Information Privilege and the Undergraduate Student

by DeDe Dawson Science Library, University of Saskatchewan

Privilege seems to be one of those things that you don’t realize you have until you no longer have it. This is not the case for some types of privilege of course. Someone’s race or gender will, in most cases, not change during their lifetime so privileges associated with these traits may be difficult for many to recognize. But someone’s ability to access information is likely to change.

One of the most frequently asked reference questions at an academic library is actually from recent graduates: “Why can’t I access e-resources anymore?” Libraries work hard to make access to electronic journals and literature databases as seamless as possible… so much so that undergraduates often don’t realize that they are using articles paid for by the library. Not until they graduate and lose access that is.

A bright and enthusiastic undergraduate student was my guide recently for a tour of the Canadian Light Source on the University of Saskatchewan campus. She explained to our group that scientists don’t pay to use the beamlines since they are conducting academic research, whereas companies pay by the hour. The distinction, according to our guide, is that the company is conducting research for their own profit whereas the academic is going to share his research in scholarly journals that everyone can read! I might have thrown up a little at that moment. But I did not want to hijack the tour by climbing on my open access soapbox right then. Reality will come crashing in once she graduates. Or… she could continue on to grad school, and then maybe on to become a faculty member, at large, rich institutions in the Global North and remain oblivious to the information privilege she currently enjoys.

Luckily, there is a growing awareness of this privilege among academic library users:

My intention in sharing the anecdote of the tour guide is not to shame the student. I was no different as an undergraduate (actually she’s a lot brighter than I was!), and her misunderstanding is understandable. My intention is to highlight the importance of teaching undergraduates about the scholarly communication ecosystem… and all of its warts: including its financial unsustainability and inequity of access. The Information has Value frame of ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education can serve as a guide in this.

For years now I have incorporated such messages in my instruction sessions. I clearly tell students that we are lucky to be at a relatively wealthy university, so we have access to X number of journals, and X number of databases that the library pays for. Students and researchers at smaller institutions or in developing countries are not as lucky. Even members of our own community who are not affiliated with the university are not as lucky (including others on the tour with me that day).

When teaching database-searching I am hyper aware of the irony of it all. Sure, these database-specific skills of controlled vocabulary searching and refining of results lists will help students in completing that upcoming assignment – but what good are these non-translatable skills when they graduate and no longer have access to that expensive resource? Only a small portion of our students will go on to grad school and use that database again.

This is why I now include a brief discussion of Google Scholar in these classes as well: emphasizing that it is also a useful resource – and will likely be the only one they have access to once they graduate.

I am far from the first to recognize this problem: see Char Booth’s excellent blog post On Information Privilege in which she describes an information literacy session she taught:

…I opened by challenging the fallacy that information is free by diagramming the library’s multi-million dollar materials budget against the “open web,” then facilitated a discussion about the implications of a system in which significant areas of knowledge are available to a privileged few (e.g., them). This may seem like a counterintuitive approach, but among my students it was a literally jaw-dropping illustration of a paywall that none of them knew existed. Choice responses (mirrored in other classrooms where I’ve used this approach) included:

“Why in the world does it cost so much?”
“It doesn’t make sense!”
“You mean all libraries have to pay like this?”
“Why can’t we use this stuff after we graduate?”

 

I feel strongly that we librarians have contributed to this current dysfunctional scholarly publishing system by (well-meaningly) sheltering faculty and students from the costs. This has emboldened publishers to aggressively inflate their subscription fees beyond inflation (and beyond reason) because they know that the end users are blissfully unaware… and because they know that librarians have a strong service ethic and will bend over backward to provide our patrons with the resources they need.

Let’s pull back that curtain now. Undergraduates are our future researchers and our allies in advocating for a more sustainable and equitable system. Even if undergraduates don’t go on to become researchers they will be tax-paying members of society funding that research. They should understand the system that their money funds and demand change.


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

The conundrum of leadership

by Jaclyn McLean, Electronic Resources Librarian, University of Saskatchewan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

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

by Shannon Lucky, Information Technology Librarian, University of Saskatchewan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————————–

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


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

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

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

It’s hard to believe that 2016 is coming to a close. The end of the year is always a time for reflection and there were milestones for the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP) in 2016. July 2016 saw the 3rd anniversary of the opening of the Centre which was held during the 7th International Evidence Based Library and Information Practice conference held here at the University of Saskatchewan. In October, we hosted our third C-EBLIP Fall Symposium, a 1-day conference dedicated to librarians as researchers. It was a fantastic day with a keynote address from Margaret Henderson from the Virginia Commonwealth University, a range of outstanding presentations focused on research projects as well as the hows and the whys of librarian research, and of course the granola bars. This blog, Brain-Work, continued into its third year with a wide variety of posts from authors across Canada and increasingly around the world.

And speaking of an international focus, 2016 was also the year that the C-EBLIP Research Network was launched. The network is an international affiliation of institutions that are committed to librarians as researchers and/or are interested in evidence based library and information practice. Since the soft launch of a 2-year pilot at the end of April, 21 international members have joined from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong, Ireland, and the United States. The C-EBLIP Research Network was created to foster collaboration and communication among librarians who are doing research, are interested in research, and/or who are involved with evidence based practice or wish to be. While the membership is institutional, the network is specifically for librarians on the ground. And of course, the more the merrier, so if you think your organization would be interested in joining the C-EBLIP Research Network, there’s a handy form you can fill out here: handy form

Well, if 2017 is as exciting as 2016 has been, we’re in for another fantastic year. C-EBLIP would like to wish you and yours a very happy holiday season and all the best in the New Year.

Using storytelling guidelines to simplify communication

by Jill Crawley-Low
Science Library, University of Saskatchewan

Recently in the University of Saskatchewan Library, a Sustaining Leadership Learning session on storytelling in an organizational setting was offered. During the half-day workshop, we learned the ways in which stories can be effective when introduced in a work setting to share understanding and connect people on a personal as well as on an organizational level. The role of storytelling in organizations includes sparking people to action; transmitting values; fostering collaboration; leading people into the future; and other good things (Denning, The leader’s guide to storytelling, 2011). We learned about a variety of storytelling structures that can be used to develop a story for almost any occasion. On a basic level, the key elements in building stories include purpose, idea, and content. If storytelling does, in fact, improve communication in the workplace then there are lots of opportunities for this practice in academic libraries.

For instance, developing a comprehensive collections strategy is a complex task with many facets and underlying assumptions, and, however appealing a complex discussion about collections’ issues may be for librarians, it is likely not so enticing to our community. So, taking advice from Natalie Babbit the author of Tuck Everlasting who said, “Like all magnificent things, it’s very simple”, we would break down the collections strategy task into manageable segments and use the storytelling methodology to focus the information to be shared and make it simple, yet meaningful. Still not convinced?

Taking only one aspect of the collections strategy, i.e., the responsibilities of liaison librarians and faculty in building collections that support research and teaching, the purpose, idea and content components guiding development of a story can be applied as follows:

Purpose – could the learnings from the storytelling session be applied to tell stories that would create transparency and create better relationships between the library and the university community?
Idea – since collections work is a passion for many librarians, could stories be used to create some excitement and understanding around a collections strategy that would be informative and interesting for the casual reader from the university community?
Content – with the intention to communicate key pieces of information, what kinds of information would be included?

If the purpose and idea are to share information about collections and enhance relationships with our academic colleagues, then the next step is to identify the content that supports the generation of a story. For this example there are a number of sources: an in-house document that outlines the potential duties of liaison librarians; the library literature that contain examples of best practice in liaison librarian responsibilities; liaison librarians can be asked to identify core values in their work, and also how they interact with faculty in supporting research and teaching; conversely, faculty can be interviewed to find out how they interact with liaison librarians, and which library services are most useful in supporting their work; and lastly discipline-specific characteristics can be included. Once the content has been gathered and the message is clear, four elements for impactful storytelling according to Denning (2011) can be applied to develop the style, tone, and final shape:

Style
– write as if you are talking to one individual, be focused, simple, clear
Truth – tell the truth as you see it
Preparation – choose the shape of the story and stick to it
Delivery – be comfortable in your own style, know your audience, connect with your audience.

The result is a story about the relationships between faculty and liaison librarians in building collections that support research and teaching. Following the impactful story development guidelines, it would be jargon-free, focussed on users, transparent and simple, and it would reveal some of the passion that librarians hold for the work they do. The story might be presented orally in meetings or in casual conversations. However, it would also lend itself to publication on the library’s website reaching a wider audience along with other collections documents. Not all topics can morph into stories, but when we want to communicate on a more personal level, storytelling is a viable option and one we might have overlooked. As Albert Einstein acutely noted, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

References
Denning, Stephen, 2011. The Leader’s guide to storytelling: mastering the art and discipline of business narrative. 2nd rev. ed. Jossey-Bass.
Babbit, Natalie, 2011. Tuck everlasting. Square Fish.

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.

Information Literacy: Stronger, Together

by Angie Gerrard
Murray Library, University of Saskatchewan

I heart information literacy! I am lucky that information literacy is intertwined with my professional practice and research interests. Most recently a team of us developed a framework for information literacy instruction for undergraduate students here at the University of Saskatchewan. A milestone of this project was a presentation to the university’s teaching and learning committee of council where our work was graciously embraced by fellow colleagues who also share a passion for teaching and learning. An unexpected perk of this presentation was meeting a colleague, who is an instructional designer outside of the library, who was interested in digital literacy.

Digital literacy was something that I did not have much experience with, or at least I didn’t think I did. I wondered how digital literacy was related to other literacies. My brain had been in overdrive trying to keep up with the new and improved concept of information literacy (thanks to the new ACRL Framework) so I questioned whether there was room in my heart and head for yet another literacy. Turns-out …. yes, yes there was!

My backstory: I knew that information literacy was alive and well outside the walls of the library (yay) but to be honest, I really had no idea of the scope. So, a focus of my research has been to try and uncover faculty perceptions and practices of information literacy. What I have learned thus far is that yes faculty value information literacy but not necessarily by that name and not necessarily delivered by librarians. Interesting stuff, right!? My point is that maybe we as librarians need not worry so much about what we call information literacy and who is teaching it but instead, focus our energies on collaborating with those who share our same overarching goals, i.e. improved student success, critical thinking skills, lifelong learning, etc.

Which leads me back to digital literacy. When I first started this collaboration I admit that I was trying hard to figure-out the perfect match and alignment between information literacy and digital literacy. Was there a hierarchy? Was one a subset of the other? What came first, the chicken or the egg? And yes, we were able to find many commonalities and overlaps of these concepts (ex: critical evaluation of information, understanding how information is produced, ethical use of information, etc.). But perhaps more importantly, through this somewhat unknown process, I’ve come to realization that we as librarians don’t always need to be waving the information literacy flag when we meet with colleagues outside the library. We don’t own information literacy nor we should we appropriate others’ conceptualizations of what we deem to be ‘information literacy’. The beauty of the recent reconceptualization of information literacy is that it opens the door to much wider conversations around information, research, teaching, and scholarship. And I welcome this!

To date, my collaborator and I have taught a few sessions on information literacy and digital literacy, mostly to faculty, and we are now looking into the future. We are also at the stage where we are trying to figure out what to call this beast (‘digital information literacy’ is a bit of a mouthful so I welcome any and all suggestions). The point is that we are working together, each from our own context, trying to come to a common understanding and a way forward. And really, isn’t that the exciting part?

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.

Ethics are for everyone!

by Moriana Garcia
Carlson Science and Engineering Library, University of Rochester
and
Kristin Bogdan
Engineering Library, University of Saskatchewan

In this blog post, we would like to put out a call to action – that librarians seriously consider taking whatever ethics training is available at their home institution, whether they have a specific requirement to do so or not. We came together as research collaborators due to a mutual interest in visual research methods, and our plan to employ those methods in our practice. We intend to publish the research, so we began our journey through the research ethics process. The more we learned about it, the more we realized that this training could have an impact in many areas of our work.

In libraries we collect data about the people that use our spaces, collections, and online resources all of the time. This can be benign and completely anonymous, like gate counts, or specific to individuals, like patrons borrowing records. The systems that we use to provide content to our communities collect information in ways that we don’t even think, and may not fit within our professional or personal sense of ethics. Patrons’ privacy is a common topic of discussion in public libraries, but not so frequently in academic ones. An organization that is trying to change that is the Library Freedom Project. The group, a partnership among librarians, technologists, attorneys, and privacy advocates, aims to promote intellectual freedom in libraries by educating librarians on government and corporate surveillance threats, privacy rights of the population, and the responsibility of libraries to protect those rights. Their website provides access to several educational resources on these topics, and it is a good starting point for librarians interested in privacy issues.

Research ethics training is one way to become more aware of the ethical issues that we face in our practice and in our research. We both went through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Program online training. This training is regulated by the Interagency Advisory Panel on Research Ethics (PRE) in Canada or the Office of Human Subject Protection in the United States. These offices aim to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects at the institutional level. They usually manage the local Research Ethics Board (REB), or Institutional Review Board (IRB) in the U.S., which reviews, approves and follows up on any research project involving human subjects, and provide education and training for researchers on ethical research issues and human subjects safety. Training on human subject research traditionally covers the historical development of human subject protections, as well as current regulatory information and ethical issues related to the topic. An intimate understanding of concepts such as vulnerable populations, consent, and what is known as the three research pillars in research ethics — respect for persons, beneficence and justice — is an important part of the training. You can get more information about these topics in the Belmont Report.

Ethics training will increase your awareness of any possible ethical issues and where you can go for help. Much of the assessment work that we do as librarians will qualify as exempt when it comes to ethics, but you still need to get approval from your ethics office if you want to publish. At the 2016 C-EBLIP Fall Symposium, the keynote speaker, Margaret Henderson, suggested that you should get ethics approval for any project where there is even a remote chance that it will be used for research. Another suggestion from Margaret that could facilitate ethics approval is having a shared set of research instruments (surveys, interview and focus questions protocols) that librarians could use for their evaluation and assessment activities. Using the same instruments as others will take out some of the stress of creating new surveys before going through the ethics process and it will make it easier to compare results across different libraries, which would create a base of LIS research that would be of great value to the profession.

In conclusion, it is well worth the time to go through the ethics training. Going through this process will also help you talk to faculty about their research and allow you to point them in the direction of the research ethics office. Ideally, we would go through the training in our LIS education in order to get a sense of the requirements of doing research on human subjects. We work with vulnerable communities all of the time, so understanding how our practice and research impacts them is in the best interest of everyone.

References:
Henderson, M. “Collaborating to Increase the Evidence Base in Library and Information Practice.” C-EBLIP Fall Symposium. October 12, 2016.

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.

Non-Attachment as an Antidote for Procrastination

by DeDe Dawson
Science Library, University of Saskatchewan

I have a weakness for popular psychology books and I’m a wee bit of a cynic, too – so when I came across Oliver Burkeman’s book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking I knew it would be good. And it is good, very good: entertainingly written and thought-provoking. After returning my borrowed library copy I actually went out and bought my own copy and re-read it! Now that is an endorsement.

But what does this have to do with research?

I wasn’t expecting to find advice to apply to my research in this book – but sometimes when you least expect it the most useful nugget of wisdom lands on your lap!

Each chapter in the book explores a different counter-intuitive route to happiness. In chapter three, “The Storm before the Calm”, Burkeman discusses the Buddhist philosophy of non-attachment. Essentially, Buddhists believe that the root of all suffering is attachment. It is a very human and understandable tendency to cling to things we like and avoid things we don’t. Both of these tendencies can be considered attachments though. The examples Burkeman uses are:

“Develop a strong attachment to your good looks – as opposed to merely enjoying them while they last – and you will suffer when they fade, as they inevitably will; develop a strong attachment to your luxurious lifestyle, and your life may become an unhappy, fearful struggle to keep things that way.” (Burkeman, 2012, p. 53)

So, the Buddhist approach to life is to practice non-attachment: to be non-judgmentally aware of these feelings and impulses but not get hung up on them. Once we stop struggling to be positive and happy then we might actually experience some peace! Counter-intuitive… but compelling.

And now the connection to research… Virginia Wilson wrote candidly in this blog a few weeks ago about her struggles with procrastination – a common curse of academics when they get to the “write-up” portion of a research project. We’ve all heard the inspirational quotes, the motivational tips, and other well-meaning advice. Burkeman states that most of these tips and tricks don’t work simply because they are more about putting you in the mood to get things done, instead of how to actually get things done.

It turns out that non-attachment can be a practical way to get things done.

If you wait until you’re in the right mood to get things done… then you’ll never get things done:

“Who says you need to wait until you ‘feel like’ doing something in order to start doing it? The problem, from this perspective, isn’t that you don’t feel motivated; it’s that you imagine you need to feel motivated. If you can regard your thoughts and emotions about whatever you’re procrastinating on as passing weather, you’ll realise that your reluctance about working isn’t something that needs to be eradicated or transformed into positivity. You can coexist with it. You can note the procrastinatory feelings and act anyway.” (Burkeman, 2012, p. 69)

The emphasis in the above quote is mine. These last two sentences are the ones I underlined and starred in the book (my copy – not the library copy!). After this passage Burkeman goes on to describe the daily rituals of some highly productive and famous writers – they rarely include techniques meant to inspire or motivate, instead they are routines that provide structure whether or not the writer happens to feel motivated at the time.

An aside: My artist husband claims he needs to be inspired to paint – and guess what? He doesn’t get much painting done. I always tell him: “Just sit down and paint, the inspiration will come!”

So, this is my advice to myself and my fellow procrastinating writers: recognize that you don’t feel like it… then just sit down and write. It is very similar to Lorie’s advice to Virginia: “Just do it!”

Oh, and read this book:
Burkeman, O. (2012). The antidote: Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking. New York: Faber and Faber, Inc.

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.

Considering collaborations

by Margy MacMillan
Mount Royal University Library

Most of my work in Library and Information Practice involves other people so it’s not surprising that working on building and using an evidence base for this work has brought me into close collaboration with people across the library, the campus, and global libraryland*. Reflecting on these experiences has illuminated some patterns and common factors in positive collaborations as well as some aspects that require attention at the beginning to ensure everyone stays friendly at the end.

One of the most important things is to align conceptions of realistic timelines, milestones and deadlines. In one group I worked with, this was evident even in small things – if we said we’d meet in the lobby at 7:30 to catch a shuttle to a conference, we were all there by 7:00. This congruence happened naturally among us, but is something that most groups I’ve been part of have had to work out. While the set dates of publications and presentations can be helpful motivators, developing a schedule that all collaborators are comfortable with should be part of the early planning stages.

Related to the question of time, is motivation. Understanding why your collaborators are interested in the project and how it fits into their lives can help determine feasible timelines. If one partner needs to analyse data as part of planning for a new service and another sees the potential of this analysis to inform wider work through publication, the partners will have to accept different commitment and energy levels for different parts of the project. In situations like these, colleagues and I have often taken the lead at different stages: gathering, initial analysis, submission and write-up. While we all contributed to these stages, leading different parts was an effective way to align aspects of the projects with our skills and motivations, and ensured that no one felt overburdened.

A crucial aspect in both of these collaboration was that we trusted each other to do the work. That trust was built on frank discussions of available time and competing priorities, acknowledgements of each others’ expertise, and shared understanding of tasks and expectations. Looking back those have been key factors in all of the successful collaborations I’ve been a part of.

Nancy Chick, Caitlin McClurg, and the author, collaborating on a cross-disciplinary project.

Nancy Chick, Caitlin McClurg, and the author, collaborating on a cross-disciplinary project.

Openness to others’ expertise is, of course, critical when you are working across disciplinary boundaries. Your partner may be more comfortable in a different research methodology, or simply a different citation style, and developing a shared language around the project is critical. Disciplines bring distinct terminologies and conventions around knowledge creation and dissemination (to see this in action, bring a table of mixed faculty together, open the discussion of author name order, and stand back). These differences affect the questions you ask, the evidence you value, the analysis you undertake and the audience(s) for the final product.Just as you would when coding data, nothing works quite so well as writing down decisions once you find  consensus.  It’s easy (and occasionally disastrous for a project) to make assumptions about shared understandings working with people in your own discipline, but I’ve found these groups can have just as divergent thinking as cross-disciplinary ones. The early communicaiton stage is often skipped on the assumption that as members of the ‘hive mind’ of librarianship we have common conceptions of  information literacy, or what term we should use for patron/user/client/ or how open does a publication need to be to count as OA?.

Much of this: negotiating meaning across disciplines, negotiating time zones and spelling conventions across borders and oceans, or negotiating variations in motivation regardless of other differences or similarities, is a matter of making the tacit explicit, of learning how to say what we mean, what we need, and what we can do clearly and without apology.

It turns out that this really is one of the great unsung benefits of collaboration. Working with others has taught me more about my professional self than any other activity. It has made me think about my values as a librarian, as a researcher, and as a teacher, and in articulating those values to others I have found a strengthened sense of purpose. Negotiating the meaning of information literacy, whether with library colleagues or with other faculty has given me a more nuanced personal definition, and helped me enact and communicate that definition in my teaching and scholarship. I have found that these meaning-making tasks have been far more productive and authentic when I have worked on them as a means to collaboration than when I have considered them as ends in themselves.

Try starting your next collaboration with the kind of conversation that engages participants in self-explanation, where tacit assumptions and definitions are brought into the light of others’ questions, probed for nuance, and made explicit. There is no guarantee this will lead to a trouble-free project of course, but according to the OED ‘explicit’ does derive from the classical Latin explicitus: free from difficulties… so it just might.

*A semi-mythical place where all information is well-organized, all colleagues are congenial and collegial, and timezones prove no barrier to productive conversations.

For a longer discussion of collaboration in research, I highly recommend the “Coda on Collaboration” chapter of Critical Reading in Higher Education: Academic Goals and Social Engagement by Karen Manarin, Miriam Carey, Melanie Rathburn, and Glen Ryland, 2015, Indiana University Press.

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.

Confessions of a Procrastinating (at times) Researcher

By Virginia Wilson, Director
Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP)

When I sat down this morning to write out a comprehensive to-do list, I had to turn away from it for a moment. In my research section, there’s a bit too much going on. I’m in the middle of three research projects – one of which is a solo project and is hanging on far longer than I would have hoped. If it were a child, my data would be starting kindergarten this fall. My other two projects are collaborations. They are moving along, which I attribute to the accountability that comes from working with others. I sometimes look at co-workers and colleagues whom I admire and wonder “how do they get it all done?”

Regarding my solo project, I think my procrastination has been fueled by the feeling of not having a big enough chunk of time to really get into it. That’s merely an excuse, of course. I do have time, and I have had the time, and even if there are not great stretches of it, I should be able to be productive. But the longer I don’t do it, the easier it is to not do it. One of my collaborators, Lorie, said, (and I paraphrase): You can get a lot done in a couple hours or a half a day. You just do it! Just do it. That’s it, really. Don’t think about it, don’t mull it over, don’t wonder, don’t ponder, and for heaven’s sake, don’t read any more literature…just do it. As Yoda says, “Do. Or not do. There is no try.” I’ve been doing a lot of “not doing” on this solo project. So, enough of that! I’m going to enlist all of you as my accountability buddies. I’m declaring here in print that I will write that paper by Spring 2017.

How am I going to do this, you ask? I’m going to take advantage of the C-EBLIP Writing Circle. Every two weeks, a group of us gets together, shares progress and goals, and then writes for a couple of hours. It’s surprisingly effective! I also did some looking around for other productivity techniques and came across a post on lifehacker (and who doesn’t want to hack their life, am I right?) where they outline the five best productivity methods based on “your” votes. The Pomodoro Technique looks pretty interesting. I just need a “simple timer and a little discipline.” Hmm, okay. I’ll set the timer for 25 minutes, start it, and get to work. After I’ve worked for 25 minutes, the timer goes off, and I get a 5 minute break. Apparently, that is one “Pomodoro.” And I go on from there. The key is “short, sustained bursts.” There are some other productivity techniques listed, including a secret from Jerry Seinfeld. I do fear, however, that I will end up procrastinating by exploring more and better productivity techniques!

So, there you go. Probably more than you needed to know about my inner research psyche, but I surely cannot be alone when it comes to following through on research projects. I look to role models for inspiration, which is helpful. But probably the biggest drive for my solo research project right now is the age of the data. It’s still viable, I’m sure of that, but it really needs to get out there. If anything, I owe it to the folks who took the time to share their stories with me. So, that’s a good motivator, too. If you have similar stories to share, or some interesting productivity techniques, I’d love to hear about them.

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.