Library liaisons / Anne Champagne, Art Institute of Chicago

Last fall, the library embarked on a “library liaison” program. The curatorial departments, Conservation, and Museum Ed were each assigned one of eight librarians as their library liaison. The program, which is still evolving, has two main objectives: 1) to get a clear picture of what is driving current and future research needs — including exhibition research, acquisitions priorities, and provenance research — to inform collection development and reference services; and 2) to introduce (or re-introduce as the case may be) museum staff to the full suite of library resources and services currently available and to communicate our strategic plans for the future.

To get the program started, a letter of introduction was sent to each curatorial department by the Library Director, describing the program and introducing the liaisons. Then, each library liaison set up an appointment with her assigned department. A few departments did not respond — they were either too busy or uninterested — but most were very enthusiastic about the opportunity to meet with a library representative. After initial meetings with departments, liaisons wrote up their notes for the library’s intranet so selectors and liaisons can refer to them. In addition, selectors and liaisons have met on regular basis to discuss what we have learned from the museum community.

Not only has this been a good way for us to learn in more detail about on-going research taking place across the museum, it has also been a great opportunity to discuss with our curatorial colleagues tangential issues, such as off-site storage, serial cuts, budgets, and city-wide collaboration. It has also allowed us to forge new relationships and join conversations taking place outside the library. All of this continues to be a great boon for selection, as we learn more about the community we serve.

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