Academic social networking sites – boon or bane of institutions?

by Nicole Eva
University of Lethbridge
Alberta, Canada

At our University, we are struggling with getting researchers to understand the value of the institutional repository. They think that putting their output in Academia.edu or ResearchGate is equivalent to putting it into the IR. It’s not, and the reasons are many: as public, for-profit entities these sites are likely to start monetizing their services (as was seen this spring with Academia.edu); there is no guarantee that these for-profit entities will remain in perpetuity (and in fact, it’s quite likely they will not); and they aren’t truly ‘open’, as obtaining copies of articles posted requires a login (even if that login is free) and thus does not comply with some funders’ Open Access mandates. Not to mention the trouble they could get into if they are posting versions of the article online for which they’ve signed away their copyrights.

I had the idea that we could view the researchers associated with our institution that have posted in Academia.edu and ResearchGate and contact them to see if they would allow us to harvest their articles for deposit in our IR as well. In hindsight, I should not have been surprised that a number of the scholars listed under the University of Lethbridge were not actually members of our faculty. Many were listed as either Graduate or Undergraduate students, the latter of which I wasn’t aware were part of the target market for these products, and neither of which generally posted any actual articles – presumably they set up their profiles simply to follow other researchers. But others were listed as department members who clearly had no affiliation with the University. There was much ambiguity and lack of authority control in the selection of department listings, including at least one that was completely fabricated.

It made me really question the value of these tools – shouldn’t there be some sort of screening mechanism? There are also a few researchers with a two profiles within one site, with no way to merge the two. It is possible, whether purposely or accidentally, to set up more than one profile using different email addresses. A vetting process in ensuring the registrant has an email address associated with the institution they claim to be a part of would solve this problem in addition to the imposter problem. Allowing non-institutional email addresses may be by design, as Alumni are also allowed to create profiles and may no longer have access to their institutional email. But if these sites claim to be academic in nature, should there not be some sort of authority control or vetting process? What is the damage to the institution if multiple profiles associated with them are not legitimate? What if some of the articles posted by these phony researchers are terrible, tarnishing the university’s reputation? Should universities be taking a more active role in shaping these tools, or at least monitoring them? I have always told people that I see no harm in creating profiles as it just spreads the research wider (but recommend rather than posting papers on these that they redirect via URL to the institutional repository) but now I wonder if in fact these sites could be doing our institution more harm than good.

It was fortuitous that I began this process, because as these questions began to rise to mind I realized I could have a research project here. A quick literature search suggests that little to nothing has been done looking at these sites and asking these questions. There is a lot on how researchers feel about them, and how their metrics compare to more traditional metrics – but nothing looking at the institutional impact. I’ve been struggling for a few months with researcher’s block, feeling uninspired and unmotivated to start a new project; in fact, my lack of excitement over my planned research for a study leave led me to withdraw my application. Stumbling upon this was quite fortuitous so I’m hoping I manage to turn it into something useful. Perhaps not enough to sustain a study leave, but at least enough to get me out of my rut and get publishing again.

What do you counsel faculty members about creating academic social networking profiles? Do you think these tools have an obligation to institutions to try to provide a gatekeeping mechanism against fake profiles? Does it matter? I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts on this topic.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Instant gratification: seeking scholarly literature outside the library: C-EBLIP Journal Club, August 24, 2017

By Jaclyn McLean, Electronic Resources Librarian
University of Saskatchewan

Caffrey Gardner, C., Gardner, G. J., & Gardner, G. J. (2017). Fast and Furious (at Publishers): The Motivations behind Crowdsourced Research Sharing. College & Research Libraries, 78(2). https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.78.2.16578

I expected that this article would strike a chord with my colleagues, and encourage a rousing discussion. Conversation was not limited to the article. We also shared ideas on:

  • the ethics of librarianship (what are they, are they clearly defined/shared in any real way)
  • our personal experiences with and awareness of article sharing and discovery through peer to peer (P2P) or social networks
  • the future of scholarly publishing
  • how we think libraries could do better

Of the six of us in the room, only 2 could not recall being asked to share an article with another person. The other 4 shared anecdotes and stories about this type of scholarly sharing, and the questions it raises about morality, or the ethics of librarianship. If the only reason not to share something is a moral imperative, then we’re in trouble. As librarians and technologically aware people, we know how to access things, and could, but often feel obligated to enforce the paywall. Is it time (finally) to move past the idea of the library, and of librarians, as access points and gatekeepers of information to one of playing a key role in research and advocacy, helping people assess information and learn more about scholarly publishing. Articles like this one could lead someone to rethink a liaison strategy, reconfirm one’s commitment to more permissive licensing of electronic resources, or lead to an evaluation of Interlibrary Loan (ILL) services.

Our discussion raised some very interesting questions/comments:

  • If someone can tweet out enough information using #icanhazpdf in 140 characters, why are ILL forms so blessedly complex? What can we do to raise awareness of desktop delivery services?
  • So publishers put up roadblocks to discovery in our proprietary systems. How can we raise awareness of tools like unpaywall, or the open access button? (want to learn more about these? Try this: Willi Hooper, M.D., (2017). Review of Unpaywall [Chrome & Firefox browser extension]. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 5(1). DOI: http://doi.org/10.7710/2162-3309.2190)
  • Academics aren’t paid by publishers to create content, they are paid by universities and colleges that are often publicly funded, right? So why should they feel conflicted about sharing the results of their hard labour?
  • Open access articles seem to benefit from higher citation rates. Why wouldn’t someone want to share their work in a P2P network to raise more awareness? (learn more about the open access citation advantage: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0159614 )
  • It is easier to play into the traditional publishing model and then subvert it than to engage and learn about/try to publish OA or amend an author agreement; easier to share P2P than to ILL; why should we expect anyone NOT to take the path of least resistance?
    • Is it really about getting someone the content they need, or is it about teaching someone how academic publishing and scholarly sharing work? (to use an outdated metaphor, do we give them fish or teach them to fish?) Can we make the shift from being a “get it for me library” to being a “teaching library”?
  • Can we as librarians get out from under the perception of us as a service profession, downloading items from a citation list for someone, shelving and checking out books, and the customer is always right mentality?
  • Why is it, in a time when we have students and faculty who can online shop, search hashtags on Instagram, and create online communities to share research, that we still can’t get them to use the library when the skills required are the same? Why????
  • We need to remember that, for the most part, for the publishers sharing research is not a moral imperative: it’s all about the bottom line & profit

In short, this article stimulated a lot of debate. I’d recommend you give it a read if you’re interested in any of the questions we discussed. And then read this:

Morrison, L., Stephenson, C., & Yates, E. (2017). Walking the Plank: How Scholarly Piracy Affects Publishers, Libraries and Their Users. In ACRL 2017 Conference Proceedings (pp. 740–747). Baltimore, MD. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/2017/WalkingthePlank.pdf

And if you’ve got any answers, I’d sure like to hear them. The more I read on P2P networks, sharing and accessing scholarly literature outside of the library, open access, institutional repositories, and other related topics, the more I realize I don’t know, and need to learn.

*It’s certainly a hot topic (and has been for a while). Before I could even submit this post, the Scholarly Kitchen offered their take on SciHub et al. ()
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This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Public Library Research by Public Librarians

By Meghan O’Leary, MLIS
Collections and Reader’s Librarian, John M. Cuelenaere Public Library
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Most people reading this blog will already be familiar with the research process, so this post will not go into much detail on that. What I am going to talk about are research methods public librarians may want to utilize, as well as some other factors they will have to consider before getting started on a research project.

First, what type of research methods work well for public library research projects? Most of the research I do at my public library is statistics based; however, the following are some research methods that could work well for public library research. Leedy and Ormrod’s (2013) Practical Research: Planning and Design was the textbook we used in school and it is a great resource if you are trying to think of appropriate methods for your project. You may have a different method you think would work well in a public library setting, so I encourage you to comment and share your ideas!

Qualitative

    • Reference interviews
    • Focus groups
    • Photo narrative with follow-up interviews – Shailoo Bedi & Jenaya Webb (2017) wrote an excellent article about using photographic methods in library research. See the full reference down below.
    • Public consultation sessions
    • Qualitative questionnaires

Quantitative

  • Statistics (patron stats, collections stats, usage stats, etc.)
  • Anonymous surveys
  • Quantitative questionnaires
  • Behavioural mapping

The second factor public librarians need to consider before starting a study is the ethical framework behind their research methodology. When I was in library school I was taught that if you are dealing with one-on-one humans, asking personal questions, you need to get ethics approval before getting started. With the help of Virginia Wilson, Director of C-EBLIP, I contacted Beryl Radcliffe, Human Research Ethics Specialist (Behavioural) from the University of Saskatchewan’s Research Ethics Board (REB) and asked her some clarifying questions about research ethics for public libraries. According to Beryl, public libraries are not required to go through a REB to do research, nor is there really any mechanism for them to do so. There are some for-profit REBs out there but applications are expensive and are usually only used for clinical trials. Public library research tends to deal mostly with improvement of programs, assessment, and physical space; therefore, it is not necessary to get ethics approval. There is no point in wasting funds to get approval you do not need. If there is no need to go through a REB for public libraries where can public librarians go for approval of their research project? The first step would be to talk to your superiors and seek approval from your library’s Board of Directors. Second, check with your local professional association, for example, the Saskatchewan Library Association, to see if there are any research guidelines listed for their members.

On top of answering my questions, Beryl also gave me some helpful ethics tips for public librarians wanting to do research:

  • Go through an REB application process, even if you do not intend to submit it because it will help you with planning your research project and will usually provide templates for consent forms, agreements, etc. The University of Saskatchewan REB documents are online and free to look at and use. Institutional REBs, such as the University of Saskatchewan REB, cannot approve unaffiliated research, but going through the process will ensure that you have covered all your bases, so to speak.
  • Tell people why you are asking them questions and what you plan to do with the information you gather. If you let people know how you plan to use the information people tend to be more open with their answers, which can provide better data.
  • If you are still concerned about research ethics you can take the TCPS 2 Tutorial Course on Research Ethics (CORE) and get your certificate of completion. Here is the link: http://pre.ethics.gc.ca/eng/education/tutorial-didacticiel/

Since I briefly mentioned it before, I will now talk about the third factor that public librarians should consider before starting their research project – funding. Doing research does not have to cost a lot of money. There are, however, unavoidable expenses that come with doing research. The money for travel costs or honorariums, for example, needs to come from somewhere. There are grants available online, and if your research is going to be used to further develop and improve your library, attaining one of these grants should be a simple matter. Consider which sector your research falls under and search for grants in that area. For example, if your research deals with programming for senior citizens, consider a grant from Employment and Social Development Canada or New Horizons for Seniors. If your research is specifically about the library building, apply for community infrastructure grants. For example, last year Western Economic Diversification Canada offered a Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program grants.

If you are unsuccessful in obtaining a grant, try pitching your research project to your library board. Explain why you want to do the research, why it is important for the library, and why you need funds to accomplish it. There may be reserve funds that can be brought forward to help with your research. Another option is to approach your professional organization and see if they offer grants for research, or ask if there are any funds available for research in exchange for future conference presentations.

The last thing public librarians should consider before starting their research projects is how to gain access to scholarly articles when, generally speaking, public libraries do not have access to academic journal databases. Or, if public libraries do have access to some academic journals through a database subscription they tend to be quite limited. There are a few options one can consider. First, check to see if you have access to your alma mater’s online journals. Most of the time, as an alumna, you will have access to the journals if you are physically on site. If this is not possible for you due to distance, your next best option is to search for open access journals. Evidence Based Library and Information Science hosted by the University of Alberta Learning Services is an excellent resource, but also check out the Directory of Open Access Journals to find some peer-reviewed journals in the discipline you are researching. There are some other ways to get the articles you need, such as the Twitter #icanhazpdf hashtag, SciHub, and LibGen; however, it would be better to try and get what you need through more official sources.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post, and I hope if you are a public librarian wanting to do research you found this article helpful. If you have any other tips for public librarians please leave a comment!

References
Leedy, P. D. & Ormrod, J. E., (2013). Practical research: Planning and design. (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Bedi, S. & Webb, J. (2017). Through the students’ lens: Photographic methods for research in library spaces. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 12 (2). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.18438/B8FH33

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Capturing knowledge: a purposeful role for librarians

by Aoife Lawton, National Health Service Librarian at Health Service Executive
@aalawton on Twitter

In June 2017 I welcomed over 400 health library & information professionals to Ireland to the Joint International Congress of Medical Librarianship and the European Association for Health Information Libraries. It was a great success. It was a week of learning, knowledge exchange and inspiration. As head of the International Programme Committee I was involved in putting the scientific programme together with a great team of librarians from all over the world. This meant I didn’t get to soak up as much of the content during the week as I’d have liked to, but that is really the only drawback of being one of the organisers. The learning involved in conference planning was immense and having the opportunity to work mainly using virtual communication with like-minded professionals who I will likely never meet in person, was a real pleasure.

A standout of the conference for me was a continuing professional development workshop I attended on “Embedding knowledge in healthcare transformation: creating opportunities to inform strategic change”, led by Alison Turner. It was an empowering workshop which paved the way for librarians and knowledge specialists to shape new roles and services to embed knowledge in strategic decision making. Evidence summaries and evidence synthesis are common services delivered by health science librarians, typically to inform patient care decisions. This workshop concentrated on performing specialist knowledge services to enable decision making at another layer – at the managerial and strategic levels of organisations.

The workshop was attended by librarians and managers of library services from many different continents and countries, including Australia, Ireland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Finland and Canada. We shared our varied experiences of how we strive to embed knowledge into healthcare. International exchanges of practice like this are a rare but valuable insight into progress in different areas of the world. From my point of view, it gave me a marker for practice in my organisation and a benchmark to work towards. Alison gave us tools for what she calls ‘Knowledge Capture’. This is something she has been carrying out in the UK with the NHS (National Health Service) for many years. She explained it as working as a knowledge specialist with multidiscplinary healthcare teams. They may have a meeting or a workshop planned and Alison would join them and capture the knowledge exchanged during the meeting, as an independent, non-bias specialist. This sounded like a simple yet innovative way of librarians working as part of a healthcare team and adding real value. Alison explained it is not synonymous with minute taking, it goes much deeper that that. The librarian uses their information skills to organise, capture and deliver the key soundbites of information and deliver it back to the team in a comprehensive, standard template.

Back at work, just a few weeks later, an opportunity arose to try this out. A senior psychologist who works also as a knowledge broker in my organisation contacted me to see if a librarian was available as a co-facilitator for a workshop she was running on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Specifically she was looking for someone to capture the knowledge exchanged during the workshop. I didn’t hestitate to take up the offer. The purpose of the workshop was to aid the team to reach a common vision for the prevention of FASD in Ireland and an action plan for its realisation. At times I was a passive observer, particularly as conversations got heated, at other times I was an active participant. My main job was to ensure that the knowledge was captured and that it would aid decision making about the topic. I took photos, I introduced myself to everyone and as people worked in pairs, I aided the psychologist with the roundtable discussions. This is librarians stepping out of their comfort zones, stepping out of the confines of a physical library and getting embedded at the strategic decision making table, where value really is added. This is a new type of service and one that I intend introducing to the Irish healthcare system. It is a practical and innovative use of a health science librarians’ time and skills. I have always considered it a privilege to work in healthcare. What I find most rewarding is working with healthcare professionals – Doctors, nurses, allied health professionals. This type of knowledge capture service can boost motivation, productivity and align librarians more closely to the mission of the health service, namely to improve health.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Can you always do “just one more thing”?

by Jaclyn McLean, Electronic Resources Librarian
University of Saskatchewan

I grew up hearing the refrain “just one more thing” about my dad, usually around 6 p.m., as we were all sitting down to supper and his chair sat empty. One of us would say, “well, he probably had just one more thing to do.” And then we would sigh, or laugh, and eat. Now, this isn’t a post about nature/nurture, but I do find it curious that I often find myself trying to squeeze in just one more thing, at the end of the workday, or before going to sleep, and this attitude that I’ve always got time to squeeze something else in can get me into trouble.

Like now, as I am diving into not one, or two, but three new research-type endeavors (and wrapping up a fourth). All with specific and overlapping timelines; and different methodologies and topics. So how did I get there? It’s entirely my own fault, not that I feel negative about it. All of the projects are interesting, variously collaborative and solo, focused on publishing, presentation, and art curation. I am excited about all of them, and can’t wait to dig in and get past this beginning stage.

Planning how the projects will intersect and cohabitate in my brain for the next few months is key. To that end, I’ve been working out a detailed Gantt chart, and working on accepting that this chart will change on a weekly, if not daily, basis. I enjoy having lots on the go, different projects and ideas to divert my attention. I also like making lists, schedules, and organizing my time (and that of others, my collaborators should be warned). A key to my success is going to be paying attention to this careful planning and checking in regularly on the established timelines, shifting and nudging things around as things change.

I need to accept that this will all feel overwhelming at some point down the road. Probably when the days get shorter, and the deadlines loom much closer than they do today. Because you see, this isn’t the first time I’ve found myself with a lot on my plate. And I’ve learned that if I can do all the pre-planning, and have an established plan to shift and flex with, I am more effective. Flexibility and rolling with the punches is not my nature, but I am optimistic, and excited about the opportunities coming my way with these projects (and those that might emerge out of them in the future).

But it’s also time to sit on my hands, and stop coming up with new ideas of things I would like to do. Because I need to make sure I don’t exceed my capacity, and switch my perspective from excitement to dread, from optimism to overwhelmed. Stopping the flow of new ideas isn’t something I’ll be able to stick to (it’s good to recognize your own flaws, right?), but I am committing here, in this public forum, to write them down for later, or share them with someone else who might be able to take them and run. And I will keep reminding myself that my slate is full for this year. And as we head into a fresh new academic year, doesn’t that sound exciting?

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Announcing the Library Journal Club Network

by Andrea Miller-Nesbitt
McGill University

Lorie Kloda
Concordia University

Megan Fitzgibbons
University of Western Australia

Back in November 2016, we discussed our recent research on librarians and journal clubs in a post here on Brain-Work. We closed that post with the following aspiration and invitation:

We hope to compile additional resources about journal club practices in librarianship and open communication channels in the future. Watch this space, and please get in touch if you have any ideas about promoting journal clubs for academic librarians.

We are now happy to announce the launch of The Library Journal Club Network, a space where those interested in establishing and sustaining journal clubs can share information, ask questions, and find answers

So far, the site includes:

  • Guidelines for creating and managing a library-related journal club
  • A list of readings and resources about journal clubs
  • A directory of journal clubs

The site is currently set up as a resource for librarians who lead and participate in journal clubs. Going forward, we hope the site will facilitate information sharing through the network. To get started, we invite journal club leaders/facilitators to visit our directory page and submit information about their group to be added to the site.

We also welcome feedback about the site and ideas for expanding it in the future.

Research Groups and the Gift of Spaciousness

by Marjorie Mitchell
Research Librarian, UBC Okanagan Library

As I write this, it is early August. The days are long and hot, and a haze of smoke from wildfires tints the air. It’s a time of year I always find spacious. I have spent much of my life guided by the rhythms of the school/academic year and summer is that glorious time-out from regular duties and a period less scripted than most of the rest of the year. It is the time of the year for “projects” and “research” and “planning” and, my favorite, “reflection.” Traditionally, in the next few days, I would move from this feeling of spaciousness to one of increasing claustrophobia and borderline panic. Oh, it always started off as a mild discomfort. Niggling thoughts of “I should get this done before September” shifted to “I better get this data analysis done” to “OMG, I haven’t done nearly as much as I planned to do and now all my deadlines are getting pushed forward and now I have to plan for the classes I have to teach….” and so on into full panic mode.

This year is different. It’s not perfect, and yes, I still have a few “To Do” lists floating around, but I can see a big difference. This year I have seen evidence of increased research productivity and reduced stress that really are the advantages of sincere, concerted teamwork, specifically a research team.

I have been actively participating in research investigating the research data management needs of faculty from all across Canada and specifically from my institution, the University of British Columbia. I was not the initiator (a big thank you to Eugene Barsky who did initiate these studies at UBC), nor do I do the bulk of any of the work that goes into this research, and that’s the beauty of these research teams – sharing the work really does make it seem more manageable.

The larger team is a group of Canadian librarians, the Canadian RDM Survey Consortium, who saw a situation developing (research data management plans being made mandatory by multiple international granting bodies) and who decided to pro-actively prepare in the strong likelihood that Canadian granting bodies would follow suit. In order to effectively prepare, we needed to understand the research data management needs of our researchers across the disciplines. In other words, we needed to conduct original research about the actual practices and needs of researchers. We sought answers to questions as general as how many research projects did the respondent lead in the past year to specific questions about how much data a respondent’s research generated and where the respondent stored it, etc. We didn’t research all the disciplines at once. Instead, we started first with engineering and natural sciences, followed by the social sciences and humanities in the second round, then concluded with the health and allied sciences. This has taken over two years to complete.

The smaller team is a shifting group of librarians at UBC who have all participated in this research as we have worked our way through the disciplines. These research surveys and their results all form the basis of the national research, but were able to provide significant insight into our local research landscape. If you have questions about what researchers are doing with respect to research data management, we have discovered some of the answers.

The spirit of collaboration, goodwill, and support that members of these groups exhibit every time we meet (virtually) is inspiring. We discuss the tasks that need to be done for research, from the ethics applications, to analyzing the data, to writing the paper or poster, to colour schemes for graphics, etc. As we decide on the tasks, we also volunteer for them. One of the biggest advantages of such groups is the depth and breadth of skill within the group. Each of us aspires to creating the best paper or poster possible and each of us contributes something of value.

The other benefit of these collaborations has been the scheduling of the research, analysis, and writing. When working with a group, I don’t always get to set the timeframes for when the work needs to get completed, and that is not a bad thing. Yes, there can be some long days or extra work on a weekend as I race to meet a deadline I agreed to, but, ultimately, not letting the members of this group down is strong motivation for me. I appreciate that all the members of the group are also putting in the time, one way or another. The scheduling is often driven by conference or journal proposal deadlines, and those all happen in the winter and spring, and not so much over the summer. And so, this year, RDM research is not on my list of things yet to do before September. They really were right at the Librarian’s Research Institute when they suggested not being a solo researcher.

If your research practice is stalled, or hitting some speed bumps, or just not going the way you envisioned it, think about creating or joining a team/group/consortium. The benefits outweigh the costs significantly. And you might have some fun – I know I do.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Designing and Presenting Research Posters

By Shannon Lucky, Information Technology Librarian, University of Saskatchewan
Bernice Leyeza, Research Assistant, Department of Geography & Planning, University of Saskatchewan

This summer I have been fortunate to have Bernice working as a research assistant, partially funded by an undergraduate student research grant at our institution. Part of the grant program has the RAs participate in a research poster competition at the end of the summer. This sounded like the perfect opportunity to co-write a post about designing and presenting a research poster from our two different perspectives.

I love presenting research posters. I like having real, sometimes lengthy, conversations with people who are interested in my research. I have gotten new perspectives on my work and great suggestions for things to look at, particularly scholarship outside of my academic bubble, from conversations with one or two people in a hall full of posters. This has never happened to me during a standard paper Q&A. Conferences where the posters presentations happen in tandem with refreshments are also a bonus. I have long suspected that the insightful introverts in our communities are a little bolder during cocktail hour than during lecture hall panel discussions.

While presenting a poster might be my favourite part of the process, designing one has been a surprisingly useful scholarly activity. I can easily fill up a word count limit for a paper, but trying to essentialize down what I am really trying to say (conveyed in the right 30 pt. font verbiage) has challenged me to get real about what I am doing – not what I like to think I am doing, or what I want other academics to think I am doing. It is hard to hide behind academic-ese when you have 16 square inches to describe the significance of your project. You also need to actually use that elevator pitch I know I have been coerced into writing at more than one research workshop. This is all to say that it is hard to phone-in a decent poster. You need to know your question, data, and results inside and out; well enough to distill it down to the essential text, speak extemporaneously about it, and probably answer a few questions.

I was lucky to have Bernice as my RA for this project. Not only was she eager to take on the challenge of translating our early results into a poster, she also has design skills that far surpass my own. In planning for the poster we came up with four essential questions that we have done our best to answer from each of our perspectives. We hope that the following advice will be useful for veteran and rookie research poster presenters alike.

  1. What is the poster for and who is my audience?

“My first undergraduate degree required us to master our skills in producing different communication materials. I took a lab class where our weekly assignments were to translate a research article into a poster – good practice for designing your own.” (Bernice)

Whether your poster is for a class or a conference, focus on the most interesting and important information for that audience and what language will speak to them. This is a good time to note any restrictions on dimensions, digital file standards, and any design or content requirements provided by the event organizer. Is this the place to show your creativity, or is it expected that you use a standard template/layout? Look at other examples from researchers in your discipline online or ask colleagues/professors if they can share examples with you. Get an idea of the common practices within your discipline or at the event you will be presenting at.

 

  1. What comes first, the writing or the design?

The quality of your research and ability to communicate its value is first and foremost. You can’t have a successful poster without solid research to communicate. Having said that, there are different approaches to turning your literature review, hypothesis, data, and analysis into a cohesive poster design. Bernice prefers to write up a research article first which helps solidify the important details for the poster. As she transfers the writing into the poster layout she works to make it more concise – good practice for academic writing in general. If the poster is about new (unpublished) research, Shannon prefers to write some quick notes and start laying out the broad ideas on post-its or in the design software. Finessing the writing comes later. Both approaches work well, just make sure to avoid self-plagiarism if you are re-purposing text from your publications and grants to fill out the purpose/methods/relevance sections.

 

  1. What design program should I use?

Unless there is a standard required template, you can use whatever software you like. We recommend using what you are comfortable with so you don’t spend extra hours struggling with the software; there is enough work to do getting your content organised. You can use something as simple as PowerPoint, or as complicated as InDesign, both can give you a professional looking result.

Sometimes universities will have a standard template students and faculty can use. For Bernice’s poster, we wanted it to look like a poster from our institution, but not like all of the other posters in the competition. Instead of using the standard ppt file, Bernice chose to design her own layout in InDesign using the official university colours.

 

  1. How will you make your poster engaging and able to stand out in a hall full of other presenters?

This answer has two approaches: design and presentation.

Design – Use sound design rules for your poster. You can print out 4-6 paragraphs of text in 16 pt. font and call it a day, but taking some extra time to make your poster look approachable (as in, you can read it in less than 30 minutes) and visually appealing will make your research look more approachable and interesting. Using appropriate white space, limiting your colour pallet (and think about accessibility for colour blind readers), and using a legible font in an appropriate size will go a long way to making your poster stand out. A good font size guideline is 85 pt. for the title, 36 pt. for sub headings, 24 pt. for the body, and 18 pt. for captions and references. Using relevant images and diagrams is also a good idea.

Presentation – First and foremost, you want to be presentable. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes that are appropriate for the event. If you feel comfortable you will be more comfortable presenting. Have your elevator pitch memorised, but be ready to have a conversation about your project. Don’t stick to a formal script but if you get nervous you can prepare some talking points and write them down in bullet form. Try to engage with the audience around their interest in your research, not just your favourite ideas. This is a great way to find collaborators or get asked questions that may not come up in a formal conference Q&A. While you are standing by your poster waiting for someone to approach put your phone away, smile, and say hello. Don’t just talk to the people you know or people from your institution, you never know what kind of connections you will make.

This is a great networking opportunity, so make it easy for people to follow-up with you after the event. Include your email address, Twitter handle, or website URL directly on your poster and bring your business cards with you. If you won’t be standing next to your poster for the entire event, pin up a few cards next to your poster for people to take.

A few final tips:

  • If you are travelling to present at a conference, plan ahead to have your poster printed at your destination. Shannon has had good luck using hosting universities’ campus print shops, and Staples is always a quick and nearly universal option. This will save you having to carry on a poster tube or risking damaging or losing your poster en route.
  • Get the most mileage out of your poster. If your institution has an institutional repository, add your poster and some speaking notes to your profile. If you have a personal academic website, link to a pdf version of your poster there. Like any scholarly communication product, this may be useful to another researcher (if not for the subject matter, then certainly for your elegant design).

Research poster can be a little tricky, it may be easier to write about your research first or some people might find it easier to start with the layout. Practising how to write concise material is a useful exercise. If your information is well written, designing and presenting will come naturally. You don’t have to use complicated software to design your poster and can use the resources you have. Again, you are presenting your research and that’s the bulk of your poster. Make sure to follow the design rules of the conference and have your elevator pitch ready.


This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Research that is (un-)related to librarianship

by Kristin Hoffmann
University of Western Ontario

I have noticed that conversations about librariansi doing research often lead to discussions about whether librarians can or should do research that isn’t related to librarianship or library and information science (LIS). Most often in those discussions, librarians express a desire to do research in any discipline or bemoan the fact that their institution’s policies or practices don’t permit or support them to do research that is un-related to librarianship.

In a recent study that I did with two colleagues, Selinda Berg and Denise Koufogiannakis, we surveyed academic librarians who work at universities across Canada to explore how various factors are related to research productivity. As part of our survey, we asked participants to report their LIS-related research output over the past five years. A handful of participants remarked on the idea of LIS-related research with comments such as:

“What is LIS research? Is it only research that has been published in LIS journals? The research that I do is primarily focused on teaching and learning. I believe that this also informs LIS, but am unclear if it would be considered strictly LIS research?”

“My area of research is not LIS-related, but librarians [at my university] are restricted to ‘work-related’ projects when applying for sabbatical.”

“Peer-reviewed, published research in non-library fields raises the image and acceptance of librarians as faculty and participants in post-secondary activities in my opinion.”

I admit having had a strong personal opinion on the matter: that librarians should do research related to librarianship. It has seemed like common sense to me that we research within our discipline. I also feel that “librarianship” is vast, far beyond the realm of “related to what I do as a librarian,” and so I haven’t perceived this boundary as a restriction.

But I find myself now wanting to be less fixed and more open to considering other ways of looking at this. I am curious to explore the issues around research that is and is not related to librarianship. Questions that interest me include:

What does “research related to librarianship” mean, and how might that meaning differ for librarians who are more or less interested in doing such research?

How does collective agreement languageii affect the kind of research that librarians do or the kind of research that they want to do?

How do subject expertise and other advanced degrees influence librarians’ research interests or confidence to carry out research, either related to librarianship or not?

I hope that this exploration will help me, and others, to better understand what is at the root of various perspectives about research that is or is not related to librarianship, so that we can better support and encourage each other as researchers.
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iMy experience is limited to conversations about academic librarians doing research.
iiIn Canada, most academic librarians are members of faculty associations and their responsibilities, including research or scholarly activity, are outlined in collective agreements or similar documents.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

“I miss math…”- Strengths & Comfort Zones When Choosing Research Methods

by Laura Newton Miller, on sabbatical from Carleton University

I have the great fortune to be on a one-year sabbatical. I love to learn, and I’ve moved out of my comfort zone by doing more qualitative research. I am interpreting a lot of open-ended comments from many interesting people, and have gone from being overwhelmed to kind of/sort-of comfortable in the mounds of data I’ve collected. I really do appreciate and love the learning.

So, a little story: In late spring, I was helping my 11-year-old son with his homework to find the surface area of triangular prisms. After watching some YouTube videos, we eventually started working through a practice sheet until he finally got the hang of it. While working on some problems myself in order to help him understand, I had a bit of an epiphany: I miss math.

You see, in “real life” I’m an assessment librarian. This started as mainly collections assessment, and eventually broadened to also include service and space.  If anyone ever thought that they would like to become a librarian to avoid math, they best not be working in collections, administration, or assessment. I do math all the time in my job. Does it drive me crazy sometimes? Yep. But I like it- I’ve always been pretty good at it.

For the most part, my research so far this year does not include much math. And that’s ok; It doesn’t work for what I’m trying to do at the moment. I have been stretching out of my comfort zone, treading my way through to learn new skills. I guess this is nothing new- I get out of my comfort zone a lot in my regular job too (ie. I never knew I’d use Excel so much). With learning any new skill, there are overwhelming moments- the “what have I gotten myself into” kinds of moments. They are happening less and less now, but I sometimes find myself comparing this sabbatical to my last one in 2010. At that time, I was just getting used to the idea of doing research at all. One of the things I did was a bibliographic study on graduate biology theses at Carleton University (shameless plug here: http://www.istl.org/11-winter/refereed3.html). There was lot of math involved.  It was a very new process for me and I’m sure I had my doubts at the time, but I also remember saying out loud “I LOVE this”. Not that I’m NOT loving what I’m doing now…I’ve certainly had my “ooh” moments…. I just find it more…difficult maybe?

I love Selinda Berg’s blog post (https://words.usask.ca/ceblipblog/2016/03/22/capacity-not-competencies/) focusing on capacities for research- not just research competencies. I have to keep reminding myself that this is a learning process. I’m definitely growing as a researcher. I remember being part of the Librarians’ Research Institute (2014) (http://www.carl-abrc.ca/strengthening-capacity/workshops-and-training/librarians-research-institute/). Although I can’t find it in my notes (and I still refer to them 🙂 ), I do remember us talking about choosing research methods to answer your questions- understanding the advantages and disadvantages of choosing quantitative, qualitative, or critical/theoretical methods. In the end though, someone said you do have to feel comfortable with your choice of research method. As an example, if you are a complete introvert, you have to ask yourself if you really want to conduct focus groups or interviews. Just how much do you want to get out of your comfort zone?

I’m happy to be out of my comfort zone, but I have also learned that when I’m looking at future ways to answer my research questions, I need to remember my strengths and skills that I do have. I purposely did not say “weaknesses” because those are the opportunities to learn. I do think that librarians can sometimes be a little “judgey” about some methods (ie “not another survey”) and this is not helpful.

Ultimately choose the research method that is right for your research question, and when weighing the pros and cons of each method, remember your strengths and the learning curve that might be involved. Next time (if it makes sense to do so) I know that I won’t necessarily leave math out of the equation (bad pun intended).

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.