The Mount Allison Way: Finding Research Collaborators at a Small Institution

by Elizabeth Stregger
Systems Librarian, Mount Allison University
Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada

In a recent meeting, a colleague asked me how I got started on a research project with Christiana MacDougall, a faculty member from Women’s and Gender Studies. I squirmed in my seat, looked perplexed, and started my story, “well, I went out for a beer with another faculty member and we got on to the topic of Wikipedia….” Merriment burst out in the room. “Ah, the Mount Allison way,” someone commented.

When I came to Mount Allison University, I was keen to find people with similar interests. I started going to all kinds of campus events, from evening lectures to the Pride parade to Faculty Council. I asked everyone if they were a knitter, or if they knew of a knitting group in town. I said hello to people I recognized at the Farmer’s Market. I helped organize a film series in the library. Little did I know that I was starting to establish my research network.

At a smaller library we all have broader responsibilities. If the projector isn’t working, I’m the person who goes and checks all the connections. If a faculty member needs a repository for a digital project, that question comes to me too. These interactions across faculty boundaries are part of life on a smaller campus.

New responsibilities send me into research mode. I start searching the literature, creating Zotero folders, and sharing articles. Although my initial intention is to use evidence to inform my practice, follow up conversations with faculty members spark new ideas for projects and collaborative research.

Bringing these ideas back to the library creates new connections with library colleagues. The best space on campus for the Women’s and Gender Studies Wikipedia edit-a-thon was the library. When one of the students had questions about some genealogical abbreviations in a source, I called the Archivist, David Mawhinney, for help. Now David and I will be speaking together at our International Women’s Day event about women in science at Mount Allison.

Truly engaging in the university community in these ways has required a bit of bravery. The positive feedback loop has me committed to challenging my introverted instincts. In less than a year, I’ve had two conference presentation proposals accepted, my first collaborative REB proposal was approved, and I was included in a SSHRC grant proposal.

Previous positions at other institutions laid the groundwork for the activities I’m involved in now—from developing an evidence based practice at the University of Saskatchewan to working with medical researchers on their research profiles at the University of Manitoba. The “Mount Allison Way” is an exciting approach to research, and I’m looking forward to seeing what other kinds of opportunities will come out of the woodwork next!

What are your tips for adapting to a new institution?

How do you take advantage of happenstance in your research?

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.

One thought on “The Mount Allison Way: Finding Research Collaborators at a Small Institution

  1. Sometimes research collabs are found in the most unlikely places. Congrats on finding your footing at a new institution and building that network!

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