(Small) public libraries do research too!

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

Last October I attended the Centre of Evidence-Based Library and Information Practice Fall Symposium and quickly came to the realization that I was the only public librarian in attendance and the year before that there were only two of us. Almost all the presentations were geared towards special or academic libraries, which got me thinking, “Hey! Public librarians do this kind of research too!”

Of course, public libraries do research! Admittedly, research in the LIS discipline is dominated by academic librarians. Even research about public libraries tends to be done mostly by academic librarians. Why is that? Public librarians do not need to publish in the same way that academic librarians need to, but why don’t we publish more research? Do we not have the time or funding? Do we not consider what we do as research worth publishing? These are important questions, but not what I want to discuss today.

What I do want to talk about is what small public libraries, specifically the one I work at, does as far as research is concerned. But, first, some background information. I live in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and work as the Collections and Reader’s Advisory Librarian at John M. Cuelenaere Public Library. Prince Albert has one full branch and one satellite branch out on the west side of the city and a population of roughly 40,000 people. Compared to Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary, etc. we are a rather small library.

Small public libraries, like mine, do engage in research. However, the research we do is generally not seen as “traditional” research because data collection is usually an ongoing process and we often do not share it with the LIS community. Matthews (2013) offers a model of “Try, Assess, and Reflect” for public libraries embracing evidence-based librarianship and says, “try something, gather some data about the effectiveness of the change, and then make some adjustments” (p. 28). Here’s an example of how we used this model: A couple of years ago we looked at what other libraries were doing and made the decision to launch a small video game collection. After a few months, I gathered statistical information about the new collection. Based on that we tweaked how we were doing things. Some of the items were not being returned, so we limited checkouts to two games per patron. E-rated games were being used more than M-rated games, therefore I altered my buying habits accordingly. Each month I gather statistical data on the whole collection to see what is being used, what is not being used, and what current trends are.

That is an example of how small public libraries use quantitative research methods to guide change; however, there has been a shift in research trends in the LIS community from quantitative to qualitative methodologies. Another project I want to talk about is our most recent strategic planning project. It has been ongoing for a few months now and we have done various different types of information gathering. We use statistical data like gate counts, usage stats, website metrics, etc. to guide us in creating a new strategic plan, but we also had three separate strategic planning sessions where we gathered qualitative data. Our first session was with the members of our board and library management, the second was with the rest of the library staff, and finally, the third session was held with the public. The major topics up for discussion were Facilities, Technology, Collections, Programs, and Community Outreach. The topics were written on large pieces of paper posted around the room, then everyone who attended the session was given a marker (and a cookie, because you have to lure them in somehow) and asked to go around the room and write their ideas under each heading. Each session built on the previous session and we analyzed the information gathered and have started developing a work plan which will target each of the major points. The information gathered has already helped us with the designs for our renovation project, as well as with our budget allocations.

I could write more about the various types of research small public libraries, such as John M. Cuelenaere Public Library, do but I do not want to turn this blog post into an essay! If there are any Brain-Works blog readers out there who are also from public libraries and conduct other forms of research please comment! I would love to hear what other public libraries (large or small) are doing.


Matthews, J. R. (2013). Research-based planning for public libraries increasing relevance in the digital age. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

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.

The first few weeks of sabbatical – Time to focus!

by Laura Newton Miller, on sabbatical from Carleton University

I’m lucky to be in the beginning weeks of a one-year sabbatical.  This is my second sabbatical, and I seem to be approaching this one a little differently than 7 years ago.

Unlike my first sabbatical, I started this one with a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to New Zealand. Although it was mostly a holiday, I did have the opportunity to meet and discuss all-things-library with Janet Fletcher and some of the lovely staff at Victoria University of Wellington.  I love seeing how other libraries do things, and our discussions really helped me to focus on my particular research. I was also able to discuss my research focus with family in Wellington, and really appreciated how I can apply their non-library perspective to my own work.

Knowing that I was taking this holiday, I did a lot of initial research pre-sabbatical (ethics approval, survey implementation) so that when I returned, I’d be able to immediately sink my teeth into the analysis. This is different than my first sabbatical, where I started work right away.

So what have I learned so far in my second sabbatical? I will readily admit that I probably have more questions than answers at this point, but I do have some tidbits of what to watch out for….

Limit social media

  • I know, I know – we know this – but it’s tricky sometimes! I find this very easy to do while on vacation, but the combination of jet-lag and arriving back just in time for a lot of turmoil south of the Canadian border made it very difficult to focus my first week back. I’m finding staying off social media a little more difficult this time around, but am aiming to limit myself to checking less often.

Find the time to work

  • I have school-age kids. I’m not sure if the winter weather was better the last sabbatical or not, but my kids seem to be around more because of storm cancellations or catching some sickness/bug. It makes it difficult to try and work during perhaps more “traditional” hours. I’m happy to be there for them, but finding that quiet time can sometimes be a challenge.

I still love analysis

  • I’m reading through comments from my survey. It was overwhelming at first- just sort of “swimming” in all the data, trying to figure out the themes and ways to code things. I’ve finally reached a breakthrough, which is exciting in itself, but even when I’m floundering I still just love it. I’m so excited for all of the things I’m going to learn this year.

I MAY have taken on too much .

Take a vacation/significant break before sinking teeth into work

  • Since I’m really at the beginning of everything right now, I’m still on the fence on whether or not this has helped my productivity. But it has been wonderful to give myself space between my work life and my sabbatical life- to have a chance to “let go” of some of the work-related things and to really focus. Which leads me to….

Stay off work emails

  • I found this very easy to do for my first sabbatical. Because I’m at a different point in my career now, I find myself checking my email *sometimes* this time around. But I try to limit it to infrequently getting rid of junk mail and catching up on major work-related news.

Do you have any tips on staying focused? I would love to hear them. I’m excited and energized about what my sabbatical year holds!

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.

Library technology, diversity, and a question in need of an answer: C-EBLIP Journal Club, February 14, 2017

by Shannon Lucky, IT Librarian, University of Saskatchewan

Dewey, B. I. (2015). Transforming Knowledge Creation: An Action Framework for Library Technology Diversity. The Code4Lib Journal, (28). Retrieved from http://journal.code4lib.org/articles/10442

I picked up this article for our journal club because the title implies that the author has an answer to a question I have been thinking about for months – how can library technology (and library technologists) contribute to diversity for our institutions, collections, and communities? The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada: Calls to Action specifically describes work that must be done in our educational institutions, museums, and archives that require rethinking the systems we use, what their design assumes and implies, and the ways they are problematic for communities and individuals. At the U of S University Library, I am responsible for our online presence, including our website and integrated systems. While we are updating the content and infrastructure of this very public part of our organization I am trying to be conscious and proactive in making sure that our web interfaces invite everyone in and are useful for all members of our community. While I have been asking myself these questions, I don’t really know what a website or digital system that supports diversity looks like. I suspect I am not alone so I wanted to throw the question out to our journal club.

The best conversations in our group don’t always happen around the most well-crafted articles, and that was the case this time around. Our conversation sparked all kinds of new ideas for me, but (to be blunt) this article doesn’t deliver on the promise in the title. The first thing we all noticed was the missing definition of diversity. The author doesn’t give one and we are left to make a lot of assumptions about what they mean. We talked about definitions of diversity at length – about how it has to be about more than race and gender (as we felt this article implied), and that really embracing diversity has to happen in every aspect of the organization continuously and constantly.

We talked about the examples described in the article but agreed that the idea that a single program, event, or new hire effectively checks a diversity box is wrong, bordering on tokenism. One of the members of our group said that diversity means disinvesting in things that we hold dear. Things like what we believe achievement and success looks like, things that directly impact us, and things that make us comfortable and complacent (like tradition or ‘the way we have always done this’). This idea really resonated with me. We talked about how ideas of hiring for ‘cultural fit’ in an organization can be problematic and that having a workplace full of people who get along (because they think the same way, have the same opinions, experiences, and backgrounds), even if the group is gender or racially diverse, isn’t an objectively good thing.

The TRC recommendations and their call for a new relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples came up again in this conversation. We talked about what a new relationship really means and how drivers of major institutions (like libraries) need to give up some control and change the ways we do things, even if this will take more time and resources than we want it to. This connects to something we did like about the article – the call for ‘true partnerships and collaborations’ as part of the 3rd dimension of the 5-part action framework, Embeddedness & Global Perspective. A few members of our group said that that terminology jumped off the page at them, even if it wasn’t discussed in the rest of the article. Investing in long-term meaningful partnerships and collaborations, in ways that are not only convenient or easy for us, would be a way to foster greater diversity in our collections, communities, and organization in general.

There is a part of the actual implementation of the action framework that we were excited about too. The author described the Penn State Library Diversity Residency Program that hires recent LIS grads belonging to groups historically underrepresented in our field for a two-year term, rotating them through different areas of the library including technical departments like digital initiatives, emerging technologies, instructional and research services, and repository and data curation services. This would be a great opportunity for anyone interested in exploring library technology work and would benefit both the residents and the departments they work in by bringing in new perspectives to established teams. I would love to see something like this at more academic libraries.

While our journal club group didn’t think this was a great article, we thought the idea of the framework was interesting but, ultimately, had little to do with library technology in particular. The framework could be applied to diversity in libraries in general, and the challenge should probably be approached this way rather than targeting individual domains in the library. Making our technologies and systems work for everyone is an important step to take. Training everyone to think, research, and work the same way isn’t real diversity, even if the team doing that work looks ‘diverse’.

I went into this discussion looking for specific things I can do in my tech-based work to encourage diversity but I didn’t find an easy answer. A member of our group expressed this well when she said that we all want quick and tidy solutions, but the work we do is difficult and diversity is a multi-dimensional area of inquiry. There are few easy targets that are also meaningful so it’s no surprise that this article isn’t a silver bullet solution. Our conclusion was that change toward real diversity will require long-term investment and constant questions of regular ways of doing things. Our current context won’t hold still, so a one-time solution will never work. A line on a strategic plan, however well-intentioned, won’t make this work. It has to become an everyday practice that infuses every decision we make and everything we do. We won’t always do it perfectly, but having this conversation felt like a solid step in the right direction.


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.

The importance of spending time outside

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

"We spend more minutes in our virtual worlds than outside" - Dublin streetscape

“We spend more minutes in our virtual worlds than outside” – Dublin streetscape

This is a photo I took in the summer of 2016 on a sunny day in Dublin, Ireland. I regularly commute using a Luas[1] tram that brings me from the centre of Dublin city to my office in the health service, which is located opposite Dublin’s main train station, Heuston. This photo struck me for three reasons. Firstly, 2016 was a year when we celebrated (if that is the right word) 100 years of a historical event called the Easter rising. The Easter rising was the beginning of Irish independence from British rule and led to Ireland becoming a republic. The question posed by Dublin City Council on this sign asks its citizen, ‘How will you remember?’ referring to the 1916 centenary. Librarians have played their part by capturing the digital record of Ireland in 2016 through the leadership of the National Library of Ireland. Contributing to a nation’s cultural heritage and overseeing its preservation is a pivotal role for our profession.

Secondly, underneath this call to action lies a mural which captures a 21st century phenomenon. It states that we are all spending more time in virtual worlds than we do outside. This makes me wonder, following on from the previous question, how will we remember life one hundred years from now? Will our descendants look back and wonder what we were all doing spending the majority of our lives in virtual worlds rather than the real world?

Do we need to go outside? Is fresh air important? If you experience writer’s block or your research needs a fresh approach, moving outside might just do the trick. For example, I got off the Luas to take this photo, which led to me writing this blog piece. Taking in the outside environment, and maybe even looking at your place of work with a fresh lens, will lend itself to new ideas. The benefits of fresh air are well documented and contact with nature in urban areas can promote health[2].

Finally, the background of the photo shows a derelict building built in the 1970s, a time of mass construction in Ireland. Unfortunately, many of the buildings constructed during this time were lacking imagination, long-term thinking, and planning. This building used to house the Motor Taxation office, which was one of several such offices. In 2013, a new office opened and all other branches closed. The new office is for the whole of Dublin processing 620,469 registrations in 2015[3]. This function has moved online, with the majority of Dublin motorists (75%) buying or renewing their tax online[4]. A new office exists in a nearby street which caters to people who prefer to do their business in person and those who do not have the means, or perhaps digital literacy, to access this service online.

It is a sign of the times, everything is moving online – including people. Buildings are changing their function and their purpose. Relocation, reinvention, and repurposing are on the agenda. This resonates with libraries and librarians. Our buildings are being repurposed[5] and many of our access points have already moved online. Some library branches are closing with centralisation of functions[6] replacing them. We are moving with the times and changing our buildings and our functions.

I took three messages from this photo which I took while outside. For writers and researchers practicing evidence based librarianship, I would encourage you to gain insights from the outdoors and to take photos. They inspire.

[1] The word Luas is an Irish word which translates as ‘Speed’ in English.

[2] Van den Berg, Agnes E., Terry Hartig, and Henk Staats. “Preference for nature in urbanized societies: Stress, restoration, and the pursuit of sustainability.” Journal of social issues 63.1 (2007): 79-96.  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-4560.2007.00497.x/full

[3] Based on statistics available from Central Statistics Office See http://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-tranom/to2015/vs/vlr/
[4] See http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/just-single-motor-tax-office-to-be-left-in-dublin-30607188.html

[5] See Somerville, Mary M., and Margaret Brown-Sica. “Library space planning: a participatory action research approach.” The Electronic Library 29.5 (2011): 669-681; Ross, Lyman, and Pongracz Sennyey. “The library is dead, long live the library! The practice of academic librarianship and the digital revolution.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 34.2 (2008): 145-152; Brown-Sica, Margaret. “Using academic courses to generate data for use in evidence based library planning.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39.3 (2013): 275-287.

[6] See Chitty, Teresa, and Jenny Ellis. “But where is the library…?: Reframing the library at the University of Melbourne in a shared services environment.” (2016); Owen, Gareth Wyn, and Gareth Wyn Owen. “Delivering a shared library management system for Wales.” Library Management 37.6/7 (2016): 385-395.

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.

The conundrum of leadership

by Jaclyn McLean, Electronic Resources Librarian, University of Saskatchewan

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a leader. What leadership is. What a strong leader would look like. How I could be a leader from right here where I am today. So naturally, I have been doing some reading about leadership. And watching some videos about it, too. I’ve found a few philosophies about leadership that resonate with me, and many others that didn’t, which only serves to demonstrate the individual nature of leadership. There seems to be a need for hope, for optimism, in the world today. For me, thinking about the leader I could be and focusing on the positive, rather than letting my energy be drained by the state of the world around me, has made me feel like I’m doing something positive. These are some of the people whose ideas about leadership are inspiring me:

Susan Cain [link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/opinion/sunday/introverts-make-great-leaders-too.html] wrote Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, a book that showed me that introversion is powerful. It is not something that needs to be cured. It is not the same thing as shyness. Some of the most powerful leaders in recent history would describe themselves with the characteristics of introversion.

Drew Dudley [link: https://www.ted.com/talks/drew_dudley_everyday_leadership] reminds us that leadership can be as small as a moment when you have an impact on someone else’s life. That as long as we make leadership about changing the world, we’re giving ourselves the excuse not to expect it from ourselves or each other.

Roxane Gay [link: https://www.ted.com/talks/roxane_gay_confessions_of_a_bad_feminist ] has the bravery to say and write the kinds of things I think but am not always brave enough to say. She says, in Bad Feminist: Essays “When you can’t find someone to follow, you have to find a way to lead by example.” If you haven’t read any of her writing, consider it [link: http://fortune.com/2015/02/12/women-shouldnt-have-to-lead-like-men-to-be-successful/]. Or follow her on Twitter and observe how she engages with critics. She leads by example.

Simon Sinek [link: https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_why_good_leaders_make_you_feel_safe] tells us that leadership is a choice in his Ted talk. He talks about trust and cooperation, about choosing to look after those to your right and your left, to sacrifice so others may gain. When you do, others will sacrifice for you. And that is leadership.

Tina Fey [link: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/university_of_venus/lessons_from_bossypants_women_and_leadership] reminds us to be part of the solution. To say yes rather than no, to stay open to possibility rather than shutting it down for yourself and others.

Looking to these sources (and so many others who stretch my thinking (watch Leroy Little Bear [link: https://vimeo.com/172822409])), I’ve been building my personal definition of leadership for several years now. Right now, it looks something like this. Leadership is the accumulation of small victories. It is situational, vulnerable, authentic, generous, flexible, and driven by the heart. Leaders admit when they falter or fall down, and they get back up again. Being a leader is about the small actions, about treating others how you’d like to be treated, by setting expectations for others and meeting them yourself. The idea of leading with the heart reminds me of Selinda’s recent post [link: http://words.usask.ca/ceblipblog/2017/01/03/affective-research-supports/] on this blog. Providing affective research support is one of those small actions that can have a large impact.

So that’s what leadership looks like to me right now. What does it look like to you? What kind of leader do you want to be? What can you do to make someone else’s life a bit better today?


Author’s Note: In writing this post, I came face to face with the unavoidable truth that many of those we hold up as leaders, or as exemplifying leadership qualities, are white men or women. If you’d like to read more about that bias, I would point you to this article, “Think Leader, Think White? Capturing and Weakening an Implicit Pro-White Leadership Bias” from PLos ONE [link: http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0083915], and ask you to look for role models and leaders from outside your own cultural community. Or think about how to encourage leaders from all communities. Michelle Obama has some advice [link: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/05/09/remarks-first-lady-tuskegee-university-commencement-address]. Thanks for reading.

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.

Leaning In or Leaning Back?

by Marjorie Mitchell
Research Librarian, UBC Okanagan Library

With apologies to Sheryl Sandberg.

I am going to admit it here first – I’m going through a bit of a dry spell with my research. Actually, it’s not the research – that feels like it’s making some forward movement for the time being. No, the dry spell I’m experiencing has to do more with disseminating my research results and getting my findings “out there” than it has to do with the “research” per se. I’ve recently had proposals for two conference presentations (one traditional presentation and one poster) rejected. Now I’m in a bit of a quandary. I’m trying to read the message of these two rejections to determine whether I should continue this line of research or not. Do I continue and hope the results of my research will be more convincing and compelling nearer completion (leaning in) or maybe it’s a good time to adjust the focus of my research (leaning back).

Research is a funny thing. While many of us conduct research for reasons like “contributing to the profession” or “out of curiosity” or “because I’m required to do research for tenure and/or promotion”, few of us spend enough time determining whether our topic meets the criteria Hollister (2013) called “noteworthy”. Basically, he is pointing out the importance of saying something new, or utilizing something existing, either a theory or method, in a new and unique way.

I would take this a step further and say that a topic also needs to be timely. If your topic has already been written about and presented on many times, it might be that the topic has become stale, even if you have found something new to add to the knowledge about the topic. Another contribution to a topic that has occupied our professional attention for some time just isn’t as appealing as something newer. There is also the problem of being too new. There are some topics and ideas that are just a bit too far ahead of the crowd and won’t be accepted in the current round of conferences and upcoming journals.

Some ideas are just ahead of what the profession is ready to be discussing at any given time. No matter how well composed, researched and executed, an idea that is ahead of its time will fall on deaf ears. You may have had the experience of coming up with a topic and pitching it, only to see it presented by someone else two years later at your favorite conference. There is no quick or easy solution to this. You can only console yourself with a hot cup of tea, secure in the knowledge that you had that idea first.

I think one solution to the issue of being timely is also to develop a certain passionate detachment to the research you’re doing. Research needs a certain amount of objectivity, but I truly believe research needs passion and enthusiasm to carry it forward. I’ve come to recognize, however, I also require a certain amount of detachment, particularly at the conclusion of my research, to allow me to withstand the rejections my ideas sometimes receive.

Sometimes it is worthwhile to step back from the research, particularly after a rejection, and honestly weigh whether the research is still worth pursuing and finishing. It may be your great idea is just a little too late. For now, I’m going to take my proposals to a colleague and get a second, less biased, look at them before I make any decisions. So, before I lean in any direction, I’m going to lean on a friend for advice. I don’t think Sheryl mentioned that kind of leaning.


Hollister, C. V. (2013). Handbook of academic writing for librarians. Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries.

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.

Should I stay or should I go? Thoughts on conference travel and protest in academia

by Shannon Lucky, Information Technology Librarian, University of Saskatchewan

Over the past week I had many conversations with colleagues about this upcoming conference season and what we, as Canadians, are going to do about travelling to the U.S. The response from universities and academics around the world has been swift and damning of the American administration’s decision to ban citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from travel to the U.S., but there isn’t much consensus about what else we can do. Back in the Fall, I was delighted to be accepted to speak at a large American conference at the end of March, but now I’m not so sure I want to go. I’m thinking twice about the politics and practicalities of my choice; whether or not I feel both safe and right to participate in academic conferences in the U.S.

The impact of this ban was immediately felt in academia where travel for conferences, teaching, workshops, and research is the norm. Post-secondary campuses are full of people from all over the world and limiting the ability to travel for work and personal reasons – either for fear they won’t be allowed into the U.S., or fear they won’t be able to get back to their American home if they leave, is chilling. The ban doesn’t affect my ability travel. I am a Canadian citizen, I am white, English is my first language – I am in a place of privilege. But I worry about my colleagues who are not.

Writing for a blog about evidence-based practice, it isn’t hard to see how engaging in any way with a U.S. administration that uses ‘alternative facts’, led by someone making decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had” (Fisher, 2016, July) is troubling. The fallout from this executive order is unpredictable and shifting day to day with little clarity about what it really means. As I am writing this, the ban has been temporarily halted (who knows what will have happened by the time you are reading) and it is this instability that is causing so much of my anxiety.

I have been weighing my options, reading everything I can find online, and asking colleagues what their plans are for traveling to the U.S. for work. For some people, there is no option – the risk of being blocked at the border (or not allowed back in if they leave) is too high. It’s fair to questions the intellectual integrity of events where Muslim colleagues are explicitly excluded. Over the past week, more than 6000 academics have signed a pledge to boycott travel to international conferences in the U.S. until the travel ban is lifted. I have also read online comments proposing that academics petition international conference organizers to move their events outside of the U.S. in protest. Many of the people interviewed for a CBC story about the travel boycott found supporting it was a complicated decision, a feeling I am also struggling with.

My knee jerk reaction is to stay away, take a moral stance and protest with my dollars. But I also think about my colleagues who have no choice but to live and work in that climate – what message am I sending them by staying away? What about scholars from those six countries studying and working in the U.S. who cannot leave the country with confidence they can return home?

The impetus to DO SOMETHING is strong (and I will confess that I am a little afraid of what could happen while I am there), so I want to sign that pledge and boycott with all of the people on that list that I respect. However, I haven’t signed because I also believe that smothering academic discourse by refusing to participate isn’t the answer, and withholding my registration money from liberal institutions and cheating myself out of the experience of being at the conference (and the CV line for having presented) does no good either. I have thought about asking if I can teleconference in for my talk or pre-record it, but that isn’t entirely in the spirit of an academic conference and it might be more technology than the organizers are prepared to deal with. I don’t know what to do.

I sit solidly on the fence today as I write this, and so do many of the people I have asked about this question. I imagine there are Brainwork readers struggling with the same decisions and weighing their own options. Have you made a decision about what you are planning do in the next few months? Do you have any advice to offer? I would love to hear it.


Fisher, M. (2016, July 17). Donald Trump doesn’t read much. Being president probably wouldn’t change that. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://wpo.st/STj_2

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.

Mainstreaming Scholarly Communication Support: C-EBLIP Journal Club, January 5, 2017

by DeDe Dawson
Science Liaison Librarian,
University of Saskatchewan

The C-EBLIP Journal Club kicked off 2017 with a “classic” article:

Malenfant, K. J. (2010). Leading Change in the System of Scholarly Communication : A Case Study of Engaging Liaison Librarians for Outreach to Faculty. College & Research Libraries, 71(1), 63–76. Retrieved from http://crl.acrl.org/content/71/1/63.full.pdf

In journal club we tend to select newer articles from the last year or two. Although 2010 is not that long ago it is outside our usual range. I recently revisited this article while working on a strategic action item that I am leading for our library. Our team for this action item is tasked with positioning the library as the source for open access expertise and advocacy on campus. As we contemplate ways to engage our library colleagues in this topic we have been doing what all good academics do: consult the literature! This article, in particular, seemed a good one to discuss beyond our team.

Kara Malenfant is a Senior Strategist with ACRL. At the time of writing this article her main responsibility and interest was in changes in scholarly communication and how libraries are responding to them. The article is an intrinsic case study: “…a special, significant example, not a typical or average case of how libraries implement scholarly communication outreach programs” (p 64). She describes how the University of Minnesota (UMN) Libraries “mainstreamed” scholarly communication duties into the work of all liaison librarians.

The notion of an “intrinsic” case study was new and intriguing to me. Indeed, the methods of this research were the first discussion point raised in our journal club. Malenfant conducted semi-structured interviews with two liaisons involved in this transition as well as Karen Williams, the library administrator at the time who implemented the change. A few of us raised concerns about the low number of people interviewed and their obvious bias in support of the changes, while another objected to the lack of generalizability of this kind of method. Despite these concerns, we all agreed strongly that this article is highly valuable and worthwhile – and one of the better case study articles we have read! Biases are labelled and acknowledged, and Malefant is clear about the methods and limitations.

Apparently, many other readers agree too. The article is highly cited and was selected as a landmark paper for republication in the College & Research Libraries’ 75th Anniversary issue. We discussed this popularity a bit too. Malenfant clearly states that the findings of a case study of this type are not generalizable… but they are transferable. This rings true: we noted many situations described where we saw ourselves and our library! We identified with the challenges the UMN Libraries faced. It is likely the case for other readers as well. All academic libraries face this challenge of how to address the changing needs of their users with the same, or fewer, resources and how to engage liaisons in new areas when they are already overwhelmed with numerous responsibilities. So, it is not surprising that the journal club discussion veered away from the article and towards this meaty and contentious topic.
Scholarly communication support is an obvious and pressing need on campus, and liaison librarians are ideally positioned to provide this kind of support. Making this kind of transition, getting everyone on board and (most critically) stopping doing some other things, is a rough road however. The successful strategies discussed in this intrinsic case study are useful to many libraries struggling with the same challenges.

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.

Experiences of publishing journal articles

by Kristin Hoffmann
Associate Librarian, University of Western Ontario

One Tuesday morning last December, Western’s Librarian and Archivist Research Support Network held a panel session where colleagues shared their recent experiences with publishing their research. Sharing experiences of different parts of the research process is an important part of building a research culture. I found it illuminating and motivating to hear about my colleagues’ experiences, so I thought I would share with Brain-Work readers the key points I took away from that session.

It can take a very long time.
All of the panelists talked about this. In none of their cases did the publishing process take less than a year from start to finish. Be prepared for publication to take time, and be quick to respond to requests for revisions.

So, consider having more than one project on the go at any given time.
One panelist offered this suggestion as a follow-up to the long publication times mentioned above. Working on more than one project at once means that you can be working on one while waiting for the reviewers’ comments on the other.

Feedback helps!
Colleagues who read your paper before you submit it to a journal might identify changes that you can’t see because you’re so close to your work. Editors and reviewers can also give you helpful feedback, even if they end up rejecting your submission to their journal. Panelists also emphasized the value of getting feedback throughout their research, not just at the end when they were writing their paper.

Author order matters, so talk about it.
Do this early on in the writing process, if possible. Some factors that our panelists took into account included the relative contributions of each author to the research, and the authors’ sense of which of them would benefit most from being first author.

It matters where you submit your article.
Your article should be a good fit for the journal’s scope. If you aren’t sure, ask the editor. Create a list of journals to which you could submit your paper, and do this early on in the writing process so that you can write with your selected journal’s style in mind. In choosing journals, panelists considered factors such as: prestige, fit with the journal’s scope, open access, frequency of publication, impact factor, and whether the journal could bring the article to a larger audience than librarians.

“Resubmit” is not rejection.
Take it as a positive sign when a journal asks you to resubmit your paper if they don’t accept it outright. Even though “resubmit for review” can feel like a rejection at first, it isn’t! Focus on the positive comments from the reviewers and work on making your paper even better. Also, rejections aren’t the end of the world. Half of our panelists had their first submissions rejected, but their papers were ultimately published in other journals.

For anyone who has published journal articles, this likely reminded you of your own experiences. For those who haven’t yet published an article, or who haven’t published in a while, these are good tips and strategies to keep in mind as you are writing and preparing to submit your paper.


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.

The hidden challenges of a Workplace-based Doctorate

by Tegan Darnell, Research Librarian, University of Southern Queensland

There are those things no one tells you about being a parent. Usually people say ‘Congratulations!’ like being pregnant is some sort of remarkable achievement. Nobody tells you the truth. The nurses don’t tell you that you will be so sleep deprived that you will drive straight through red lights. No one will admit that there will be days when you truly want to leave your kids at the park. Certainly no one tells you to start saving for electronics (I recommend you start saving now). It is the same with starting a Doctorate while working full time.

I expected late nights, intellectual challenges, and workplace negotiations. These things turned out to be less difficult than I expected. With this post I expose some of the hidden challenges I have come across when attempting a major research project while working full-time in a professional position. The things no one told me…

Ethical complexity

Considering the volume of literature published over the past thirty years or more that has lauded the benefits of situated action research to the learning organisation and its relevance to professional learning, I assumed that it would not be difficult to present a case for an insider-researcher model. A research model where the researcher is participating in a project with the people they work with is still considered very risky in the world of academia. My confirmation of candidature process included two revisions and took over seven months. It appears that there is still much work to be done before I can confidently apply for Human Ethics approval.

Existential crises

OK, so, some of this was to be expected. The questions that have arisen as I start to critically examine my professional practice are complex: why do we consider ourselves a profession? is there actually any role for the profession as it exists today at all? why did I end up in this particular profession (and am so passionate about it) when I appear to disagree with so much of what it does?  I could go on. As it is, let’s just say that I am having many sleepless nights wrestling with these questions. This leads nicely into the next challenge.

Headspace shift

One minute you are trying to help someone troubleshoot referencing management software and the next minute you are trying to abandon the idea of the value of referencing at all. One second you are making vegemite sandwiches “cut-in-four-triangles-with-the-crusts-cut-off-please”, and the next you have to sit down and write about how the benefits of situated action research outweigh the risks to participants. It takes me about twenty five minutes every time I have to do a mental shift from “Where are my shoes, Mum?” to “Zuber & Skerritt (2002)”. These interruptions mean that you need more time than you expect, and you need to do some of the next thing.

Extreme time management

When adding a PhD into the mix of full time work and the rest of your life, you’ll probably have to schedule your meals, your sleep, and even your toilet breaks.  You will probably have to schedule time with your spouse and your children – I know I do. As a parent of 2 biological children and 3 non-biological children, with a spouse, a farm, a parent with a disability, and house renovations to contend with, I also schedule myself into Time Out. This usually involves some sort of gore film or video game, whilst telling everyone to *ahem* go away (in a less than civil fashion). Self-care is incredibly important to add to the whole mix.

Surprising reactions

Don’t expect everyone to be happy for you or supportive. There will be those who will tell you to your face that you won’t be able to do your job properly, or, that you can’t possibly commit to research, work, and be a decent parent. Then there are people who tell you that they would have studied if only it wasn’t for their spouse/mother/child/dog problem, and then look at you just waiting for you to withdraw from study.

There are moments when I wonder just how crazy a person has to be, but then I remember that I am me, and I think, “BA HA HA! Pretty crazy!” and it all makes sense. ;P

Dependence on ‘angels’

You will need one or more of these. Angels are the people who make you dinner, do your grocery shopping, repair your toilet, and buy you coffee. Sometimes they remind you to eat, or go to bed. Sometimes they tell you that you are awesome. Sometimes they tell you not to do any study over your Christmas break. The very best ones will tell you to “pull your head in” or that your writing doesn’t make sense. As much as it is your research, you can’t do it without the care, kindness, and goodwill of others, so at some point you will have to just accept it and stop feeling rubbish about it.

Just as someone telling you when you have a child, “Your boobs will never look the same”, I can honestly say about doing an advanced work-based research project: “Your job, workplace, and profession will never look the same”. And just like being a parent, when people ask you “Is it worth it?” I can honestly say, “Most of the time.”

This article gives the views of the author 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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