Librarians helping librarians with research (aka, my experience at the CARL Librarians’ Research Institute)

by Jaclyn McLean
Electronic Resources Librarian, University of Saskatchewan

Attending the CARL Librarians’ Research Institute (LRI) at Concordia in June was an exhilarating, exhausting experience that helped me solidify my identity as a practitioner researcher and confirm my plan for this coming year, in which I will compile and submit my tenure case file.

I have many ideas and thoughts that I’m taking away from LRI, and it’s so recent that they’re not very organized yet. So here they are, in no particular order:

• Librarians are awesome and so supportive of each others’ work—this experience was about research, but I’ve seen the same thing when we get together to talk about our practice.
• Working in a beautiful, acoustically thoughtful, comfortable space makes everything else you’re doing easier. The chairs in the renovated Webster Library are the most comfortable and ergonomically thoughtful chairs I’ve encountered at any professional event. I wish I’d taken a picture of them, but I did not (luckily, Concordia has posted some great photos on their transformation website).
• We talked a lot about habits of the mind, and I found that a very useful frame for talking about practitioner research, especially the concepts of responding with wonderment and awe and remaining open to continuous learning.
• While we talked about methods and such, I really appreciated the overall framework of the research lifecycle that guided our work (from developing research problems and questions to dissemination and research culture).
• We went beyond qualitative and quantitative and talked about a type of research I’m more familiar with from my background in studying history: conceptual/theoretical. It was pretty amazing to talk about this third kind of research as fitting in with LIS, which I had never thought of before. I had thought that I was more limited now to qualitative/quantitative research as a librarian, with data gathered from participants. It feels like now I’ve maybe got “permission” to go back to my roots and do other kinds of research too!
• Talking about your research with others can help you figure out what to do next, think of a new project idea, or change your direction with a current idea. The opportunity to discuss research with peer mentors and other attendees at LRI was really helpful as I developed a new project and reminded me of the value of talking about research with others.
• We had a morning keynote from Concordia’s Researcher in Residence, Claire Burrows, and her reminder to question what surprises us in our research and also what doesn’t, to dig into those areas and explore those ideas because they can be fertile ground for future research, or inspire a new direction for current research was inspiring.

I’m sure that I will continue to reflect on my LRI experience over the summer, as I tweak my research plan, work on my active projects, and continue to try and find the right balance of research with practice. Opportunities like LRI, by providing the dedicated, safe space to think about research and to meet other librarians who are engaged in and interested in research, are few and far between. If you get the chance to attend, I’d highly recommend it.

Now, I’m off to read one of the books we talked about at LRI, How to Write a Lot by Paul Silvia. If you don’t find yourself with enough time to read it yourself, I stumbled across this excellent post about it on The Thesis Whisperer. I’m also going to think some more about my own research specifically, LIS research generally, and how I can continue to consciously build my habits of mind.

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.