Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Milk Bowl Brings All the Cats to the Yard: Some Thoughts on Faculty Outreach

You know that phrase, "herding cats"? I sometimes think it was invented to describe what it's like to work with faculty when you're an academic librarian. Please don't misunderstand. I have some amazing faculty colleagues (and plenty of them read my blog regularly). Further, and I know this next thing sounds like a joke, my best friend is a member of the faculty at a college where I used to work. Regardless, faculty are as diverse and hard to round up a group as cats. So, working on that idea, I'd like to share some of the ways I've metaphorically put a bowl of milk out in the yard and made working with me and with the library more appealing to members of the faculty.

First things first: get to know them. Find out about their interests, both professional and personal. Bonus points if you find out you have something in common. I got my foot in the door with a communication professor because of a shared love of Godzilla, and with a political science professor because of a shared love of a particular director. I made serious points with a provost because I was the one to let him know that his favorite poet was coming out with a new collection.

Next, be the first or one of the first people to make contact with new faculty. If you go out of your way to make them feel comfortable and welcome at your institution, they'll start to come to you for things they need - even non-library things. Also, if you build a relationship with the junior faculty in a department, you can sometimes parlay it into relationships with senior faculty. That political science professor I mentioned above? He helped me to get his department chair to answer my emails finally.

Another thing you need to do is show up to their events. Is that creative nonfiction writing instructor giving a reading of a new essay? Go. The biochemistry professor is hosting an open lab period? Go. If you really want to get on their good side, try hosting faculty events in the library. We had a faculty scholarship series at a previous job, and I'm starting to work on plans to create something similar here.

Those three ideas can be boiled down to one theme: be a good colleague. If you want to collaborate with faculty, show them that you are connecting with them for more reasons than fulfilling library needs. Faculty outreach needs to be about the connection, and then you can build it into collaboration. You want to demonstrate that you have a lot to offer.

By the way, I first got to know my best friend when I expressed interest in her research. She teaches animal cognition (among other things) and she had a rat lab when she first started at that institution. I asked some questions and next thing I knew, I was helping her socialize a litter of rat babies (pictured below). The library at that institution already had a good relationship with the psychology department, and our connection strengthened it even more.

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What do you think? Could you use these techniques? If you've had successful faculty outreach, did you use techniques similar to what I have listed above? Something I didn't mention? Please share!

p.s. I know it is probably bad form to use a picture of cute baby rats in a post that has cats in the title, but oh well. 

1 comment:

  1. Great suggestions! I will share with my library colleagues & refer back to these for myself.