Affective Research Supports: Small Actions, Big Difference

by Selinda Berg
Leddy Library, University of Windsor

In informal conversations with colleagues across Canada, as well as within the formal conversation of the professional literature, there is an underlying notion that librarians can feel a lack of support towards their research activities. It is perceived that librarians would benefit from more support from their colleagues and leaders. But when prompted, it is sometimes ambiguous what that “support” might look like. Of course, there is the obvious: funding, time, structural supports; however there is also a substantial need for affective support.

Because there are restrictions on the amount of funding, time, and structural support that colleagues and leaders can provide, I think we should consider the small actions we can take that will show our support towards our colleagues’ research.

Take the opportunity to hear about your colleagues’ research:

All too often we overlook our in-house activities and expertise and look outside of our institutions for the ‘interesting’ and ‘new’. However, there is much value in seeing what is happening internally. Just taking the time to hear about colleagues’ research is a way to demonstrate support, whether the opportunities arise at conferences or within your own institution.

It is always difficult to make decisions about what to see at conferences and there are limitations to all that we can see; however, showing up at your colleague’s presentation can be compelling. Showing support for colleagues can be one factor to take into consideration when selecting your conference itinerary.

Creating opportunities at your own institution to hear about your colleagues’ research is also very helpful. Again, we often overlook the amazing things that the colleagues in our own institutions are doing. At my academic institution, we have the Librarian Research Series where we share our research projects and people often are amazed by the great research happening within our own walls.

Acknowledge colleague’s research successes:

Keep your eye out for your colleague’s research successes, however big or small. Every step of the research process is difficult and perseverance is sometimes difficult to maintain. Acknowledging the milestones—funding successes, REB clearance, launching data collection, completing analysis, presenting findings, and publication—can help individuals push through the long process.

Take the time to acknowledge and congratulate your colleagues on their publications when you see them. Getting published is hard work. Just a quick email will go a long way to applaud and inspire researchers.

Just take an interest:

Of course, not all research is in our focused areas of interest. The research within librarianship is very diverse, spanning many fields. However, the areas are all interconnected and recognizing the ties will create a stronger research culture- a culture that values diverse areas of and approaches to research. We have much to learn from one another and the opportunities that will evolve from this learning are infinite.

What we can all acknowledge is that research is not easy, it takes hard work, tenacity, and perseverance. The tangible supports are valuable, but we cannot undervalue affective supports to help us move through our research journeys. While these small actions may seem insignificant, they can make a big difference. I do also want to encourage those in leadership positions to also engage in these small actions. When tangible supports are limited, affective support can demonstrate continued endorsement, encouragement, and validation of research in our field. These small acknowledgements and signs of support can be very powerful coming from library leaders. We all have a role in demonstrating our commitment to a strong and healthy research environment. Affective supports, which are often under-acknowledged, are small actions that can make big differences.

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.

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