Liaison Program

While Howard-Tilton Memorial Library is primarily responsible for building and maintaining its library collections it seeks to do so in collaborative communication with the faculty.  It accomplishes this through its Liaison Program. With this program, each academic department directly supported by the library is assigned a subject liaison librarian who is ultimately responsible for the selection of library materials that support the curriculum offered by the department and its associated programs, and these are referred to within the library as subject assignments.  The subject liaison has within most academic departments a corresponding faculty book chair who serves as that department’s primary library contact.

Book Chairs

Book chairs are generally full-time teaching faculty and are appointed by academic department chairs, as encouraged by the library.   As their department's routine contact for the library, faculty member book chairs are asked to perform the following roles:

  • Assist the subject liaison librarian in gathering practical information about department faculty
  • Advocate for and communicate department needs for library resources and services
  • research interests and teaching
  • Assist the subject liaison librarian in maintaining up to date and useful collections policies that accurately address department research and teaching needs
  • Share information with other faculty members about new library resources, new library services, or changes in scholarly communication 
  • Serve as a department point of contact, helping to link subject liaisons or other librarians such as those involved with the library’s instruction program or digital initiatives with other members of the department who may have specific library-related needs or interests

Contacts between subject liaison librarians and book chairs are expected to be routine. 

Latin American Studies is an exception to the book chair model as its faculty are distributed across many academic departments.  Latin Americanist faculty are encouraged to contact the librarians in The Latin American Library directly.

Subject Liaison Librarians  

The following is an outline of subject liaison librarian responsibilities at Howard-Tilton Memorial Library.  The outline reflects points covered in two discussions held on this topic among Howard-Tilton liaison librarians in March and April of 2013, as well as ideas from the library literature reviewed for those discussions. 


Subject liaison librarians serve as liaison to assigned academic departments and facilitate ongoing communication about resource needs and service expectations.  Examples:

  • Meet with department book chairs or appropriate academic department faculty members to discuss library resources and activities including faculty research and teaching 
  • Attend department activities as appropriate such as seminars, colloquia, or invited events
  • Share library news with departments via email or other distributed means
  • Seek opportunities to collaborate with faculty on departmental initiatives such as co-sponsored events (exhibits, lectures, etc.)
  • Annually review collection policies in collaboration with book chairs or other appropriate academic department faculty, updating policies when needed.
  • Contact new faculty and new graduate students as appropriate; participate in orientation activities
  • Facilitate broader use of library resources and services by linking faculty members in assigned departments to library expertise in areas such as:
    • Library instruction and general library assistance
    • Special collections
    • Institutional repositories and data management
    • Copyright
    • Other:  ILL, preservation, open access publishing, metadata standards/creation, and more
  • Collaborate with Research and Instruction Librarians from the Center for Library User Education (CLUE) to promote library instructional services through liaison department contacts.  When called upon, assist Research Instruction Librarians with identifying new or otherwise important collection resources to promote through instructional services
  • Participate in collections Coordinating Groups
  • Participate in the Subject Liaison Discussion Group
  • Regularly attend meetings of the large Collections Group
  • Work with Library Information Technology, technical services units, or relevant task groups to improve discovery tools and interfaces

Research Consultation

Subject liaison librarians provide in-depth, specialized research consultation for Howard-Tilton Memorial Library faculty, students, or visiting researchers.  Examples:

  • Provide consultations for subject or other specialized areas of expertise (e.g. data services, open access, citation management). Consultations may include:
    • Assistance or instruction in finding and evaluating information
    • Assistance or instruction in accessing library resources and services
  • Answer questions in person and through e-mail or phone
  • Document research consultations provided

Materials Selection and Collection Management

Subject liaison librarians develop and manage collections in relevant formats and languages to support research and teaching.  Examples:

  • Select materials in relevant formats and languages to serve the research, teaching and learning needs of the Tulane University academic community
  • Regularly employ key selection tools such as new title notices in GOBI and other sources, reviews, etc.; evaluate approval books, submit firm orders, and review gifts following standard procedures in a timely manner
  • Monitor performance of book plan profiles
  • Review new electronic resources for purchase from subject-specific funds or for recommendation as a major library purchase (in the case of multi-disciplinary works)
  • Analyze collection characteristics and collection data to better serve users
  • Carry out the other collection development related activities described in this manual
  • Collaborate, as needed, with other subject specialists to build coordinated collections.

Fund Management

Subject liaison librarians responsibly manage assigned university-ledger, gift, and endowed funds.  Examples:

  • Monitor fund accounts, identify and report fiscal discrepancies to the Associate Dean of Libraries and the Director of Technical Services. 
  • Stay within budget guidelines.
  • Spend assigned funds judiciously and within specified time frames.

Scholarly Communication

Subject liaison librarians communicate to faculty, graduate students and others information about developments in publishing and scholarly communication.  Examples:

  • Monitor patterns of research and emerging issues in scholarly communication
  • Maintain awareness of current applications of copyright and how to responsibly use resources in an academic setting
  • When appropriate, explain Open Access (OA) alternatives and promote use of the Tulane University Digital Repository (IR) among faculty and graduate students
  • Field inquiries about meeting data management requirements for grant funded research; solicit inquiries where appropriate
  • Communicate emerging trends in disciplinary modes of scholarship with library colleagues
  • Where applicable, recruit institutional scholarly output and other content for inclusion in the libraries’ digital initiatives

Technical Services

Subject liaison librarianss work with others librarians and staff in the library’s Technical Services Division to ensure accurate and efficient organization of and access to scholarly resources.  Examples:

  • Submit acquisitions orders in a regular and timely way, adhering to deadlines 
  • Provide sufficient bibliographic and other important information with acquisitions orders
  • Report problem links to the library’s ERL-L listserv
  • Test potential new databases or other new digital products considered for purchase as appropriate
  • Participate in preservation activities
  • Act as liaison between users and Technical Services units to ensure access to library materials


Subject liaison librarians support preservation of Howard-Tilton collections.  Examples:

  • Maintain awareness of current issues regarding the long-term preservation of collections in physical and digital formats
  • Undertake occasional weeding of items needing withdrawal from the collections and make decisions about the repair or replacement of items in cooperation with the Preservation Librarian and staff in the Technical Services Division.
  • Respond in a timely manner to requests for retention decisions about brittle and damaged books

Fundraising | Stewardship 

Subject liaison librarians responsibly manage assigned special funds and, where called upon, assist with university donor relations.  Examples:

  • Spend gift or endowed funds carefully within fund restrictions and in a routine and timely manner
  • Assist with preparation of stewardship reports detailing the use and value of existing gift or endowed funds to donors or their representatives
  • Participate in development and fundraising efforts and cultivate relationships with established and potential donors as appropriate

Appointment as a subject liaison librarian to an academic department is a formal, permanent part of the librarian’s work.  As librarians, subject liaisons must hold a master’s degree in library science or an equivalent and as subjection liaisons they must have significant background or expertise in a relevant subject or professional field.

[The above description of Howard-Tilton Memorial Library's Liaison Program is excerpted from the library's regularly updated Collection Development Manual.]