Subject Matrices: An Innovative, Collaborative Approach to Serving the Agricultural Sciences

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Our library reorganized, moving from traditional subject-specific departments to Undergraduate & Community Services (UCS) and Faculty & Graduate Services (FGS) departments, based around how patrons use information. This model emphasizes collaboration through internal teams called “subject matrices”. Our library’s Agriculture & Biological Sciences Matrix includes individuals from UCS, FGS, Archives, and Technical Services as well as individuals with expertise in instructional design, copyright, and data management. This matrix has emerged as a community interested in agriculture and the sciences by bringing people together from many departments. We have learned from each other through presentations and “field trips” to various locations around campus. The matrix has become a conduit for sharing information interdepartmentally through discussions about collection development and collaboration opportunities in instruction and research. One collaboration lead to the creation of a unique newsletter that promotes information resources to library users. The matrix plans to pursue a user needs assessment of faculty in agriculture and the sciences. This holistic approach increases opportunities for the matrix and the library, such as bringing in other agricultural informationists from across campus. Opening matrix membership beyond the library enables more effective communication with patrons to better serve their needs. This increases collaboration opportunities between the library and teaching or research faculty and recognizes the interdisciplinary nature of current research. Libraries wishing to maintain a traditional subject-liaison model can adapt key principles underlying our matrix. Subject liaisons can go beyond siloed perspectives by soliciting advice from individuals, such as librarians from technical services, non-library faculty and staff, undergraduates, or community members. Another approach is to disturb established structures and introduce selective pressure to inspire the creation of innovative methods of serving communities. Administration can introduce expectations for collaboration into position descriptions and evaluation criteria or require faculty to provide evidence of meeting student learning and faculty research needs.
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