Building a positive culture around practitioner research, one symposium at a time

by Christine Neilson
Neil John MacLean Health Sciences Library
Centre for Healthcare Innovation
University of Manitoba

This fall I attended my first C-EBLIP symposium, and it was fantastic. The day was filled with interesting presentations; I had a chance to see old colleagues and meet new people who share an interest in library research; and they gave me bacon for breakfast, which is always a win as far as I’m concerned. Two recurring themes during the day were 1) leading by example, and 2) the personal aspects of doing research (such as dealing with research projects that go off the rails, professional vulnerability, and the dreaded “imposter syndrome”). Both of these themes are important. The first as a call to action. The second as an acknowledgement that research isn’t necessarily easy, but none of us are truly alone and there are things we can do to cope.

Acknowledging and exploring the personal issues that come with conducting research is not something that we tend to talk about. I might tell a trusted colleague that sometimes I’m afraid others will see me as the researcher equivalent of the Allstate DIY-er – all of the enthusiasm and optimism, but none of the skill or ability – but generally, we limit our “official” professional discussion to less sensitive topics. Maybe that’s because we don’t want to admit that there might be any issues. Or maybe it’s because there’s a risk the discussion could degenerate into a pity-party that doesn’t move anyone or anything forward. Either way, I think that this is a topic area that needs to be explored in a constructive way.

The C-EBLIP Symposium was a venue that genuinely felt safe to talk about research and the experience of doing research, and I’m thankful I was able to attend. I’m particularly happy that this year’s presenters will have an opportunity to publish about their presentations in an upcoming issue of Evidence Based Library and Information Practice journal. It’s a great opportunity for presenters to share their research, ideas, and experiences with a wider audience, and it will help ensure that content from the day doesn’t disappear into the ether. Building a culture with certain desired qualities is extremely difficult. I’m encouraged that C-EBLIP is building a positive, supportive culture of practitioner research in librarianship and I hope the momentum continues!

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.

Ethics are for everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning to Let Go: The Perfectionist’s Struggle

by Laura Thorne
UBC Okanagan Library

Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.
– Dr. Harriet Braiker

Last week, I attended C-EBLIP’s third annual Fall Symposium. There were so many great presentations, but there were two in particular that I kept thinking about in the days following – Angie Gerrard’s Changing Your Research Plan En-Route and The Elephant in the Room: Imposter Syndrome and Librarian Researchers by Jaclyn McLean. Both presentations tackled often-encountered, but rarely discussed topics that come up when conducting research – our emotions and personalities. Gerrard discussed the emotional challenge associated with research not going according to plan and the need for professional vulnerability, while McLean discussed imposter syndrome and feeling like you’re not good enough, even when you’ve accomplished so much. They led me to think about a related issue that I’ve struggled with in my career and while doing research – perfectionism.

Like many librarians I know, I am a perfectionist. Perfectionism can be an excellent trait. It can lead to high quality work and can motivate me to always strive to do my best. But it can also be challenging. While I wouldn’t diagnose myself with atelophobia, at times my perfectionism has been paralyzing and has prevented me from taking risks, trying new things, or even completing what I’ve started. There are drawbacks to thinking everything you do needs to be perfect or the best.

Studies show that perfectionism is rampant in academia (Charbonneau, 2011;
Dunn, Whelton & Sharpe, 2006; Sherry, Hewitt, Sherry, Flett & Graham, 2010; Rockquemore, 2012; Shives, 2014) and is something many of our students also struggle with while at university (Çapan, 2010; Eum & Rice, 2011; Jiao & Onwuegbuzie, 1998). While knowing I’m not alone is of some comfort, one of the biggest professional struggles I’ve had to overcome is learning to let go of projects, especially my writing.

You could say my entire career thus far has been an experiment in letting go, in telling myself, “It’s good enough, just send it out,” but nowhere has this needed to be repeated as much as in my research. For the most part, my research is not something I have to do; it’s something I want to do. I do it largely outside of my regular everyday work and is truly a labour of love. Because of this, there tends not be set deadlines (I attempt to set them for myself, but I’m not the strictest timekeeper), and I either a) procrastinate or b) agonize over tiny details instead of just getting it over with and letting it go.

Some of the tricks I’ve found useful in combatting my perfectionism and learning to let go:
• Embrace the mantra of good enough: This isn’t to say do the bare minimum, but accepting that perfection is unattainable and realizing that a finished project is a good project makes it easier to make progress on your research.
• Fight the urge to procrastinate: For me personally, it’s easy to procrastinate – it gives you an out for why something isn’t perfect. But this only exacerbates the problem.
• Set deadlines for yourself (and stick to them): This helps with the procrastination!
• Don’t go alone: Having a research partner or team has been incredibly helpful in learning to let go and can work as a support system when you’re obsessing about the details and unable to see the bigger picture.
• Love the draft: By completing drafts of my work, whether it be a research proposal or an article, I can slowly get used to the idea of letting go of my work in a staged process before sending it out into the world.
• Develop a network you trust: When you’re unsure of or fighting with a project, it’s useful to have a network of people you can talk to and receive feedback. It makes it easier to let go of a project when I know someone I respect thinks it’s good. And I do the same for them!
• Don’t re-read after you’ve submitted your work: This should go without saying, but unfortunately, I had an awful habit of re-reading an item right after I’ve hit submit or send. As I’m reading through, I’m thinking “I should have changed this or that that” and making myself feel dreadful instead of happy that I’ve finished. It’s an exercise in torture and since I’ve stopped, I feel much less critical of the work I’ve done and can actually celebrate a job well done.

“Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you got, and fix it along the way.”
– Paul Arden

References (and further reading)

Çapan, B. E. (2010). Relationship among perfectionism, academic procrastination and life satisfaction of university students. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 5, 1665-1671.

Charbonneau, L. (2011). Perfectionist professors have lower research productivity. University Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.universityaffairs.ca/news/news-article/perfectionist-professors-have-lower-research-productivity/

Dunn, J. C., Whelton, W. J., & Sharpe, D. (2006). Maladaptive perfectionism, hassles, coping, and psychological distress in university professors. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 53(4), 511.

Eum, K., & Rice, K. G. (2011). Test anxiety, perfectionism, goal orientation, and academic performance. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 24(2), 167-178.

Hibner, H. (2016, Jan 19). Don’t overthink it: How librarians can conquer perfectionism with mindfulness. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://librarylostfound.com/2016/01/19/dont-overthink-it-how-librarians-can-conquer-perfectionism-with-mindfulness/

Jiao, Q. G., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (1998). Perfectionism and library anxiety among graduate students. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 24(5), 365-371.

Rockquemore, K. (2012). Overcoming academic perfectionism. [Web log series]. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/career-advice/overcoming-academic-perfectionism

Sherry, S. B., Hewitt, P. L., Sherry, D. L., Flett, G. L., & Graham, A. R. (2010). Perfectionism dimensions and research productivity in psychology professors: Implications for understanding the (mal)adaptiveness of perfectionism. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 42(4), 273-283. doi:10.1037/a0020466

Shives, K. (2014, Nov 11). The battle between perfectionism and productivity. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/battle-between-perfectionism-and-productivity

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

Non-Attachment as an Antidote for Procrastination

by DeDe Dawson
Science Library, University of Saskatchewan

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

But what does this have to do with research?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Considering collaborations

by Margy MacMillan
Mount Royal University Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking the (Research Data Management) Talk

by Marjorie Mitchell
Librarian, Learning and Research Services
UBC Okanagan Library

Librarians helping researchers to create data management plans, developing usable file management systems (including file naming conventions), preparing the data for submission into repositories and working through the mysteries of subject-specific metadata schemes are at the forefront of the data sharing movement. All this work leads to research that is more reproducible, more rigorous, has fewer errors, and more frequently cited (Wicherts, 2011) than research that isn’t shared. In addition to those benefits, shared data leads to increased opportunities for collaboration and, potentially, economic benefits (Johnson, 2016). However, are we doing what we are asking our researchers to do and ultimately making our research data available and open for reanalysis and reuse? Are we walking the talk? Or is this the case of the carpenter’s house (unfinished) and the mechanic’s car (needing repair)?

When I’m speaking of data I use Eisner and Vasgird’s description of data as “a collection of facts, measurements or observations used to make inferences about the world we live in” (n.d.) because the research done by librarians consists of wide varieties of data: numerical, textual, photographic images, hand drawn maps, or diagrams created by study participants. Almost all have the potential to be shared openly and to act as a springboard for further research, subject to appropriate ethical considerations.

I started searching to see what data I could find from Canadian librarian researchers in repositories. I have not finished my search, but my early results show some interesting things. To date, this has not been a rigorous study, but more of a curious, pre-research “let’s see what’s out there” browse, and therefore must not be misconstrued as the basis for conclusions. I briefly looked internationally for a few studies and found a wider variety of topics with available datasets than I had found in Canadian repositories, which was what I expected to find.

Two things jumped out at me right away. First, when data is available, it is either from large, national or multi-institutional studies, or it is from studies that have been repeated over time, such as LibQUAL+®. Far fewer institution-specific or single researcher/research team datasets are “available.” Some of those have “request access” restrictions, meaning it may be possible to access the data with permission from the creator, but that is not guaranteed. The second thing I noticed was how difficult it is locate these datasets. Although there is a movement to assign unique and persistent identifiers to datasets, this has not, as yet, translated into a search engine that can comprehensively search for datasets.

I am happy to see a steady increase in the amount of librarian-generated research data being made available. Librarian-generated research is not alone in this trend. It is happening across the disciplines. While little library research is externally funded, it is worth noting some funders are requiring data management plans with the goal of data sharing. Some scholarly journals, particularly in the sciences, have strong policies about data sharing. Each change, minor or major, moves us more toward data that is shared as a matter of course, rather than data shared only reluctantly.

If this all sounds like “just another thing to do” or maybe “I don’t have the skills or interest to do this,” consider research data sharing as an opportunity to partner with another librarian who has those skills but perhaps lacks the research skills you have. Research partners and teams can allow people to contribute their best skills rather than struggling to compensate for their weaknesses throughout the process.

Finally, have a look at the data that is out there just waiting to be reused. Cite it, add to it (if allowed), and share your new results. I am confident this will add greater context to your research and highlight subtleties and nuances that might have remained invisible otherwise.

References

Eisner, R., & Vasgird, D. (n.d.) Foundation Text. In RCR Data Acquisition and Management. Retrieved from http://ori.hhs.gov/education/products/columbia_wbt/rcr_data/foundation/index.html

Johnson, B. (2016). Open Data: Delivering the Benefits. Presentation, London, UK.

Wicherts, J. M., Bakker, M., & Molenaar, D. (2011). Willingness to Share Research Data Is Related to the Strength of the Evidence and the Quality of Reporting of Statistical Results. PLoS ONE, 6(11). doi:hOp://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0026828

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.

What if we talked about capacity for research, not research competencies?

by Selinda Berg
Schulich School of Medicine – Windsor Program
Leddy Library, University of Windsor
University Library Researcher in Residence, University of Saskatchewan

[For the first time, I am making a blog post that puts out ‘there’ some ideas that I have been working on, which will hopefully evolve into a published paper. In the past, I have been someone that has been hesitant to blog in this way, but I am pushing myself in a new direction.]

Lately, I have been studying and contemplating multiple theoretical frameworks that span the humanities, social sciences, and health sciences. Reading these works and their framing of complex and changing environments have led me to question the current emphasis on competencies in librarianship. In this project, I am considering the ways that librarianship may benefit from making a shift away from its focus on competencies and move towards adopting the concept of capacity. Whereas competency focuses on the abilities, knowledge, and skills to successfully complete a task, capacity is the faculty or potential for experiencing, appreciating, and adapting. Capacity is about growth: growth of the individual in knowledge and experience.

We have recently seen an influx of documents addressing the competencies of librarians, including the research competencies of librarians (for example: see CARL, 2007). While these documents have value, they are one piece of a much larger puzzle. In this post, I want to consider the ways in which a shift towards a focus on capacity for research may initiate positive changes in our understanding and approach to research:

Embrace research as a learning process: There is no one static set of skills or abilities that will prepare someone to “do” research. The abilities, skills, and knowledge that I have gained by completing my PhD will not “set me up” for my next research study or for the research project that I undertake after that. I will have to learn new methods, try out new technologies, consider new theoretical frameworks, and certainly evolve my ideas. Research does not require a static set of skills and abilities (competencies), but rather the ability to continually evolve in our knowledge and abilities (capacity). As librarians, most of us have taken one, two, or three research methods courses. However published research, formal and informal conversations, and personal experience suggests that this framework of skills has not fully prepared us to successfully undertake research. We need to reframe our thinking and acknowledge that our greatest strength is our curiosity and our ability to evolve.

Encourage a research program: As noted above, research is not Rinse and Repeat. Our goal should not be to repeat the research that we have done before, but rather to develop a research program that evolves our ideas, builds off of our results, delves deeper into issues, and looks at questions at different angles and through different lenses. The realization that our success relies not on our current set of skills but our ability to evolve and grow our understandings will encourage us to push further and delve deeper into a topic and in turn, develop a strong program of research.

Empower librarians to know that we can: Embracing the idea that we have the ability to learn, to grow, and to adapt will move us away from conversations (within and outside of the profession) that focus on “Librarians were not trained to be researchers,” “Librarians do not have PhDs,” and “Librarians don’t have the skills to do research.” We need to embrace the notion that we can evolve and transform to meet the challenges presented by new research opportunities and we must take the time for these processes to take place. All researchers have to dedicate significant time to exploring and learning the context of a topic, to explore the wide of array of possible techniques for study, and to consider the way in which they can contribute a new understanding of a topic. It is quite possible that our first projects will not have the perfect research question, method, instrument or theoretical frameworks but from that, we should be motivated and inspired to learn and grow—to tap into our capacity.

Research success relies on more than a set of skills: While the skills and abilities to do research are important, capacity recognizes that there are factors at play beyond skills. Personal commitment, institutional commitment, resources to support research, and the allocation and dedication of time to transform and evolve are potentially as important or more important factors in fulfilling both personal capacity and institutional capacity for research. Capacity is the potential to grow and experience but it is critical to realize that potential requires more than a set of skills to complete a task.

Competencies are the skills we need to complete a task. But research is not a task, it is a process. Librarians, in all areas of their professional responsibilities, transform and evolve to meet the needs of the new challenges and opportunities. As librarians, we need to recognize that our biggest asset is our ability to learn and to grow–our capacity for 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.

Publish or practice, never that simple: C-EBLIP Journal Club, November 17, 2015

by Selinda Berg
Schulich School of Medicine – Windsor Program
Leddy Library, University of Windsor
University Library Researcher in Residence, University of Saskatchewan

As the Researcher-in-Residence, I was very eager to convene the November gathering of the University of Saskatchewan Library’s C-EBLIP Journal Club. I think that this initiative by the Centre (C-EBLIP) is incredibly valuable to librarians: It expands our understanding of the research landscape; increases are understanding our colleague’s research interests; and diversifies our perspectives and deepens our knowledge about research.

The article we discussed in November was:
Finlay, C. F., Ni, C. Tsou, A., Sugimoto, C. R. (2013). Publish or practice?: Examination of librarians’ contributions to research. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 134), 403-421.

In this article, the researchers share the results of their investigation into the authorship of LIS literature with an emphasis on understanding the contributions and attributes of practitioner scholarship. The article intersects well with my own research interests, as well as aligns with many of the ongoing conversations about the research outputs and the research productivity by academic librarians. The conversation was lively, informative, and thoughtful.

The article was well-received by those at journal club with members highlighting the article’s clear methods and style of writing. The discussion was diverse and lead us to many different conversation, but three themes did emerge.

Other possible interpretations and explanations:
The authors found that there was a decrease in the proportion of article published by practitioners between 2006 and 2011. The authors made a couple of suggestions as to why this may have occurred, including the increase in non-traditional publications and the decrease in expectations for research. In addition to these explanations, we discussed other possibilities including a movement away from LIS journals as librarians’ research interests become more diverse; a decrease in tenure-track/tenured librarian positions (resulting in more contract positions without research opportunities and perhaps more practice heavy positions); and/or a change in the nature of articles with a movement away from a focus on quantity of articles to a focus on quality research.

Application of method and findings to the development of institutional standards and a disciplinary research culture:
The discussion led to interesting conversation about how contributions to scholarship are measured, both in relation to our disciplinary research culture as well as institutional standards. As scholarly communications evolve, is the counting of articles in respected journals the only (or best) was to evaluate research contributions? This discussion led us to further consideration about how disciplinary differences in research culture make a difference in the interpretation of contributions, and in turn, the relatively young and immature research culture in academic libraries makes it difficult to name our disciplinary criteria and in turn develop institutional standards.

Related research questions:
The article was really well-received and from good research comes more questions. The article raised some interesting discussion about related research questions that were not within in the scope of the research article. There was an interest in knowing more about the qualities and attributes of the librarians who have been publishing (including their position, their length of service, their motivations for research, and the factors that determined where they publish). There was also questions as to whether these librarians who are contributing to scholarship through “traditional” scholarly venues are also contributing to the scholarly conversations though non-traditional formats (blogs, open publishing etc.). Lastly there was an underlying assumption that these two bodies of literature by two set of authors, LIS scholars and practitioner-scholars interact and impact each other; however, there was an interest in knowing how these two bodies literature, written by two groups of authors actually do interact- for example: are they citing each other, or do they cite their own communities?

Great discussion ensued at the meeting and some stimulating ideas were generated from the many interesting findings within the paper and beyond. Some very thoughtful discussion emerged during journal club—looking forward to Janurary!!

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.

I am a Qualitative Researcher

by Maha Kumaran
Leslie and Irene Dubé Health Sciences Library, University of Saskatchewan

Had I known that in my role as an academic librarian I would be required to research and publish I would have taken in-depth research methods classes in library school – famous last words?

Although I wanted to be in an academic library setting, I wasn’t sure I would end up in one given that most of my experience was in public libraries. I didn’t think of conducting research and I certainly did not consider publishing when I finished library school. But I managed to co-author and publish two peer reviewed papers – one with my best friend in library school and another with a library colleague at the public library where I started my first librarian position. The latter research project was on exploring diverse populations in Saskatchewan and whether public libraries in the province are prepared/equipped to cater to these groups. Before this went into publication I moved to the University of Saskatchewan, where for tenure-track positions publishing was a requirement. Using my first two publishing experiences, I embarked on other research projects sometimes with colleagues and other times alone. Through this learning process I realized I was very much a qualitative researcher.

The fact that I am a qualitative researcher was once again confirmed after I enrolled in a qualitative research methods class at the College of Education, University of Saskatchewan. I don’t like numbers, I like stories. I like that I can talk to participants, interview them, survey them, observe them at work, gather information most relevant and important to them, and interpret all this for rest of the world.

There are various approaches to qualitative research such as narrative, phenomenology, case study, grounded theory, biographical, historical, ethnography, and numerous variations within them; the prospect of including poetry, pictures, photos, drawings, metaphors; the ability to be flexible with interview questions; the possibility of profound investigations into a situation based on conversations with participants especially when it is an interview are all exciting and seemingly endless. And then there is data analysis. Data can be in many forms and formats. It can be categorized, divided into themes, coded, concepts identified, refined, re-categorized, and authenticated conclusions arrived at. Personally, such data analysis is much more appealing than just quantifying information.

The whole process of qualitative research is as much an art as it is science, and contrary to assumptions that it allows for subjective interpretations, it is about consistencies and deeper meanings while allowing room for authors and/or participants to state their personal biases.

I am sure that I will explore quantitative research later in the future, but for now I have confirmed that my interests are slanted towards being a qualitative researcher. I have found my niche in evidence based practice.

If you are a qualitative researcher, I would love to hear what about it excites you.

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.

There’s a New Research Support Group in Town (or at least in Canada)

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

It has been my experience as a librarian who has a mandate to conduct research (the tenure and promotion process as a faculty member at the University of Saskatchewan), who wants to conduct research (I’m curious, I want to learn!), and who has been at this for the past 10 years, that support for research endeavours is an important factor in the ability of librarian practitioner-researchers to move their research programs or projects forward. Organizational support and collegial, peer support are both valuable at every state of the research process. Some are lucky enough, like me, to work in an organization with a strong culture of research and the belief in the benefits of research for an academic career and for practice. Others perhaps do not have that kind of support readily available, working solo with no evident supports or working in an organization that does not support or value that type of work.

I recently found out about a new group in Nova Scotia, Canada, the LibrariesNS Research Support Group. This group was founded in June 2015, and its ultimate goal is to “increase the amount and quality of library research in Nova Scotia.” This group is targeted to all the librarians, library workers/technicians, and LIS academics working in Nova Scotia who are interested in research. The impetus for the group, according to the proposal that you can find on their part of the Libraries Nova Scotia webpage, came from a talk given by C-EBLIP Adjunct Member and University of Western Ontario librarian Kristin Hoffmann that was held at the Halifax Public Library in April 2015 entitled “Academic Librarians as Successful Researchers.” During the talk and the ensuing discussion, attending Nova Scotian librarians talked about research in their library community – its challenges and successes. The idea for a “work in progress” support group came out of that discussion and after a proposal to Libraries Nova Scotia, the group found a home and is now rolling out various supports to librarians from all sectors in Nova Scotia.

What a fabulous idea! While librarians spend a lot of time supporting researchers who work in our various organizations, we too need support for our research endeavours. Initiatives such as the CARL Librarian Research Institute on a national level and the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice at the local level help to create a supportive and engaging environment in which librarians as researchers can explore questions related to practice (and even not related to practice!), conduct rigorous and timely research, and disseminate that research in order to inform colleagues and to enhance the evidence base for librarianship.

I’m interested in various supports out there for librarians as researchers. If your group or organization is doing something formally or informally around supporting practicing librarians who also conduct research, I’d like to hear about it if you are willing to share. You can contact me at 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.