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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research Mentorship: Qualities from Doctoral Supervision

by Selinda Berg
Leddy Library, University of Windsor

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

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

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

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

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

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)
@suzanasukovic

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. https://doi.org/10.7710/2162-3309.2183

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 Academia.edu. 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).

Amen.

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 (https://create.kahoot.it/) and Poll Everywhere (https://www.polleverywhere.com/). 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.

Cost
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!

Fun
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

By
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” (https://software-carpentry.org/about/). 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?

Curiosity
1: desire to know:
b: interest leading to inquiry – intellectual curiosity – Her natural curiosity led her to ask more questions.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/curiosity

 

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 https://www.rickgoodman.com/build-culture-curiosity/

Kalra, A.S. (2015, October 23). 10 ways to build a culture of curiosity. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from  http://www.humanresourcesonline.net/10-ways-build-curious-company/

Karl, A. (2013, November). Create a culture of curiosity: guest blog by Allan Karl. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://marksanborn.com/create-a-culture-of-curiosity-guest-blog-by-allan-karl/

Milway, K.S. and Goldmark, A. (2013, September 18). Four ways of cultivating a culture of curiosity [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2013/09/four-ways-to-cultivate-a-culture-of-curiosity

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 http://guides.lib.umich.edu/DiscoveryPoE

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:

“Categories:

  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 Academia.edu 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 Academia.edu); 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 Academia.edu 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.