Publication Date


Document Type



Library and Information Science


Objective: With the closing of the reference desk and implementation of a single service point, librarians have more time to engage in outreach. However, questions remain. What does management mean by outreach? What skills are needed to conduct outreach? The objectives of this study are to: (1) reach a common definition of outreach; (2) identify skills needed to perform outreach.

Methods: Focus groups were conducted with librarians from three departments (clinical services, research, and technology initiatives) to gain an understanding of initial perceptions of the outreach function and work currently perceived as outreach. Findings from a cross-group analysis were validated with participants and used to inform a definition of outreach and a continuum of outreach activities requiring increasing skill levels. The skills and tools needed to perform outreach activities at each stage of the continuum were identified and cross-group collaboration will be used to develop tools and acquire needed skills.

Results: Using a working definition of outreach detailed in the continuum (basic, relationship building, and partnering), librarians tracked outreach activities and mapped them to the continuum for three months. Through discussion, it became clear to librarians where current activities fell, where they needed to concentrate future efforts, and what strategies to use to move from basic interactions to relationship building and then to partnering. The continuum and tracking logs served as a data source for strategic planning and to assist staff with individual goal setting. Librarians found the tracking log to be cumbersome, but the benefits to management were evident.

Conclusion: Tracking and categorizing the defined outreach activities is useful to raise awareness of the different types of outreach activity and identify areas for skill development. In the future tracking logs will be streamlined and automated.

Presented at the Medical Library Association Annual Meeting on May 23, 2010, in Washington, DC.

Rights and Permissions

Copyright the Author(s)

DOI of Published Version


Journal/Book/Conference Title

2010 Medical Library Association Annual Meeting