Five years of LARK, or how birds of the feather flock together

Dr Suzana Sukovic, Executive Director Educational Research & Evidence Based Practice, Health Education and Training Institute (HETI)

Australian LARK (Library Applied Research Kollektive), a grass-roots group connecting professionals and academics with interest in practice-based research, celebrated its fifth birthday last month. Having a professional network of people with similar interests may sound quite straightforward, but there are days when I think it’s a miracle that baby LARK reached childhood by the human measure and, probably, teenage years by measure of longevity of a grass-root group.

With LARK, bird jokes and metaphors are inevitable. We sometimes talk about being birds of the feather. Since C-EBLIP belongs to the same bird species, I’d like to share LARK’s story, a bit of parental pride, and some insights from our five-years long flight.

In 2011, I made an unusual job change and, after many years of working at universities, I started working in an independent high school. In 2012, I initiated a research project at work and thought that some collaboration would go a long way in boosting the study. I also felt a strange sense of isolation in this new sector although connections with information worlds in which I worked before seemed obvious. So, I decided to call professionals from different corners of the library, information, and educational sectors to come to an informal meeting called Let’s talk about research. We gathered after work at St.Vincent’s College (Sydney), had a nibble and a glass of wine, talked about research interests, and had a good time. People were enthusiastic about establishing a network and thought we needed to put in place some structures to support our connections. That’s how LARK was born. My library colleagues at St.Vincent’s College and I decided about the name, I started the blog and a mailing list and invited people to join us. The mailing list had a decent number of members pretty quickly. We were ready to fly.

But, we didn’t. Any baby needs a fair bit of attention. Baby LARK needed attention and lots of patience. It kept quiet and slept a lot. Like most first-time parents, I had some misplaced expectations based on examples I saw (Humanist Discussion Group being the prime example). Where I expected chatter and collaboration, the LARK list offered a deafening silence. My messages to the list felt like sending letters to myself. So, I’d let my daily life take over and LARK slide far to the periphery of my (and everyone else’s) attention. But, whenever that happened, there was someone sending a private message saying how much they enjoyed posts about research. Or, my interpretation of the enthusiasm at the first meeting as one-off occurrence would be corrected by people who’d get in touch to ask when we were meeting next.

So, LARK met again. And again. Some people continued from the first meeting (notably, Alycia Bailey), others joined in for a short or long period of time. Some have become regular companions (shout out to Janet Chelliah and Bhuva Narayan from the University of Technology, Sydney – UTS). We usually had around 15, sometimes 20 people in engaging meetings after work, always followed by dinner. Our colleagues were getting in touch afterwards to say how they’d like to join, but couldn’t on that occasion. During the first couple of years, I expected people would either come in bigger numbers or stop coming altogether. Neither happened. Academics, librarians from university, public, school and special libraries, information professionals, and teachers kept getting together. The gatherings had never been large, but the group thrived nevertheless. With ongoing activities and a need for some support, we joined ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association) in December 2013.

What also happened over time was that people were getting in touch from various parts of Australia to say how they had research interests, but felt isolated and disconnected from research networks. This is how we initiated regular online events in 2016. Our first online event included presenters from Australia and New Zealand. Like face-to-face meetings, online events attracted a solid audience, but not a huge following. They became, however, an important connection point. The most recent webinar in 2017 was also an opportunity to reach out to other professional groups who talked to us about their research experiences reinforcing a sense of interprofessional connection.

LARK’s online presence grew in other ways too. The collaboratively written blog has attracted a fair bit of attention over time. Particularly important were contributions from the ALIA Research Advisory Committee. C-EBLIP’s own Virginia Wilson has become a contributor, too. According to the latest statistics, LARK’s blog attracted over 79200 visits from around the world, well over 700 visits per post.

During a period of a couple of years, Fiona McDonald, Liz Walkley Hall, and I ran the first Antipodean LIS reading group on Twitter (#EBLIPRG). We connected with professional groups overseas and even had a session facilitated from Ireland. LARK had an important role in making #EBLIPRG visible.

In May 2017, LARK branched out from online spaces and Sydney to South Australia. Liz Walkley Hall had already led an active research group at Flinders University and decided to initiate LARK group in South Australia to connect with colleagues from other organisations. The group had an initial meeting and has plans for future events.

Post by post, event by event, LARK has become very visible in the Australian LIS landscape. In September this year we celebrated LARK’s fifth birthday in a research style by organising a seminar titled Holy Evidence! Research in information practice. Yet again, it was a relatively small gathering, but one for which some people traveled significant distances. It was also pleasing that LARK was able for the first time to offer a grant to a LIS student to attend the seminar (congratulations to Crystal Campbell, a student at UTS).

In the first half of the day, we considered the Australian research landscape and heard from a variety of experienced researchers and novices from different sectors and even industries. In the second part of the day, we had a workshop to discuss how to develop a research project from idea to reality, and how to publish research findings. A feeling of connection and genuine engagement in the room was well supported by feedback forms. People greatly enjoyed not only substantial learning, but also each other’s company. It was particularly rewarding to see that people who came from afar were not disappointed. A sense of a connected research community was palpable in the air.

During the seminar, I looked back at the five years of LARK and thought of many dispersed people who are prepared to put effort in making research a reality in LIS practice. Establishing connections between interested people is essential, especially when they don’t even see themselves as researchers. For research you only need curiosity and tenacity; everything else can be learnt, said David Schmidt at the LARK’s seminar when he talked about research capacity building in health in rural and remote areas. With a network of curious tenacious people, learning is much more likely to happen, and it’s also much more enjoyable. A network also makes practice-based research visible.

Another issue is the formation of research bubbles along academic and professional, hierarchical and sector-based divisions. Distinctions between different types of research and interests are real, but often grossly exaggerated. When it comes to research, there are more connections than non-negotiable barriers. With LARK’s participants and presenters from various LIS sectors and allied fields, it has become evident that we have a lot in common when it comes to sharing research experiences and concerns. Groups like LARK open the lines of conversation and help us pop the bubbles.

In the spirit of interprofessional learning, I looked up what biology says on how birds of the feather flock together. They are known for changing direction, possibly to confuse predators. The change can be led by any bird in the flock and others will follow. How birds of a feather flock together…they are democratic claims an article in the Daily Mail interpreting a research study. Without looking into the authenticity of this interpretation, I like the idea that any bird can take a leadership position when it picks up important signals from its place in the environment. I like to believe that this is how a loosely organised group like LARK thrives. People come to the group for a short or long period of time, but they keep up the flight and influence the direction. At the end of the seminar, a few young librarians from various parts of Australia offered their help and expressed their willingness to be more involved with LARK. After a very rewarding research celebration, these offers were a real highlight for me. They are saying to me that LARK will keep flying. For all of us, especially new LARKs ready to fly, it is crucial to have the flock.

C-EBLIP members and readers are invited to join the LARK mailing list, like us on Facebook, use our collection of resources on Diigo and write about their work for the blog. All links are available from the LARK blog.

For more information about the LARK seminar “Holy Evidence! Research in information practice”, see program and this blog post.

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.

Supporting Librarians in Contract Appointments

by Elizabeth Stregger, Systems Librarian, Mount Allison University
@estregger on Twitter

Last week was Fair Employment Week in Canada. CAUT and many faculty unions held events and made statements to try to improve conditions for contract and part-time academic workers. My career as a librarian has included contract appointments at University of Manitoba, University of Saskatchewan, and Mount Allison University. The changes in roles and institutions, as well as the terms of the contracts themselves, have created challenges in getting started as a researcher. In this blog post, I want to share some of the things you can do at the individual, library, and institutional level to support your colleagues working under limited-term contracts.

Be open to telling us about your own research journey. I ask my new colleagues about their research as soon as possible. This gives me some context for the research culture at the library. I’ve particularly appreciated it when colleagues have taken a bit more time to tell me about where they got started or about contributions that are less tied to a particular institution or role.

Ask us if we’re interested in collaborating on short-term projects. Using the C-EBLIP Brain-Work post on collaboration by Shannon Lucky and Carolyn Hoessler has helped me to be clear about my goals, skills, and bandwidth in these conversations. I’ve appreciated colleagues who have held research meetings at lunch time or after work to minimize the impact on my day-to-day work. When one of my collaborations led to a conference presentation, a supportive colleague reduced the financial barrier of attending by sharing the cost of driving and an Airbnb.

At the library level, give us the opportunity to do some new work and take part in planning discussions. The background reading and environmental scans in planning discussions are good first steps in the research process. Being part of these conversations makes it easier to think of small projects that are aligned with what the library is trying to accomplish. Being part of a pilot project and a new initiative has greatly expanded my professional knowledge.

Include us in the research culture and campus groups. At the University of Manitoba, librarians on contracts are included in the New Archivists and Librarians Group (NALG), which helped create a sense of community and provided a forum for discussion. At the University of Saskatchewan, I was able to attend C-EBLIP research workshops and the exceptional C-EBLIP Fall Symposium. These events are inspiring windows into practical evidence-based research. At Mount Allison University, I was invited to both university and union sponsored new faculty orientation events. I also participated in the MAFA Research and Creativity Fair highlighting Contract Academic Staff research. These activities have extended my network well beyond the library.

Advocate for research time and professional expense accounts in the collective agreement. Having research days and a professional expense account as a full-time contract librarian at Mount Allison University means that I finally have the same support as my colleagues. I can attend the conferences most relevant to my current interests. I can take the time to concentrate on scholarly activity without being preoccupied with my next meeting or the grocery list.

In closing, I’d like to thank all the librarians, faculty members, and unions that support librarians in contract appointments. And an even bigger thank you to my personal mentors and colleagues who have provided guidance and feedback in my career as a librarian so far.

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.

On ResearchGate and IRs: C-EBLIP Journal Club, October 5, 2017

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

The C-EBLIP Journal Club article for October 5, 2017 was:

Lovett, J. A., Rathemacher, A. J., Boukari, D., & Lang, C. (2017). Institutional Repositories and Academic Social Networks: Competition or Complement? A Study of Open Access Policy Compliance vs. ResearchGate Participation. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 5(General Issue), eP2131.

I chose this article because it discusses two things that have been on my mind a lot lately: IRs & academic social networks like ResearchGate and I am thinking about IRs a lot because I’m helping with the planning and pilots of the University of Saskatchewan’s newly rebranded IR: HARVEST (still on a test site so I won’t link to it here). And about academic social networks because ResearchGate (RG) has been in the news so much recently.

It is well known that researchers often post copies of their articles on RG in violation of the copyright terms that they agreed to with the publisher. Another recent article documents this. Well, it looks like RG is finally being forced by publishers to take down these articles that are in violation – and are even removing some that are not. As librarians have been trying to tell their patrons for years: RG is not an open access repository.

So, this article by Lovett et al. from the University of Rhode Island is timely. The authors set out to understand researchers’ practices, attitudes, and motivations around sharing their articles in RG and in their IR in compliance with the university’s Open Access Policy. Lovett et al. admit that they expected to find RG to be in competition with their IR, but interestingly “Faculty who participate in ResearchGate are more likely to participate in the OA Policy, and vice versa” (Lovett et al., 2017, p1).

The group at our journal club meeting also thought this finding interesting. One member pointed out that faculty have such limited time – why would they archive papers in more than one site? And it wouldn’t be surprising if the site they chose was RG due to its ease of use. This does not seem to be the case though (in this study at least). It seems those researchers committed to sharing their articles openly will invest the time in doing this in multiple locations. It is worth noting though that most of the faculty (70.6%) in the study didn’t use RG or the IR!

So, RG and the IR are not competitors. But faculty do still seem to prefer RG. Ease of use has already been mentioned, but we also thought that it fit with the mobility of faculty too. Researchers are always moving to new institutions, so may not feel compelled to invest time in their current institution’s IR. The biggest barrier however, appears to be the fact that IRs actually respect and comply with copyright law. This means that usually authors cannot upload the final version of record of their articles into the IR. This study confirmed once again that many faculty are averse to posting other versions of their works.

The other finding that caught our attention was that Full Professors are more active than lower ranked colleagues on both RG and the OA Policy/IR! This does not fit with what we hear about early career researchers (ECRs) being more willing to experiment with new means of scholarly communications. Our group speculated that senior faculty are secure in their positions and ECRs are more tentative about rocking the boat. It is also likely that senior faculty also have more administrative support to actually do the work of uploading. This second insight rings most true to me…

On the concluding page of the article Lovett et al. (2017) state: “…librarians should prioritize recruiting more faculty to share their work in general and should not see academic social networking as a threat to open access” (p.27).


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.

A brief and biased comparison of two live polling tools: Poll Everywhere and Kahoot

By Joanna Hare
Run Run Shaw Library, City University of Hong Kong

For this post, I would like compare the live-polling tools Kahoot ( and Poll Everywhere ( The comparison is based on my experience of using the tools in information literacy workshops to gather formal and informal evidence of learning. I must stress that I have used these for very specific purposes, and have not fully explored the entire functionality of both tools – hence my ‘brief and biased’ comparison!

The Basics
Both Poll Everywhere and Kahoot are online platforms that allow you to create interactive activities such as quizzes and surveys that can be conducted live in a classroom setting. Users can respond using any web-enabled device. Both tools allow you to create a number of different activities, including quizzes, discussions and surveys. Each tool offers a different selection of unique activities, which will be discussed in more detail below.

Kahoot is entirely free with no limitations, while Poll Everywhere has a limited free account with a number of different subscription options. The free version of Poll Everywhere is limited to only 25 users per poll. The minimum class size I teach is around 30 students, and more typically the classes sizes are 50+, meaning the free version isn’t suitable for me. The free account does not support grading.

I have paid to subscribe to Poll Everywhere to get access to the full platform, and their pricing model makes it really easy to sign up for just one month or one semester – they don’t lock you into any annoying contracts. With a paid account you also get excellent personalised customer service (no trawling the online forums to troubleshoot whatever problem you might be having).

Winner: Kahoot (but I find the paid version of Poll Everywhere worthwhile!)

Types of Activity
Kahoot has four types of activity: quizzes, discussions, surveys and ‘jumbles’, where users have to put items in the correct order (see Figure 1). All the activities require you to define pre-determined answers – Kahoot does not support open ended questions.

Poll Everywhere provides almost two dozen different options, including a number of activities supporting open-ended questions and the input of free text. (see Figure 2).

Figure 1: Activity options in Kahoot

Figure 2: Activity options in Poll Everywhere

Both platforms allow you to add images or videos either for the purpose of instruction or just to make your presentation a little more visually exciting.

Winner: Poll Everywhere – I am yet to explore all the options but I hope to try some more next semester!

If you spend half a minute to visit both the the Poll Everywhere and Kahoot homepages, you will immediately see that Kahoot has a more colourful, fun interface (see Figure 3), whereas Poll Everywhere has a more ‘austere’ look (see Figure 4).

Kahoot is the more “fun” platform of the two with it’s casual use of language, inclusion of tense “game show” music and bright graphics. It does have one annoying feature that cannot be turned off: before students can participate they are required to choose a nickname which then appears on screen – which provides the opportunity for students to choose naughty names. Kahoot does allows you to ‘kick out’ and identify cheeky participants, but in my experience the problem is not so much naughty names but students having too much fun choosing their nicknames! However, I don’t begrudge a room full of giggling undergraduates, and it increases the likelihood that students are paying attention to the activity and participating.

Figure 3: A preview of a Kahoot Quiz demonstrating the bright and colourful interface.

Figure 4: The more ‘austere’ interface of Poll Everywhere.

A word on the “game show” music: you can of course just turn the volume off, which I usually do, but I have had one professor ask me to turn it up because she likes the way it grabs the students attention!

Winner: Kahoot

Ease of use
Both tools take some getting used to if you have never used live polling before, and with either platform I would recommend practicing your quizzes or polls a few times with yourself as a participant.

If I were to recommend one tool over the other for ease of use if would have to be Kahoot based on its overall simplicity. The sheer number of options and granularity in creating live polls in Poll Everywhere may seem a little overwhelming to someone who has never created a live poll before. Starting with Kahoot you will learn the basics of live polling, and from there you can ‘graduate’ to Poll Everywhere if you are ready for the more advanced features.

Winner: Kahoot

Which live-polling team reigns supreme?

In my experience: it depends!

My personal preference is Poll Everywhere thanks to the variety of activities, level of control over granular details of your activities and their excellent customer service. I feel paying for an account (and the fact that it is easy to ‘turn off’ your subscription) is good value for money. The free version of Poll Everywhere might work for you if you have small class sizes and no need to grade incoming answers.

I do find Kahoot works quite well with undergraduate students, especially in an English as Second Language (ESL) context. If you looking for something light-hearted and easy to use, and you have no need to for students to answer open-ended questions, Kahoot might be the tool for you.

What I can say in conclusion is that if you haven’t already tried these tools (or other live-polling platforms) I would highly recommend you give them a go. I have received positive feedback from both students and professors, and they have improved my ability to do both informal and formal assessment even in a short time frame. Ultimately I have found live polling tools energise my teaching, making instruction more engaging for students – and more fun for me!

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.

Working together to join Software Carpentry in New England

Lora Leligdon, Dartmouth College Library
Kristin Lee, Tisch Library, Tufts University
Joshua Dull, Yale University Library

It seems that great collaborative efforts come together through a magical combination of timing, a common problem, and a group of enthusiastic people. This has definitely been the case with the creation of the New England Software Carpentry Library Consortium (affectionately known as NESCLiC), where seven New England institutions of higher ed are joining forces to provide researchers with the basic coding and data toolkit that will help them get the most out of their projects.

If you are unfamiliar with the Software Carpentry (SC) family of organizations, its basic mission is to “[teach] researchers the computing skills they need to get more done in less time and with less pain” ( Membership in the SC organization has many advantages, like faster access to instructor training (so that we can teach the workshops), access to the rest of the community and curricula, and the ability to use the widely-recognized Software Carpentry branding to promote workshops that we teach on our own campuses. There are trained SC instructors all over the world and those instructors specialized in different aspects of the curriculum. This could mean that they know a particular coding language very well or that they have special insight into how those skills can translate into a certain discipline. This is a dynamic and growing community.

The NESCLiC members decided to join as a consortium for both practical and philosophical reasons. SC offers tiers of membership, and as a group we were able to join at the top level (Gold). This allows the seven schools to get 15 people trained as instructors. We have members from different areas of academic librarianship and technology including the digital humanities, statistics and HPC, STEM and medical libraries, and data librarians. We are all familiar with aspects of the SC curriculum at different levels, and intend to work together to make sure that everyone is supported to learn new skills, apply the rusty ones, and provide the best workshops to our communities. Self-organized workshops are free with our membership, so we will have the opportunity put what we learn into action.

Our first group activity is to attend a SC workshop as learners. This workshop, led by James Adams from Dartmouth, will give us the chance to see what it is like to be a workshop participant – which is essential as we learn how to provide this instruction. It will also let us get to know each other beyond our Slack team so that we can all put a face and a voice together with an avatar and email address. Creating connections within our diverse group will also allow us to broaden our professional networks and think about new approaches to research and coding. Once our 15 members are trained as SC instructors, we hope to not only provide training, resources, and support for our institutions, but also to other new England institutions that may not have the needed resources or staff.

I realize that a lot of this post is about possibilities. This first year is a pilot for us; not just to see how Software Carpentry works in our schools but also to find ways for information and technology professionals in New England to combine our collective resources and skills to provide programming that might be impossible if we all act alone. In this world of greater demands, smaller budgets, and broader interdisciplinary and inter-university research connections, this kind of consortium seems like a great way to meet the needs of our communities.

The NESCLiC organizing team includes:
Andrew Creamer, Scientific Data Management Librarian, Brown University
Lora Leligdon, Physical Sciences Librarian, Dartmouth College
Julie Goldman, Countway Research Data Services Librarian, Harvard University
Sarah Oelker, Science Librarian, Mount Holyoke College
Kristin Lee, Research Data Librarian, Tufts University
Thea Atwood, Data Services Librarian, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Joshua Dull, Research Data Support Specialist, Yale University

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

Cultivating a Culture of Curiosity? The Benefits of Doing So if Research is on Your Mind

by Virginia Wilson, Director
Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP_
University of Saskatchewan, Canada

[This post was originally published on the LARK Library Applied Research Kollektive blog on August 31, 2017.]

Many information organizations strive to create a culture of research for different reasons. Some, like many Canadian academic libraries, do so to encourage their librarians who are required to conduct and disseminate research for professional advancement, i.e. tenure, permanent status. Others have embraced evidence based library and information practice (EBLIP) where research alongside professional expertise and what the users want/need is prevalent. Still others see research as an important part of librarianship where research can inform practice. And then there are combinations of the above. Indeed, our own University Library has spent the last 10 years developing a robust culture of research, where research and scholarly activity are supported and encouraged, as librarians are faculty members and on the tenure track. We also consider the tenets of EBLIP in our practice of professional skills.

However, many librarians do not have extensive training in the research enterprise. Library schools offer the obligatory research methods survey class and unless the librarian also has another graduate degree or opts for the thesis route in library school, research experience is not a given. So, when a librarian comes into a culture of research, it can be daunting and frustrating no matter what supports are offered and a common difficulty for new librarians is trying to think of or decide on a research topic. It seems to look (simplistically1) like this (click on charts for a clearer view):

Even though we ask candidates about their research interests, often the idea of the actual doing of research doesn’t hit home until the candidate is faced with the realities and requirements of the tenure process.

The research life cycle2 looks something like this:

This seems to be a robust and thorough depiction of the research process (although I might use the term “data” instead of “assets” in the Implementation box). I like how this process encourages open access publishing and includes social media as a source of impact metrics. It’s good stuff. But nowhere in this process is there a description of coming up with a research topic. It presumes that the topic is there and the research question is already at hand.

I wonder then if the idea of a “culture of research” is too late in the game. There are many different cultures an information organization can strive to create: culture of learning, culture of excellence, culture of success, but what about a culture of curiosity?

1: desire to know:
b: interest leading to inquiry – intellectual curiosity – Her natural curiosity led her to ask more questions.


A culture of curiosity is in line with encouraging research amongst librarians as researchers. As defined by Merriam-Webster, curiosity is interest leading to inquiry. Fostering a culture of curiosity with the implicit and explicit aim of curiosity leading to research allows the research piece to be part of the natural process of having a question and seeking an answer. A culture of curiosity would look something like this:

Research, therefore, would be part of the process – just not the starting point.

But if the organization requires research and indeed it is part of a librarian’s job, that fact cannot be ignored. Can a librarian put that requirement to the back of their mind and go into their job all wide-eyed and curious? Surely there will be the looming spectre of research outputs and then the pressure to be curious in the right way – a way that will lead to an answerable research question. I don’t deny that the scenario could happen, and I’m not trying to institute tricking your employees into doing research as an active strategy. I believe we can have both a culture of curiosity and a culture of research, and that they will build on one another moving forward. Curiosity leads to questions which lead to research which can lead to innovation. An added bonus of working within a culture of curiosity is that curiosity will also increase employee engagement and provide the continuous impetus to examine and reflect on the work so to be open to innovation.

How does one develop a culture of curiosity? Obviously, having management that is on board with such a culture is important. However, in browsing around about this topic, I compiled four ways to encourage curiosity that anyone can try:

  1. Write agendas as questions: using the premise that employees are more engaged when they feel like they can influence the outcome, set up meetings that are as participatory as possible and encourage interest by structuring agendas in the form of questions.
  2. Encourage collaboration: because great ideas don’t generally happen in a vacuum, have employees work together often and in different groupings. They will be exposed to the talents of their co-workers and can take advantage of cross-unit ideas and inspiration.
  3. Get rid of fear by embracing failure: research and publishing can be a hot bed of disappointment. Harsh peer reviews, rejection letters, uncooperative methodologies – there are many ways to find yourself down the wrong path. An organization that calmly accepts that failure is a part of progress will enable employees to move on to the next thing faster and with confidence.
  4. Encourage questioning: while it is true that constant questioning has the risk of causing defensiveness, realistic questioning of policy and processes can help to stimulate new ways of thinking and new ways of doing the work. This is also the place where research topics are born.

A culture of curiosity will benefit not only the librarians who have research as a mandate, but also all the library employees who are working in the information organization and the organization itself. Encouraging curiosity, creativity, and innovation can help in a sea of constant change. And in our fast-paced work world, keeping pace with or ahead of change will serve us all better. And if a research mandate is on the table, curiosity is a must to achieve something relevant and useful.

Works consulted
Goodman, R. (2016, June 1). How to build a culture of curiosity [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Kalra, A.S. (2015, October 23). 10 ways to build a culture of curiosity. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

Karl, A. (2013, November). Create a culture of curiosity: guest blog by Allan Karl. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Milway, K.S. and Goldmark, A. (2013, September 18). Four ways of cultivating a culture of curiosity [Blog post]. Retrieved from

1I say simplistically up above because of course candidates at our library know prior to being hired that they must do research. We focus on it specifically during the hiring process to avoid blindsiding someone coming in.
2“Research Life Cycle” image from UC Irvine Library Digital Scholarship Services Found on University of Michigan Scientific Discovery Path of Excellence – An Information Resource Starter Kit

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.

Collective Agreements and Academic Librarian Research Opportunities

By Kathleen Reed, Assessment and Data Librarian
Vice President, VIU Faculty Association
Vancouver Island University

In this post, I’d like to consider the influence of the collective agreement on librarian research, and in particular, the choice to work in an environment in which research is/isn’t a job requirement. Experienced academic librarians may be familiar with collective agreements, but as a Baby Librarian, I had no clue that these documents governed whether or not I’d have to do research, and the support (or lack thereof) I’d receive to do so. This wasn’t something that was talked about where I did my MLIS, and yet it has significant influence on the lives of academic librarians. Thus, here’s a simplified, brief run-down of how collective agreements influence librarian research.

Librarians at academic institutions have a variety of academic statuses, which are articulated by the Academic Librarian Status wiki:


  1. Librarians with full faculty status and tenure = librarians have titles denoting their rank (e.g., associate professor or associate librarian); are likely required to publish; have seats on faculty committees; and are considered to be members of the university’s faculty with accompanying benefits.
  2. Librarians with faculty or academic status but no tenure = librarians likely have titles denoting their rank; have option to contribute to the profession but may not be required to; may have seats on faculty committees; and have renewable contracts with opportunities for continuing appointments.
  3. College and University Libraries with a mix of professional statuses = institutions that have tenure-track and non-tenure track librarians or faculty and non-faculty librarians, or a combination of each.
  4. Librarians without faculty or academic status = librarians have staff positions without the protections or privileges accorded to faculty or librarians with academic status.
  5. Librarians without faculty or academic status but with status similar to tenure = librarians may have formal ranks; may have option to contribute to the profession but are not required to; do not serve on faculty committees nor receive other faculty benefits; have renewable contracts with opportunities for continuing appointments.”

Many librarians that are required to do research work in rank and tenure systems, in which they are given a probationary appointment, a few years to prove themselves, and then go before a tenure committee which decides whether to grant them a permanent job (i.e. tenure) or not. Once tenured, one’s job is secured with the only way to remove someone being cause or special circumstances (ex. financial exigency). If tenure isn’t granted, one would most likely be looking for a new job. There is a mandate and pressure to undertake and publish research as part of one’s job, but there is also time and support allotted for this activity in collective agreements.

Where I work, faculty (which includes librarians) have academic status that’s similar to being tenured, but with official no rank and tenure system, and no requirement to do research. Technically, we’re a “special purpose teaching university” but in reality lots of faculty undertake research and scholarly activity off the side of our desks with limited support in terms of money and release available.

When I began to understand the tenure system, early in my career I mourned that I didn’t end up at an institution that had it; I’d have time and financial help to undertake research, which I currently lack. Six years in to my job, however, I’m now thankful that I didn’t end up at a place with rank and tenure. Research is done on a shoestring budget off the side of my desk, but I do research because I’ve got an insatiable curiosity about the world – not because I have to. It’s also led to deep collaboration with colleagues; there is no competition for first authorship or rank. Additionally, I have the freedom to pursue research opportunities that don’t relate directly to the LIS field – helpful at a time I’m finding myself being drawn back to my pre-LIS academic roots. Finally, I don’t feel the need to publish. More and more of my findings are ending up in grey literature – reports that never get published, but are helpful to the people or organizations with which I’m working at the time.

If you’re a librarian that wants to do research as part of your job, you should look carefully at the Collective Agreement in place at the institution for which you’re considering working. Whether research is required or not, and how much financial support and time is given are good places to start. Ending up at a place where research isn’t a requirement doesn’t mean one can’t undertake it; there are simply different positives and negatives that need to be considered.

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.

Academic social networking sites – boon or bane of institutions?

by Nicole Eva
University of Lethbridge
Alberta, Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jaclyn McLean, Electronic Resources Librarian
University of Saskatchewan

Caffrey Gardner, C., Gardner, G. J., & Gardner, G. J. (2017). Fast and Furious (at Publishers): The Motivations behind Crowdsourced Research Sharing. College & Research Libraries, 78(2).

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

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

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

Our discussion raised some very interesting questions/comments:

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

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

Morrison, L., Stephenson, C., & Yates, E. (2017). Walking the Plank: How Scholarly Piracy Affects Publishers, Libraries and Their Users. In ACRL 2017 Conference Proceedings (pp. 740–747). Baltimore, MD. Retrieved from

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

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

Public Library Research by Public Librarians

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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