UBC Okanagan’s First Researcher-in-Residence Day Report

by Marjorie Mitchell
Research Librarian, UBC Okanagan Library

A small and intrepid group of librarians and archivists gathered on December 15, 2017, in the University of British Columbia Okanagan Library Special Collections room for a day focused on the processes of conducting research. Librarians from Okanagan College and UBC’s Vancouver Campus joined their Okanagan colleagues to hear Jane Schmidt talk about her experience conducting research while on sabbatical, the challenge of peer-review for a topic that takes a critical stance, and, following the publication of her article Little Free Libraries®: Interrogating the impact of the branded book exchange, the media attention she and her research partner, Jordon Hale, received. Jane talked candidly about doing research on a topic she was passionate about, creating strong research partnerships with people who have complimentary skills, and about managing the aftermath of publishing an article critical of a US-based not-for-profit organization that caught the media’s attention.

In the question and answer time following Jane’s formal presentation she said one thing she would have done differently was to have secured ethics approval for portions of the research. She ultimately ended up excluding from her article what she learned from following social media on the Little Free Libraries® because she hadn’t sought ethics approval in advance of joining the closed Facebook group whose members are all people who built individual installations of a Little Free Libraries® box. A participant also asked Jane how she would have done this research if she had not been on sabbatical. Jane emphatically answered that the research would not have happened!

Following Jane’s candid and engaging talk, invited speakers Pierre Rondier and Mary Butterfield, both from UBC Okanagan, talked about writing grant proposals. Pierre focused on information about applying for Social Science and Humanities Research Council grants including the types of grants available, their scope, deadlines and criteria. Mary shared her insight as both a person who helps members of the Faculty of Management to write grant proposals and as an adjudicator for community grants such as community arts grants and grants from the Central Okanagan foundation. Both agreed researchers need to thoroughly understand the criteria of the grants for which they are applying.

The final session of the day was a panel presentation and discussion of research collaborations. Jane Schmidt talked about working with her researcher partner who was a student at the time they worked together. Sajni Lacey spoke about finding research collaborators during her time as a contract academic librarian prior to starting at UBC Okanagan on a tenure track. Finally, I spoke about collaborating in a large group over long distances highlighting my participation within the national studies on research data management practices of groups of faculty. Audience members added their experiences to the discussion to round out the breadth of variety of research, especially research done while on sabbatical or study leave.

Participants expressed an interest in seeing this type of event happen again.

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.

12 questions for new year’s research reflection

by Carolyn Doi
Education and Music Library, University of Saskatchewan

New Year’s Resolutions” by Jorge Cham

We’ve made it to 2018! For many of us, 2017 was a bit of rough one. The new year, with promise of new possibilities, is a great time to reflect and move forward with resolve. While I am generally skeptical of those long new year’s resolutions lists (do I really need more on my plate?), I do find it helpful to take time to plan for the year ahead.

When it comes to academic timelines, January is more of a half way point than a beginning. One busy semester is now behind us and one still yet to come. Often my research projects fall to the back burner in the fall, while teaching, research support, and collegial obligations become bigger priorities. With conference season coming up in the spring and summer, making sure those promised papers and presentations are well underway is critical.

I would like to use this new year as an opportunity to reflect on my research activities to this point, where I am now, and where I need to get to. Nothing like a quick check in to get the ball rolling. If you’re in the habit of keeping a research journal, feel free to borrow these questions and document your own answers.

The Researcher’s 12 Questions for New Year’s Reflection:1

1) What was an unexpected win (big or small)?
2) What was an unexpected obstacle?
3) What was the best research tool or resource you discovered this year?
4) Who within your research network did you build the most valuable relationship with?
5) What was the biggest change in your research?
6) In what way(s) did your concept of your research grow?
7) What was the most enjoyable part of your research?
8) What was the most challenging part of your research?
9) What was your single biggest time waster?
10) What was the best way you used your time?
11) What would you try if you knew you could not fail?
12) What was biggest thing you learned?

The jury is definitely out on whether setting resolutions is an effective way of achieving change. Resolvers seem to have a higher rate of success than non-resolvers, when combined with self-efficacy, skills to change, and readiness to change. But, this may also depend on the type of goals we set. Personally, I’m keeping my own resolutions simple this year with two questions: What do you want to bring into 2018? What do you want to leave behind?

Check out #academicresoltuions or #365papers on twitter for some inspired goal setting. Whether you are a resolver or not, here’s to a productive, insightful, and healthy research year ahead!

1Adapted from Tsh Oxenreider’s 20 Questions for New Year’s Eve.

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.

Season’s Greetings from the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice

by Virginia Wilson, Director

It’s that time of year when we reflect on the year just past and look forward in anticipation to the New Year.
Christmas bokeh

By William Brawley [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

2017 was a year of change for C-EBLIP. We saw the arrival of a new Dean of the Library. Melissa Just joined us in February 2017. With new leadership came the challenge and excitement of changing priorities and new ideas. The University Library hosted the very successful national Access conference in late September so C-EBLIP took a hiatus from the Fall Symposium. We wished her well as our research facilitator, Carolyn Pytlyk, moved to another role within the University. And we welcomed a brand new research facilitator! Katya MacDonald came on board in November 2017.

2018 will see the return of the C-EBLIP Fall Symposium. Be on the look out for the call for proposals in early spring and make plans to join us for a great day of sessions focusing on librarians in our researcher role. We are also planning another pre-symposium workshop which will be a professional development opportunity related to research. And, as announced earlier this winter, the very first C-EBLIP Spring Writing Retreat will be held April 9 – 13, 2018 at the Temple Gardens Hotel and Spa in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Space is limited so book your stay now. You can find all the details on the C-EBLIP website. And of course, Brain-Work continues its 4th year of being a space for librarians to talk about their research, explore professional issues and ideas, and share what worked and what didn’t. The longevity of this blog is heartening to me and I thank those fine contributors from across Canada and around the world who share their work via Brain-Work. I also thank our readers, without whom a blog would be pointless.

In closing, I hope you have a very happy holiday season. Happy New Year and all the best in 2018!

Open Access is just the Beginning…

By DeDe Dawson
Science & Scholarly Communication Librarian, University of Saskatchewan

Lately I have been making lots of presentations on open access (OA) to faculty, administrators, and other campus groups. Mostly these presentations are well received, but often there is some push-back too. The majority of the push-back is related to stubbornly persistent and widespread misunderstandings or misinformation about what OA is (and isn’t) and how it can be achieved. I can handle that. But occasionally, I also get the “OA is too radical” kind of push-back. This I can’t handle. Because really, OA is just the beginning…

Let me explain.

One of the main reasons we need OA is because the current system of scholarly publishing (especially for journals) is dysfunctional, unsustainable, and inequitable. It has become this way because academia has handed over control of the scholarly literature to large, commercial publishers that care primarily about ownership and revenues (some “non-profit” scholarly publishers are no better). These entities have systematically bought up smaller publishers and society publishers resulting in an oligopoly.

“This consolidated control has led to unaffordable costs, limited utility of research articles, the proliferation of western publishing biases, and a system in which publisher lock-in through big deal licenses is the norm.” (SPARC, 2017)

OA gave the possibility of some relief. But now these same publishers are co-opting OA. They have cleverly incorporated OA as an additional revenue stream in hybrid journals and new OA megajournals. And academia is spending more money than ever, not just on astronomical subscriptions – but now also on article processing charges (APCs) for “gold OA.” All to buy back, or make accessible, research that has already been paid for by grants and faculty salaries. This is not how it was meant to be! OA is still achievable without hemorrhaging more and more funds to commercial publishers. This money can be better spent.

We currently have a system for “green OA” – posting manuscripts in institutional or subject repositories at no cost to authors or readers. We could conceivably bypass traditional journals entirely and simply use networks of interoperable repositories as the infrastructure for scholarly communication, overlaid with platforms to manage peer review and promote discoverability, etc. Academics already provide the content (research papers), and the quality control (peer review, editorial work). And academic libraries can provide the technical infrastructure, curation, and long-term preservation. COAR’s Next Generation Repositories initiative advocates for something along these lines:

“COAR’s vision is to position repositories as the foundation for a distributed, globally networked infrastructure for scholarly communication, on top of which layers of value added services will be deployed, thereby transforming the system, making it more research-centric, open to and supportive of innovation, while also collectively managed by the scholarly community.” (COAR, 2017)

I know, I know, this is not exactly simple. We have considerable ingrained academic culture and incentive structures to contend with (prestige journals and Impact Factors anyone?); but it is worth striving for as a long term goal to free our institutions (and our research) from the commercial overlords. The enormous amounts of money currently tied up in overpriced subscriptions could eventually be redirected to supporting this infrastructure and there’d likely be remaining funds to reinvest in more research or student scholarships.

The trouble is commercial publishers are now seeking to control this infrastructure too. Elsevier has been pretty transparent about its new strategy of buying up software and platforms that support researchers at all stages of the research lifecycle. Examples include Mendeley, SSRN, and bepress. They have also developed Pure, a current research information system (“CRIS”), to sell to university administrators for research assessment and analytics. Elsevier is clearly attempting to enclose all key elements of the research enterprise – to sell back to us (at inflated prices no doubt). This feels strangely familiar… ah yes, it is what they’ve already done with the scholarly literature!

Academia must get ahead of this trend for once. We must be as strategic and cunning as the commercial entities. We must collaborate across institutions and nations. We must maintain control of the infrastructure supporting the research enterprise. The first and most basic step is to financially support open infrastructure as David Lewis suggests in his 2.5% Commitment:

“At the end of the day, if we don’t collectively invest in the infrastructure we need for the open scholarly commons, it will not get built or it will only be haphazardly half built.” (Lewis, 2017).

So, OA is just the beginning. Now we need to move on to supporting open scholarly infrastructure owned and controlled by the research community. We cannot allow this to be co-opted too.

Further reading:
Accelerating academy-owned publishing – In the Open blog post, Nov 27, 2017
Join the Movement: The 2.5% Commitment – In the Open blog post by David Lewis, Sept 29, 2017
The 2.5% Commitment – Short white paper by David Lewis, Sept 11, 2017
Elsevier acquisition highlights the need for community-based scholarly communication infrastructure – SPARC news release by Heather Joseph and Kathleen Shearer, Sept 6, 2017
Elsevier’s increasing control over scholarly infrastructure, and how funders should fix this – SV-POW blog post by Mike Taylor, May 22, 2016
Tightening their grip – In the Open blog post by Kevin Smith, May 20, 2016

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.

Evidence and Community Save Libraries

by Cara Bradley, Teaching and Learning Librarian
University of Regina Library

March 22, 2017 was a dark day for Saskatchewan’s libraries. The Government of Saskatchewan released an austerity budget that decimated the province’s public library system. Almost $5 million was cut from public library budgets, with $1.3 million cut from libraries in the province’s two largest cities, and another $3.5 million cut from the regional libraries that provide services to smaller communities and rural areas of the province (http://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca/budget-stops-provincial-funding-for-saskatoon-regina-libraries-1.3337911). These numbers might appear small to larger library systems across the country, but they represented more than half of the library budgets of the regional libraries, and so spelled the end of an interlibrary cooperation system for which the province is famous and the closure of libraries in many communities across the province. The impact was to be nothing short of devastating.

Within days of the budget announcement, an active SaveSaskLibraries campaign was launched. Library users across the province mobilized, and after a campaign that included letter-writing, petitions, social media groups, and protests, the Government of Saskatchewan reversed its decision on April 24, 2017 and reinstated library funding to previous levels (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/sask-libraries-budget-reversal-1.4082965).

I’ve thought a lot about the whole series of events, as well as what lessons I (and our library community writ large) might learn from this experience. Here are a couple of my takeaways:

1) Evidence matters. Evidence saved these libraries. Most importantly, it was evidence that these libraries mattered a great deal to the people of Saskatchewan. This evidence took a lot of forms, and included letter-writing campaigns, petitions, and “Drop Everything and Read” protests at 85 locations around the province. The “evidence assault” also included op-eds, media releases, and handouts that corrected the inaccuracies offered by the government as rationale for the decision to drastically cut library budgets. I attended a protest at which a politician was given a document that, point-by-point, refuted the misinformation that had led to the decision. As protest leaders reviewed that document with the politician, I saw a wavering, an uncertainty. The evidence was making a difference.

I have a long-standing interest in evidence based librarianship, but this was the clearest example I have seen of evidence making a difference for libraries. It was powerful.

2) Local community matters. I can’t pretend to speak for all academic librarians, but I think that we tend to find our community with academic library colleagues across the country. Our research tends to be either narrow in focus (our institution) or sector-specific (academic libraries across a wider geographical range). Relatively little of our attention, both research and service-wise, focuses on our local communities. It was this local community—public librarians, library staff, and many, many library supporters–who stepped forward and saved Saskatchewan’s public library system.

We’re missing out. My community is filled with smart, compassionate, library- loving people. I need to learn from them and give back to them. Most of all, I want them on my side when my back is against the wall.

Politics undoubtedly shaped how this all played out—both the decision to cut and the decision to reinstate library funding—but I won’t soon forget the role of evidence and community in saving Saskatchewan’s libraries.

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 increasing need for ‘evidence’: surveillance and patron privacy

by Tegan Darnell, Research Librarian
University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Although I understand the need for demonstrating value and for evidence-based decision making in libraries in the current socio-political environment, recently I have experienced increasing concern over the ways that academic libraries are collecting data about the movements and behaviour of members of their communities. This is particularly of concern with the increasing use of technology using mobile devices that track members of the library community by location and library resource use.

Analytics packages monitor customer behaviour via smartphones with Wi-Fi capability. One application in particular, which I am going to call “Liquid”, collects unique media access code (MAC) addresses from each phone and then scrambles the code to anonymise the data before storing it on servers. Liquid’s business model concerns my greatly, as it provides the data about your own spaces to businesses (or libraries) for free, and then offers a premium paid service to access the aggregated data of other businesses (or libraries).

On a side note: The Mobile Location Analytics code of conduct was established after this technology had already been trialled for months. Customers were made aware of the technology, resulting in outrage about being monitored. This code of conduct applies only to retail spaces in the United States of America.

Once customer data is collected, it is made available to others for payment. While identifying data is not collected, the age and gender of individuals can be established through the aggregation of the billions of points of data that Liquid already collects. Not only that, but permission from customers is not required or sought. As long as customer name and address are not collected, data that may be identifiable is perfectly legal.

While Liquid itself has a primarily retail customer base, Australian academic libraries are considering (or trialling) this type of technology. While the benefits of having this data about library users are clear to me, it seems that the privacy of users is being minimised or dismissed. The benefits of this sort of data is considered more beneficial to library patrons than the potential risks of their exploitation.

I am sure you are all aware that privacy and confidentiality is fundamental to the ethics and practice of librarianship. The question I have is not whether or not a library should use this sort of tech to track the movement of users. My question is this:

Are data-driven information services and spaces an expectation from users, or are they driven by concerns about funding and library relevancy?

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.

Decolonizing Libraries: C-EBLIP Journal Club, November 16, 2017

By Candice Dahl
University of Saskatchewan Library

Decolonizing Libraries (extended abstract)
B. Rosenblum

The Searching Circle: Library Instruction for Tribal College Students
L. Roy, J. Orr, & L. Gienger
European Conference on Information Literacy, pp. 21-32, 2016.

The University of Saskatchewan Library is currently undertaking two strategic action items focusing on Indigenous students. November’s C-EBLIP Journal Club readings were selected with these initiatives in mind. Rosenblum’s extended abstract exposes ways in which libraries (only sometimes unwittingly) support practices of colonization; and Roy, Orr, and Gienger highlight the need to cultivate awareness and understanding of Indigenous worldviews so that they are represented in library services and resources.

The discussion focused on big picture topics such as difference and equality, social and cultural biases, and foundational values of librarianship. Ultimately we considered how libraries can support decolonizing efforts while still recognizing that issues fundamental to reconciliation – such as inherent rights, land, etc. – are much bigger than libraries. We noted that imperatives for change will have to come from a diverse mix of sectors, leaders, and perspectives.

Participants also spoke of challenges facing them as practitioners, such as teaching students to use inadequate and offensive subject headings to help them find materials on Indigenous topics; working with citation styles that are ill-suited to cite traditional sources; responding to writing that doesn’t conform to customary academic standards; and using instructional materials that advance colonial perspectives of authority.

A theme throughout the discussion was the idea of making and/or giving up “space” – be it digital, physical, or structural – for indigenous voices and perspectives to establish a place in libraries and universities so that we might genuinely embody diverse worldviews and exemplifications of knowledge, ability, and success. First we wondered if doing so would rock the foundations of librarianship, and we said yes. Then we asked the question, “If universities were treated primarily as places to learn and enrich minds rather than as places to receive job training, would it be easier to create this kind of space for diversity?” The answer to this question may also be yes, but there is no doubt that this is only one small piece of the decolonization puzzle.

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.

Suggested Readings on Diversity and Decolonization

by Lise Doucette
Assistant Librarian, University of Western Ontario

What role does the library have in addressing issues of privilege and oppression? What do we mean when we talk about diversity? How can libraries contribute to decolonization and reconciliation processes? I’ve raised these topics with colleagues at my own institution and beyond, garnering a range of responses from defensiveness and discomfort to thoughtful and critical conversation.

Learning through reading, listening, reflecting, and discussing is essential, and in this post I’ve compiled selected links and brief summaries of reports, conference keynotes, journal articles, blog posts, and books, which often have their own list of references or recommended readings. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts, as well as recommendations of other readings in the comments below.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Interrupting Whiteness is a book list put together by the Seattle Public Library to support their public programming on “What is the role that white people can play in dismantling white supremacy and its related oppressions?”
• Ithaka S&R’s 2017 report on Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity: Members of the Association of Research Libraries Employee Demographics and Director Perspectives details the results of an investigation on inclusion, equity, and diversity-related issues in staffing of academic libraries. Some of the findings demonstrate a significant lack of self-awareness – for example, libraries that are more racially homogenous than the average see themselves as more equitable and more inclusive than the overall library community, by a larger margin than the more diverse institutions.
• The 2017 ARL SPEC Kit on Diversity and Inclusion documents activities that ARL libraries are currently engaging in and provides materials related to staff development programs that foster an inclusive workplace and climate. It’s an updated and expanded version of the 2010 ARL SPEC Kit on Diversity Plans and Programs.
• Dave Hudson’s article On “Diversity” as Anti-Racism in Library and Information Studies: A Critique (Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies) challenges diversity as the dominant framework of anti-racism in library and information studies.
• Two books from the Litwin Books and Library Juice Press series on Critical Race Studies and Multiculturalism in LIS have been published – Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science, edited by Gina Schlesselman-Tarango; and Teaching for Justice: Implementing Social Justice in the LIS Classroom, edited by Nicole A. Cooke and Miriam E. Sweeney.
• In the article White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS (In the Library With The Lead Pipe), April Hathcock examines how whiteness has “permeated every aspect of librarianship, extending even to the initiatives we claim are committed to increasing diversity.”

Decolonization, Indigenization, and Reconciliation

• The Canadian Federation of Library Associations published its Truth and Reconciliation Report and Recommendations in May, 2017, which includes recommendations for decolonizing practices in Access and Classification, Indigenous Knowledge Protection, Outreach and Services, and Decolonizing Libraries and Space.
• The two keynotes from the WILU 2017 conference are available to watch online: Appropriation or Appreciation: How to Engage Indigenous Literatures (Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair) and Librarians, wâhkôhtowin, and information literacy instruction: building kinship in research relationships (Jessie Loyer).
• The keynote from the Access 2017 conference is available to watch online: The trouble with access (Dr. Kimberley Christen). In her keynote, Dr. Christen examines “library and archives practices related to access in the context Indigenous sovereignty, reconciliation, and on-going struggles of decolonization.”
• In her blog post Beyond territorial acknowledgments, âpihtawikosisân discusses the increased presence of territorial acknowledgements in Canada and delves into the purpose and practice of territorial acknowledgements, and the spaces where they happen.
• In 100 Ways: Indigenizing & Decolonizing Academic Programs (aboriginal policy studies), Dr. Shauneen Pete provides a list of “ways to indigenize and decolonize your academic programs [that] is not meant to be prescriptive. This list provides suggestions to help deans and faculty begin to commit to greater levels of Indigenization in their program planning and delivery.”
• In Decolonization is not a metaphor (Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society), Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang note that the “easy adoption of decolonizing discourse by educational advocacy and scholarship, evidenced by the increasing number of calls to ‘decolonize our schools,’ or use ‘decolonizing methods,’ or, ‘decolonize student thinking,’ turns decolonization into a metaphor.” However, “Decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools.”

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.

KISS and Julie Andrews: My (unlikely) muses for effective information literacy instruction

by Megan Kennedy
Leslie and Irene Dubé Health Sciences Library
University of Saskatchewan

Perhaps strange bedfellows, but Julie Andrews and the rock band KISS are my muses for effective information literacy instruction.

In the classic film, The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews sings “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start” – this little ditty has been a guiding principle for all my information literacy instruction thus far in my academic career.

Starting at the beginning is so simple, and yet, at least for myself, I often assume that I can jump ahead. When I began delivering information literacy instruction to students this earlier this year, I assumed a few things:

1. Students would be familiar with and understand some of the jargon I would be using (search engine, catalogue, index, database, metadata, indexing fields/record fields, Boolean operators, controlled vocabulary/subject terms and many other librarian-y terms)
2. Students would have some familiarity with the databases I was going to be talking about because they had used them in the past
3. Students would be familiar with the library website enough that they could comfortably navigate to things I was talking about

After just one session – that admittedly ended with a group of very confused looking students – I realized that this was not going to work; my students needed to know do-re-mi before they could sing! So how did I fix these issues going forward? By always starting at the very beginning and never underestimating the importance of providing simple navigational guidance – it doesn’t do students any good to know the ins and outs of searching CINAHL if they can never find the database on the library website. I’ve also tried to incorporate informal polls/assessments in my teaching to gauge current understanding about the topic I am talking about and to help me assess where more attention needs to be paid and what can perhaps simply be a refresher. Something that still needed to be addressed was the language I was using when talking with students, notably my use of unexplained library jargon.

KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid – a wonderful little phrase I picked up from my high school history teacher. The premise is not novel but I find that this plucky acronym helps to center my focus when explaining particularly “librarian-y” concepts. For example, did you know that the only people genuinely excited to talk about metadata are librarians and other information folks? Students, for the most part, are not interested in the specific details of data about data, discovery, findability, indexing, etc. I learned this the hard way when talking to a student about how citation managers get the information needed to generate a complete citation. Unfortunately for this student, my librarian brain took over and I talked for a good ten minutes about the intricacies and importance of record metadata. The wide-eyed look I got at the end of my speech told me everything I needed to know, I had not kept it simple and had now confused this poor student. I tried again and slowed down and thought about it from their perspective, what are the essential bits of information they need to know to understand this concept (no more and no less)? I then gave the student a much simpler explanation, something along the lines of “metadata is the behind the scenes information of an item that makes it possible for you to find it. Citation managers can read this information from the item to compile what’s needed to make a citation”. I could practically hear the light switch flip on in their head – they got it.

When it comes to information literacy instruction, our tacit knowledge as librarians can be a double-edged sword. It makes us excellent “knowers of things”, “information wizards”, “database Yodas” and other delightful monikers, but it can be a somewhat unnatural and awkward process for us to actively stop and think about what we know, how we know it, and how we can explain it in simple and relatable terms. I let Julie Andrews and KISS lead the way for me* – start at the beginning and keep it simple.

*I also like to imagine Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp teaching the band KISS to sing using the do-re-mi song so that also keeps things interesting.

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 Mentorship: Qualities from Doctoral Supervision

by Selinda Berg
Leddy Library, University of Windsor

During the 2017 Librarians Research Institute, I talked about the uniqueness of doing my doctoral research as compared to the other research I have engaged in. While there are many differences, the defining difference was the firm guidance, clear supervision, and frank, but respectful, honesty of my supervisors. As I come to the final stages of my degree I recognize how incredibly unique and special that relationship is. The experience raises questions about how, within the profession, we can build strong, honest, and trusting relationships that will provide true guidance through the research process?

In conversations about research mentorship in libraries, the interactions are often limited to isolated conversations about: potential methods, options for good readings, tips for interpreting results, offers for proofreading, and of course, sentiments of emotional support to persevere. While these are all important, it is less common to see experienced librarian-researchers providing consistent guidance to their colleagues along the entire research process—from inception of an idea to publication—where each step is accompanied with nudging, pushing, challenging, critiquing, and inspiring.

Working with amazing supervisors is definitely a key part of that privilege of completing a doctoral degree. I reflect on the qualities of my supervisors that I appreciated the most and made the biggest difference:
1. Competence and confidence: The expertise, wisdom, and skills that my advisors shared with me were an essential component of what made my experience so positive. I knew that their insights emerged from their own extensive experiences and their deep understanding of the research process. They presented their viewpoints with a confidence that allowed me to trust that their advice was moving me in the right direction.
2. Firm honesty: There were times that their guidance cut deep. There were times when I thought I had a good idea or I was on the right track when I really wasn’t. Being told that I was wrong did sting. I had wasted precious time and even more, I was embarrassed. However, because of my trust in their words and their ability to explain to me the reasoning, I took it in and I changed course. They were not afraid of the sting their honest insights produced because they did not let me suffer- rather, they walked me through those difficult moments with honesty and strength.
3. Mutual respect: From the onset, I respected the work of my supervisors, but over the course of my degree, our mutual respect grew. As often as they provided me with much needed guidance, they also listened with deep respect to what I had to offer. They recognized and validated that I brought something to the table. I was not required to take every piece of guidance that they offered “as is”; They were willing to be swayed by my insights and my understandings, my voice was respected within the conversations.
4. Unselfish motivation: I recognize that my supervisors are paid to supervise. However, I always felt like their priority was helping me. They were not in this supervisory role to further their own careers, to make themselves look good, or so that they could use my work to get ahead. They always made me feel like this process was truly about me and they were there to guide me through so I truly could reach my potential.

I reflect on these qualities with the goal of considering how it is that we can instill more of these attributes across our own research culture. Not an easy task, but so worthwhile. On twitter, I follow Hugh Kearns, a researcher and writer, who also provides inspiration and motivation to researchers, especially doctoral students. He often reminds the supervisors who follow his feed that PhD supervision is not only about developing the research, but about also developing the researcher. While I am very thankful for the quality of research that I produced under the supervision of my advisors, I am also proud that I feel better equipped to take on the role of researcher.

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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