boot Camp

In 2015, we decided to sponsor a special recurring boot camp for training librarians in scholarly communication. Our managers saw the potential value in these sessions right away and allowed us time to develop the sessions. They also allowed liaison librarians time to attend the boot camps.

We developed an outline of popular scholarly communication topics, such as bibliometrics and open access. We paired those topics with ones that were particularly relevant to the initiatives on our campus, including open educational resources and digital scholarship.

We also wanted the boot camps to be discussion-based, so we used a flipped-classroom style for most sessions. We offered monthly sessions at the main campus and health science libraries. Prior to each session, liaison librarians were asked to review short lists of resources. This allowed us to have engaging group discussions, or to do more in-depth active learning activities.  

Because of their conversational format, overall, the boot camp sessions were (and are) popular with liaison librarians. To spark more interest, we sponsored a raffle with a $50 prize, with each of us contributing $25. Every time a person attended a boot camp session, he or she received a raffle ticket, to be drawn at the series’ end. You would be surprised at the amount of buzz the raffle generated!

Some of our more unusual sessions included:

  • A year-end review in a Jeopardy! format
  • Sherpa/RoMEO Red Light-Green Light
  • A presentation by a local expert on creative commons
  • A Hogwarts/X-Men-inspired case study-based session on copyright and fair use
  • Another case study on supporting grant writing activity from start to finish

Evolving The Boot Camp

Over the past three years, we have revised and updated the boot camp, as needed. After the first year, we asked liaisons to complete a short survey to gauge their familiarity with topics after the last boot camp. The responses showed the boot camps were working. 

Based on the survey results, we identified four-to-five topics to focus on the following year. This year, liaisons completed a short quiz to identify topics.

For this upcoming year we planned four sessions:

  • An in-depth look at our institutional repository, The Scholarship (done last September)
  • A guest lecture on digital humanities/social sciences
  • A talk by our copyright officer on copyright and creative commons
  • A session on bibliometrics, where we will look at “Publish or Perish” (article, journal and author-level metrics)

We are working on ways to get new liaisons familiar with topics, as well as ways for liaisons to revisit topics. We plan to record boot camp sessions going forward and maintain a library of resources for liaisons to use, as needed. While our boot camp has been focused only on scholarly communication topics, the format could be used for any type of ongoing library training.

For more information about the development of the boot camp series, please see our paper in the 2015 Charleston Conference Proceedings.