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.

Research that is (un-)related to librarianship

by Kristin Hoffmann
University of Western Ontario

I have noticed that conversations about librariansi doing research often lead to discussions about whether librarians can or should do research that isn’t related to librarianship or library and information science (LIS). Most often in those discussions, librarians express a desire to do research in any discipline or bemoan the fact that their institution’s policies or practices don’t permit or support them to do research that is un-related to librarianship.

In a recent study that I did with two colleagues, Selinda Berg and Denise Koufogiannakis, we surveyed academic librarians who work at universities across Canada to explore how various factors are related to research productivity. As part of our survey, we asked participants to report their LIS-related research output over the past five years. A handful of participants remarked on the idea of LIS-related research with comments such as:

“What is LIS research? Is it only research that has been published in LIS journals? The research that I do is primarily focused on teaching and learning. I believe that this also informs LIS, but am unclear if it would be considered strictly LIS research?”

“My area of research is not LIS-related, but librarians [at my university] are restricted to ‘work-related’ projects when applying for sabbatical.”

“Peer-reviewed, published research in non-library fields raises the image and acceptance of librarians as faculty and participants in post-secondary activities in my opinion.”

I admit having had a strong personal opinion on the matter: that librarians should do research related to librarianship. It has seemed like common sense to me that we research within our discipline. I also feel that “librarianship” is vast, far beyond the realm of “related to what I do as a librarian,” and so I haven’t perceived this boundary as a restriction.

But I find myself now wanting to be less fixed and more open to considering other ways of looking at this. I am curious to explore the issues around research that is and is not related to librarianship. Questions that interest me include:

What does “research related to librarianship” mean, and how might that meaning differ for librarians who are more or less interested in doing such research?

How does collective agreement languageii affect the kind of research that librarians do or the kind of research that they want to do?

How do subject expertise and other advanced degrees influence librarians’ research interests or confidence to carry out research, either related to librarianship or not?

I hope that this exploration will help me, and others, to better understand what is at the root of various perspectives about research that is or is not related to librarianship, so that we can better support and encourage each other as researchers.
__________________________________
iMy experience is limited to conversations about academic librarians doing research.
iiIn Canada, most academic librarians are members of faculty associations and their responsibilities, including research or scholarly activity, are outlined in collective agreements or similar documents.

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.

Is there value in absent results?

by Angie Gerrard
Murray Library, University of Saskatchewan

There is a movement in the academic literature regarding the value of publishing negative research results. While the most accepted research tends to favour positive results, there is a growing call for a more holistic picture of the realities of research. This just makes sense. As a researcher and practitioner, I want to know what worked, for whom, in what context, but I also want to know what did not work, why it did not work, and what lessons can be drawn from that. There is obvious value in learning from other people’s so-called ‘failures’.

But what about those research findings that never see the light of day because they are not truly results, but rather the first few steps of the research process that simply failed? It is one thing to complete a research project and share the negative results but quite another when the research is stalled and there is nothing to share. Is there value in reporting a research experience that produced nothing in the most tangible sense?

This is my reality at the moment; a liminal state along the research journey. I am currently on sabbatical and part of my research program is dedicated to information literacy instruction; more specifically, trying to better understand faculty’s perceptions and practices of information literacy. My hypothesis is that while faculty are not likely consciously adopting information literacy in the curriculum, they are in fact incorporating many of the underlying principles encompassed within information literacy. Therefore, if librarians want to continue to play a key teaching and learning role on campus, we need to better understand what is being taught in the classroom. To begin to understand this, I proposed getting faculty together in focus groups to discuss how they perceive their undergraduate students’ abilities to access, use, and evaluate information and how, if at all, they teach these constructs and if so, is this is done in any scaffolded manner throughout the curriculum.

Thus began the design of my research project. A grant application was written and was successfully granted (yikes, this was getting real). A literature review was conducted and many, many articles were read and annotated. Focus group methodology was studied and a focus group question guide developed. Ethics documentation was written. A research assistant was hired. Ethics documentation was re-written and re-submitted. Focus group dates were set and a moderator was booked. Contact information was gathered for more than 500 faculty. Many, many Excel spreadsheets were developed. Six focus groups were created using stratified data from potential participants. Email protocols and procedures were written and finally, drum roll please, the initial call for participants was emailed in early March with a deadline to respond by mid-month.

And then I waited.

Crickets.

And then I “failed”.

Of the 180 potential randomized participants contacted, two people agreed to sit on our focus groups; a response rate too embarrassingly low to even report. In all reality, we received six total responses: two who agreed to participate (bless their hearts), one said thank-you but count me out, two reporting the time of year wasn’t good for them, and another reporting that he did not meet the eligibility requirements but offered some interesting input. We had planned for six focus groups, each with five to eight participants, where three groups were stratified by subject disciplines and the other three represented mixed disciplines. In the end, we had a total of two willing participants; not near enough for one focus group, let alone six.

So this a snapshot at where I am at the moment, with the most important part of my research project missing. I have carefully planned and budgeted for the next steps of my project, i.e., data collection, data analysis, dissemination and knowledge translation, but none of this can go forward. I have nothing if I have no data.

When I reflect back on all the work and time invested in this project to date, did I actually fail? Is there value in nothing? The jury is still out of this. While this process has taught me much about undertaking a large research project (or at least the beginning stages of such a project) and the joys of qualitative research involving human participants, this is not the kind of value you can take to the bank or in my case, represent in a promotional case file.

Reporting positive results remains king. It has rightfully earned its place at the head chair at the big table. Slowly but surely, negative results are now being invited to take a seat at this table. Is there a place for absent results? Well, for the time being, these research experiences may be best relegated to the kids’ table.

On a more positive note; I have drowned my sorrows and moved on to Plan B. With the sabbatical clock ticking, I have simplified both my recruitment approach and focus group compositions and plan to hold the discussions at a less busy time. Fingers crossed there will have tangible and valuable data to share.

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.

Jumping into the Deep End: Reflections of a Librarian Practitioner-Researcher

by Charlene Sorensen
Services to Libraries, University of Saskatchewan

I am always curious as to how people find their way to librarianship. I myself didn’t plan on becoming a librarian. But suddenly after I completed my undergrad a friend was going to this thing called “library school” and I was intrigued. A couple of years later I decided to obtain my Library Technician diploma as a way to ease into library work and find out if I liked it. I worked as a library technician for three years and then decided it was time to get my MLIS. I can’t exactly remember why or how I made that decision but I knew it was the next step for me. I quit my job, moved away, and hoped to find work when I was done. I enjoyed library school – though I’m glad I chose a 12-month program – and did get a job right away. I worked some contracts and my first longer term job was as a serials cataloguer and I have thoroughly enjoyed where this fairly accidental career path has taken me.
CSlibrary_SanAntonio
San Antonio Public Library (Central) – San Antonio, Texas

I find that being a librarian permeates my life and defines me in many ways, even though I didn’t plan for this to happen. It affects what I read, some of my activities, who I spend time with, and many of my values and beliefs. Being a cataloguer also colours some of my day-to-day activities, probably in fairly stereotypical ways such as wondering why the KD isn’t beside the rest of the pasta in my grocery store – should they not be classified together?
CSlibrary_classification
Public library classification system – Albufeira, Portugal

When I came to the University of Saskatchewan, I was following this path of working with serials but I had now started along another track that I had never imagined – I was now a researcher. Even though I love being a librarian – and even find myself seeking out and taking pictures of libraries when I travel – I didn’t know much about librarians as researchers until recently. When I accepted a position at the UofS, I suddenly had standards for tenure to fulfill and not a lot of time to fulfill them. It really was a matter of jumping into the deep end and discovering that I COULD swim.
CSlibrary_Nice
Bibliothèque Louis Nucéra – Nice, France

I have, however, been thinking more about what it means to be a practitioner-researcher librarian. I have an on and off relationship with this definition of myself and feel the need to embrace it more fully. Now that some time has passed, I’m hoping I can think more clearly about what I would like to do in this area of my work, and less about what I need to do to get tenure. I have the urge to wade more carefully into these waters and discover what’s there. And on a lighter note, I’m thinking about how this aspect of my career could/should be affecting my life like “librarian” and “cataloguer” already do.

And so I have questions for you, dear reader. How comfortable are you with defining yourself as a researcher? Do you see this aspect of your career come out in your personal life? Do we yet have stereotypical behaviours for librarian researchers, much like we have for other librarian roles?
CSlibrary_Tavira
Biblioteca Municipal Álvaro de Campos – Tavira, Portugal

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.

Librarians as Practitioner-Researchers: Constructive Concept

by Kristin Hoffmann
Associate Librarian, University of Western Ontario

Librarians as practitioner-researchers: constructive concept or limiting label? Last summer, my colleague Selinda Berg and I had an invigorating conversation about this question. We presented our reflections at the 2014 C-EBLIP Fall Symposium, and this post is my part of that presentation. Selinda’s part will be published here later this spring.

We want to share our conversation about librarians as practitioner-researchers because we see a link between researcher identity and research culture. Academic librarians, particularly in Canada, are in the process of establishing and shaping a research culture for ourselves. Part of establishing a research culture is having a clear sense of who we are as researchers and what it means to us to be researchers. We hope that our conversation can spark similar conversations for others.

Peter Jarvis developed the concept of practitioner-researcher in his 1999 book The practitioner-researcher: developing theory from practice. Rebecca Watson-Boone (2000) and Virginia Wilson (2013) have examined the concept specifically for librarianship.

I want to share two reasons why I believe that “practitioner-researcher” is a constructive concept for librarians.

1. We are both practitioners and researchers and so we need an identity that encompasses both of those roles, rather than trying to manage or embody two distinct identities.

The practitioner-researcher concept is a truer and better representation of who we are and what we do as academic librarians than either practitioner or researcher on their own. We often talk about the challenge of how to “fit” research into our workdays, and I think part of that is because we are separating our researcher selves from our practitioner selves and trying to create a separate place for each of those identities. Embracing the identity of practitioner-researcher can help us truly affirm the importance of both roles and the interplay between them.

2. Embracing the practitioner-researcher identity can bring us to a fuller, and unique, understanding of both practice and research.

Previous discussions of practitioner-researchers first emphasize the practitioner role, and research is seen as something that informs practice: we are practitioners who also happen to be researchers, therefore we are practitioner-researchers.

However, our knowledge and understanding of our practice can also inform and enlighten our research. This may be a much more powerful and constructive concept for librarians. To illustrate this, I offer an example from my own research.

In a recent project, I worked with the sociological theory of strategic action fields. Very briefly, this is a theory that provides a framework for thinking about stability and change in social institutions. Since libraries are a social institution, applying this theory to librarianship can help us come to a deeper understanding of change in librarianship. Why do some things change in library-land, why do other things never seem to change even though we wish they would, and what might it take for those changes to happen?

My research looked at librarian-vendor relations and why there seems to be so much enthusiasm for librarians to stand up to vendors and yet so little apparent meaningful change in this aspect of collections. The theory of fields was the tool I used to analyze this situation in an objective, systematic way.

It was through the process of applying the theory of fields to this collections-related example that I really came to see myself as a practitioner-researcher. My research with this theory was deeply informed and influenced by my practice as a librarian. Because I’m an “insider”, intimately familiar with librarianship, I could see aspects of the theory that a so-called “pure” researcher couldn’t – I had unique insight from practice that informed my research.

The theory of fields sociologists came to their theory as researchers; their book (Fligstein and McAdam 2012) makes no mention of practice or how their ideas might shape or be shaped by real-life situations. Librarians who talk about implementing change management might have approached my topic as practitioners. I was seeing it as a practitioner-researcher.

My practice directly informed my approach to this research project. And, yes, my research also informed my practice: having a rigorous and systematic theoretical framework to apply to my practice gave me new insight that has influenced how I understand my profession.

In summary, therefore, practitioner-research is a constructive concept because:
• embracing the practitioner-researcher identity can bring us to a fuller understanding of and a unique perspective on both practice and research; and
• we are both practitioners and researchers and need an identity that encompasses both of those roles.

References

Fligstein, N. and McAdam, D. (2012). Theory of fields. Oxford: Oxford U Press.

Jarvis, P. (1999). The practitioner-researcher: developing theory from practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Watson-Boone, R. (2000). Academic librarians as practitioner-researchers. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 26(2), 85-93. DOI:10.1016/S0099-1333(99)00144-5

Wilson, V. (2013). Formalized curiosity: reflecting on the librarian practitioner-researcher. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 8(1), 111-117. http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/18901

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.

C-EBLIP announces the 2015/16 Researcher in Residence

by Virginia Wilson
Director, Centre of Evidence Based Library and Information Practice

Selinda Berg, an accomplished librarian and researcher from the University of Windsor, is the University Library’s 2015/16 Researcher in Residence. Based in the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP), Selinda’s term will begin in July 2015.

The University Library recognizes the critical value and importance of research as a key element of professional practice and actively supports librarians in their role as researchers. As part of our efforts to develop a research culture and the research capabilities of librarians, the University Library established the Researcher-in-Residence Program designed to help enrich the research culture at the University Library. C-EBLIP supports librarians as researchers and promotes evidence based library and information practice.

Of the Researcher in Residence appointment, Selinda said, “I am very excited to embark on my sabbatical and the many possibilities that lie with working with the U of S librarians and the Centre of Evidence Based Library and Information Practice. While the sabbatical is very exciting, I really do feel like I won the lottery with this opportunity.”

Selinda Berg is a librarian at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry–Windsor Program and the Leddy Library at the University of Windsor. Concurrently, she is completing her PhD. in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University. Research has played a central role in her educational and professional career. At the core of her conception of the research environment for librarians lies the assumption that librarians themselves must take a lead role in developing a unique research culture that complements the environment and needs of practicing librarians. The initiatives that she has led locally and nationally (including the CARL Librarians Research Institute and Westerns Librarian and Archivist Research Support Network) reflect this thinking. Selinda’s professional service and research focuses on the development of professional identify in academic librarians, especially in relation to their identities as researchers.

C-EBLIP and the University Library are pleased to welcome Selinda, an active and engaged librarian researcher with a keen interest in building a Canadian librarian culture of research. For more information, visit http://library.usask.ca/ceblip/activities/researcher-in-residence-program.php or contact Virginia Wilson, C-EBLIP Director, virginia.wilson@usask.ca

Reflections on Research

by Margy MacMillan
Mount Royal University Library

With apologies to Shakespeare: Some are born to research, some achieve research, and others have research thrust upon them . . . and it sometimes feel as though all three are true, often all at once. Whether research is something you have to do, love to do, or just plain do as a part of solving problems, reflecting on what aspects of the tasks YOU find most appealing might reveal some useful patterns.

How do I know this? I did the research! With me as a subject. Yes, it was as uncomfortable as it sounds, at least at first. Then it was… fun, and ultimately very helpful.
When I said I could talk about the What and the Why of research at the C-EBLIP Fall Symposium, I thought it would be easy. What could be simpler than expounding on the motivations for research and the questions that might arise? Teaching an elephant needlepoint. Does the Why lead to the What or vice versa – or do What and Why, the question to be investigated and the reason for the investigation have to occur at the same time? I started thinking in moebius loops where the What and Why become one another simultaneously.

Moebius photo

I searched for answers within. Why had I done research? Were there patterns in the questions? This research required a sunny day, a comfortable chair, and a beverage and was repeated until saturation was achieved. To keep track of reflections I developed a chart.

chart_blank

In filling out my chart, I realized I had NEVER looked at the whole pattern of my research experience. (Have you?) Using mixed methods, noting frequencies, and identifying themes emerging from the discourse, I was quite relieved to find there were patterns, although not always the patterns I thought I’d find. I also discovered connections between what I had thought were a series of random acts of research, and a path that led naturally to where I am now, at the intersection of EBLIP and SoTL – more about that in another post.

chart_filledin

It turns out, getting angry with the literature, borrowing from or intruding upon other disciplines and having a practical outcome have consistently been important to me. Some ‘ideal research conditions’ have changed over time – collaboration was not a key factor at the beginning of my library work but has become something I now seek out. As Dr. Vicki Williamson noted about library staffing in her presentation, research sometimes requires Buying, Building, Borrowing, Balancing and Blending.

In subsequent reflection on this reflection, my conditions for memorable research were not strict either/or conditions but points on continua. It’s not that I don’t like theory, it’s just that while I appreciate those who do, I’m drawn more to applied projects. This kind of realization means that while I may not always be able to control the What or the Why, by paying attention to the How, I can work toward more memorable, even enjoyable research experiences.

A comment in the session by Jo Ann Murphy at USask sparked yet more reflection. She talked about research we do on a regular basis – the kind of research that ends when the problem is solved, and not when the presentation is over. This ‘unsung’ research also requires refining questions, developing methods and analyzing results, we just don’t write about it much, and we should. It’s something we need to MAKE time for (thanks Denise Koufogiannakis!) individually so we can spend less time collectively answering the same questions.

On a final note, what a treat to be on the beautiful UofS campus in a room full of engaged, fascinating library folk, listening to an amazing range of presentations. I’m still processing what I heard, and hoping to network with more than a few of you for ideas/ tips/ tools and theories for my next projects.

The presentation is here. I invite you to chart your profile and comment on the common factors in YOUR memorable research experiences below. Hmmm, sounds like an interesting study…

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.

Taking Time for Research

by Kristin Hoffmann
Associate Librarian, University of Western Ontario

Usually I have to make time for research in my daily work life. This past year, I was fortunate to be able to take time for research by going on a sabbatical leave. I highly recommend a sabbatical for any librarian who has the opportunity to take one.

In a study conducted by Leona Jacobs of the University of Lethbridge and presented at the 2007 CLA conference, librarians who had taken sabbaticals said that their experience was “refreshing,” “fabulous,” and “energizing.” They also said that it was “hard work but … quite interesting.” My sabbatical experience was definitely all of those things!

Kristin Hoffman

Here are a few specific things that I realized about research from the process of doing my sabbatical:

A sabbatical is a good time to really delve into an area. I had done a research project related to the development of librarians’ professional identity, and I knew that I wanted to continue to focus on professional identity. As I was thinking about possible professional identity-related projects, I kept telling myself, “I’ll need to do more background reading before I can write my application.” Finally I realized that I could use the sabbatical to do the background reading. That was a good choice: I now have a much fuller sense of my research agenda, and I feel more like a ‘real’ researcher, knowing that I have such an intimate familiarity with my research areas.

A sabbatical is also a good time to try something new. I focused on research areas that weren’t new to me (librarians as practitioner-researchers, as well as professional identity), but my previous research had been with qualitative or quantitative approaches and during my sabbatical I wanted to try synthesizing my background reading with a critical/theoretical approach. It was a big stretch for me—my undergraduate education was in Engineering Physics—and it was frustrating and difficult at times, but I felt like I had really achieved something by breaking out of my research comfort zone.

Know your work style and make sure you can work that way on sabbatical. For me, this meant that I needed to have people with whom I could talk about my research, because I often develop my thoughts much better through conversation. Working with co-researchers was one way I did that, and I am fortunate to have a partner who is an academic, was also on sabbatical, and is interested in my research. I also attended conferences where there was a fit with my research interests, and had some great conversations with conference presenters and attendees.

Doing research is one of my favourite things about being an academic librarian, and the chance to focus on research during my sabbatical was wonderful. I learned a lot about myself as a researcher, and as a librarian.

If you have taken a sabbatical, how did it affect your research? If you are planning one, what are you hoping to achieve with your research?

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.

C-EBLIP Fall Symposium: Librarians as Researchers

by Virginia Wilson
Director, Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice

First of all, I want to let you know that the Summer of Virginia as it pertains to the Brain-Work blog is just about over. Starting next week, you’ll be treated to weekly posts from our brilliant cast of contributors. But before I concede centre stage, I’d like to talk about the C-EBLIP Fall Symposium: Librarians as Researchers.

The Symposium is coming up on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 and will be held on the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) campus. The day-long event will consist of an opening keynote address by Margy MacMillan from Mount Royal University, single track sessions, and lots of time for networking (yummy food and social events, too). You can find the program here: http://library.usask.ca/ceblip/c-eblip-fall-symposium/symposium-program.php Registration (which will open soonopen now!) is complimentary, but we will be asking for you to fill out an online registration form for catering numbers and stuff like that.

So, a bit of background…the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP) held its grand opening in July 2013. Just over a year old, the Centre is under the umbrella of the University Library, U of S. C-EBLIP’s mandate is to promote evidence based practice and to support librarians as researchers. We’ve done a lot of activities over the past year internally to support that mandate. But I’ve always felt there should be some outward facing activities originating from the Centre, mostly because I’m a big believer of the work being better when it’s not done in a vacuum. The Symposium is one such activity. The Symposium is open to any librarian interested in the topic of librarians as researchers. With free registration, you just need to get here.

There have been recent initiatives aimed at developing a Canadian librarian research culture. I’m thinking particularly of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) Librarians’ Research Institute (LRI). The LRI was held for its third year this past June at Carleton. Previous LRIs were held at the University of Regina, jointly presented by the U of R and the U of S, and at the University of Windsor. I attended the inaugural event and was very impressed with the content, the use of peer mentors to facilitate the institute, and the overall concept and drive behind the institute. Essentially, we’ve got a lot of librarian research expertise in Canada and we need to bring that together, share that knowledge, and move a librarian culture of research in Canada forward. I’m hoping that the C-EBLIP Fall Symposium will contribute to this goal. Bringing together librarians from across Canada to share research, experiences, thoughts, and potential roadblocks can only help to continue the conversations that are taking place about librarians in their researcher roles.

I’m really excited about the initial response to the Fall Symposium. Librarians as researchers seems to be a timely topic, and it’s one that I’m immersed in with my role as the C-EBLIP Director. I believe that librarians have so much to offer in the area of LIS research. We have the opportunity to research our practice, to take questions that come from our place on the ground and move them forward to provide ourselves and each other with evidence to take our practice to the next level. If the Symposium unfolds as I think it will, we’re going to have a day that will inspire and ignite us all and that will provide a feeling of support; the idea that no matter where we are, there are others like us who are doing the same type of work. And hopefully, the connections we make at the Symposium will be lasting, so we can jot off an email or pick up the phone and connect with a Symposium attendee for information, support, or maybe just a laugh.

If you have any questions about the C-EBLIP Fall Symposium, please do not hesitate to be in touch with me: virginia.wilson@usask.ca

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.

To Boldly Go: The Research Collaboration

by Virginia Wilson
Director, Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice

I’m currently in the middle of a research project in which I have talked to librarians who conduct research about being librarians who conduct research. It’s a bit meta, to say the least. And while I’m still slogging through my qualitative analysis (no, it’s great, really! 🙂 ), some themes and ideas have already floated to the surface and I find myself thinking a lot about them. One thing that has emerged is the benefit of belonging to a research team or a research collaboration, especially if one is a new librarian just starting out in research. This advice has come from librarians who have participated in research teams and see the benefits after the fact of such a partnership. But what if you are reticent to jump in to that environment? There might be several reasons why someone might be reluctant to get involved in a research collaboration:

• Fear that you can’t bring enough to the table in terms of knowledge and experience
• Disliking “group work” (this often emerges in grad school—the irony is librarianship is mostly group work!)
• Lack of partnership possibilities (this is more about lack of opportunities than actual reluctance)
• Partnership possibilities that don’t quite mesh with your own research interests
• The single-minded desire to go it alone

There are probably other reasons why a research collaboration doesn’t sound that appealing and it’s a bit of a catch-22 in that people can say all they want about how beneficial a partnership is, but you really don’t know until you try it, and then once you jump in, you’re committed! A lot has been written about the benefits of research collaboration (you can find 20 reasons to do it right here!). I’m going to focus how you might overcome some of the personal barriers to embarking on such a partnership, and leave it to you to do some googlin’ and find more good reasons.

First of all, I wouldn’t worry about what you can bring to the table. As a professional librarian, you’ve got lots of skills, ideas, and knowledge to share. If there isn’t much research experience, be up front about that and discuss with your research partner(s) ways in which you can contribute that will benefit the project and facilitate your learning. You can learn as you go both from your research partner and by being proactive. If the project necessitates sending out a questionnaire, read up on survey methodology and questionnaire design. And then of course you’ll learning to do just by wading in and doing it!

From the bullet points above, I rather think the second point (disliking group work) and the last point (the desire to go it alone) are often driven more by fear than by anything else. Fear can be a huge barrier to conducting research whether you’re by yourself or on a team. This is where being reflective can help you out. Think about why you might be afraid, and be really honest with yourself. Think about the worst case scenario. Write it down. And plan some work-arounds or pre-emptive strikes for what that might be. For example, let’s say I’m afraid of research group work. My worst case scenario is that I can’t work with these people and we’ll end up with major disagreements and conflict. How can I help mitigate that scenario? One way would be to talk openly and honestly with my research partners. A partnership like this has to have a certain level of trust that you can build over time. Being open about your fears as well as what you hope to accomplishment with the collaboration can go a long way to making the project run smoothly and can be helpful in building trust and a good researching relationship.

If you’re interested in teaming up with someone but the suggested topic isn’t quite what you’re interested in, I say go for it anyway. First of all, the topic might grab you as you move forward in the project or it might spin off after the fact into something you’re more interested in pursuing. Also, you will be learning valuable skills no matter what the topic: team work, methodology, the research project cycle, etc. And finally, you’ll ideally get a publication out of the experience which is nothing to sneeze at in terms of moving forward in your career. After that initial team project, you’ll have gained the confidence to start a study on your own topic, with the knowledge that you’ve been through the process and have come successfully out the other side.

And finally, if there just aren’t partnership possibilities for you, here are some suggestions. Go outside of librarianship into other disciplines. The social sciences are good areas to explore to team up with like-minded researchers. You could also engage in social networking to cast your net further. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are three social tools that can help expand your network and aid in meeting people outside your immediate situation. And be bold! If you run across someone who’s published in your area of interest, reach out to that person. It could result in a direct partnership, it could be another way to expand your network and increase the chances of you teaming up with someone in the future, and at the very least you’ll have made an interesting connection with someone in your area.

If you have anything to add about research collaborations, please do so in the comments. Who knows? Maybe a partnership will happen right here in the Brain-Work blog!

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.