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College and university students, staff, and faculty are busier in 2010 than ever before. Many students work full-time in addition to school. With budget cuts, staff members are doing multiple jobs. Faculty members are being hired as fixed-term, temporary, or adjunct instructors more than ever. People do not come to the library as much as they used to, and they are often in a rush when they do.
At the same time, evolving models of reference service mean that liaison librarians are often sequestered in their offices, working elsewhere on campus, or otherwise not available when their patrons happen to come to the library. Paradoxically the people whom we are supposed to help often are not able to get access to us when they stop by the library—and they may not have time to make appointments to return.
As liaison librarians at VCU Libraries, we have found it very useful to look for opportunities to promote discipline-specific resources or listen to patron concerns. They emerge at unexpected times and in settings that do not necessarily seem to lend themselves to outreach. A little effort on our part, however, and willingness to move a small distance out of our comfort zones has proven remarkably successful in reaching elusive patrons. Serendipitous outreach may be difficult to document and thus less inherently appealing when it comes to annual evaluations, and yet in certain ways it helps us meet our outreach goals at least as effectively as formal outreach methods.
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VCU Libraries Faculty and Staff Presentations