Mainstreaming Scholarly Communication Support: C-EBLIP Journal Club, January 5, 2017

by DeDe Dawson
Science Liaison Librarian,
University of Saskatchewan

The C-EBLIP Journal Club kicked off 2017 with a “classic” article:

Malenfant, K. J. (2010). Leading Change in the System of Scholarly Communication : A Case Study of Engaging Liaison Librarians for Outreach to Faculty. College & Research Libraries, 71(1), 63–76. Retrieved from

In journal club we tend to select newer articles from the last year or two. Although 2010 is not that long ago it is outside our usual range. I recently revisited this article while working on a strategic action item that I am leading for our library. Our team for this action item is tasked with positioning the library as the source for open access expertise and advocacy on campus. As we contemplate ways to engage our library colleagues in this topic we have been doing what all good academics do: consult the literature! This article, in particular, seemed a good one to discuss beyond our team.

Kara Malenfant is a Senior Strategist with ACRL. At the time of writing this article her main responsibility and interest was in changes in scholarly communication and how libraries are responding to them. The article is an intrinsic case study: “…a special, significant example, not a typical or average case of how libraries implement scholarly communication outreach programs” (p 64). She describes how the University of Minnesota (UMN) Libraries “mainstreamed” scholarly communication duties into the work of all liaison librarians.

The notion of an “intrinsic” case study was new and intriguing to me. Indeed, the methods of this research were the first discussion point raised in our journal club. Malenfant conducted semi-structured interviews with two liaisons involved in this transition as well as Karen Williams, the library administrator at the time who implemented the change. A few of us raised concerns about the low number of people interviewed and their obvious bias in support of the changes, while another objected to the lack of generalizability of this kind of method. Despite these concerns, we all agreed strongly that this article is highly valuable and worthwhile – and one of the better case study articles we have read! Biases are labelled and acknowledged, and Malefant is clear about the methods and limitations.

Apparently, many other readers agree too. The article is highly cited and was selected as a landmark paper for republication in the College & Research Libraries’ 75th Anniversary issue. We discussed this popularity a bit too. Malenfant clearly states that the findings of a case study of this type are not generalizable… but they are transferable. This rings true: we noted many situations described where we saw ourselves and our library! We identified with the challenges the UMN Libraries faced. It is likely the case for other readers as well. All academic libraries face this challenge of how to address the changing needs of their users with the same, or fewer, resources and how to engage liaisons in new areas when they are already overwhelmed with numerous responsibilities. So, it is not surprising that the journal club discussion veered away from the article and towards this meaty and contentious topic.
Scholarly communication support is an obvious and pressing need on campus, and liaison librarians are ideally positioned to provide this kind of support. Making this kind of transition, getting everyone on board and (most critically) stopping doing some other things, is a rough road however. The successful strategies discussed in this intrinsic case study are useful to many libraries struggling with the same challenges.

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

The Librarian’s Guide to Surviving (and thriving) During Conference Season

by Carolyn Doi
Education and Music Library, University of Saskatchewan

It’s that time of year again: conference season. It seems like myself and all of my library colleagues are out there right now, presenting, networking, and gathering ideas to bring back to the workplace. That being said, not every conference experience is a positive one. Here are some of my tips and tricks for making it through your next conference like a pro!

1) Plan for success. Preview the conference schedule beforehand and prioritize the things you absolutely need to attend (committee meetings, chapter sessions, your own presentation (!), etc.) and then the ones you’d really like to see. Pick your scheduling method of choice. A colleague of mine prefers to highlight the heck out of the print schedule, while I’ve found that taking advantage of the conference apps such as Guidebook can be really handy.

Don’t forget to give yourself time to see some of the local sights as well! If there’s an afternoon you can get away from the conference or – even better – if you can book an extra day or two on either end of the conference, you’ll be happy you did. It can be really frustrating to travel across the country to only see the inside of a convention centre. Plus, exploring the city with your fellow conference attendees is a great networking activity.

2) Surf the backchannel. Find the conference hashtag and tap into real-time Twitter/Facebook/Instagram conversations to find out what folks are saying about everything from the conference sessions, venue, and best place to grab a quick bite to eat. It can be a great way to feel engaged and connected. Just remember, if you’ve got something negative to say on Twitter, be sure you’re ready to have the same conversation in person at the coffee break.

When I’m presenting, I find Twitter provides a quick and easy way to see how my presentation went over with the audience and gives me an opportunity to answer questions or send out links following the allotted presentation time. It’s always good to include the presenter in the conversation as well with an @ mention and use the conference hashtag, so those following from afar can also tap into what’s going on. There’s a lot to consider about the merits, drawbacks and etiquette of conference tweeting. Check out Ryan Cordell’s article and suggested tweeting principles for more ideas.

3) Making networking meaningful. Small talk can be intimidating, but it’s certainly not impossible. Fallon Bleich’s article Small Talk at Conferences: How to Survive It offers some good tips.

As much as it can be tempting to talk to the people you already know, try to also work in some conversations with people you’ve never met, or someone you’ve always wanted to chat with. When in doubt, ask them what they’re working on at the moment. You might learn something new or even find someone new to collaborate with! I’ve had some great collaborative research projects come out of a simple conversation at a conference reception.

4) Presenting like a Pro. So much has already been written about how to give a good presentation. But as a rule of thumb, whether you’re using PowerPoint, Prezi, Google Slides, or Reveal, make sure your presentation slides aren’t more interesting than you are as a speaker. Selinda Berg discussed this in a previous C-EBLIP blog post where she argued for “PowerPoint as a companion…not as a standalone document to be read.” I couldn’t agree more. At the end of the day, you don’t want to be outdone by your own conference slides!

5) Mindful reflection. Take time before the conference to set an intention for your experience there. Is there a particular problem you want to solve, certain people you need to have a face-to-face conversation with, or vendors that you need to approach? Conferences can go by quickly. Make sure you’ve identified your goals in advance so they become a priority while you’re there. I like to use a free note taking system such as Evernote to write everything down. Once I get home, I reread my notes and reflect on my experience. How can I apply what I learned in my own practice or research? Who do I need to follow up with?

Everyone has their own approach to travelling, presenting, and networking at professional events. These are some of the things that have worked for me and helped to make the whole experience more beneficial and enjoyable overall. Whatever your approach, I encourage you to sit back and enjoy the ride. Happy conference season, everyone!

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.

Advocating for Change in an Unsustainable and Inequitable Journal Publishing Market

by DeDe Dawson
Science Library, University of Saskatchewan

I’ve been thinking a lot about how librarians can most effectively support researchers in their scholarly communications activities and bring about meaningful change in a largely dysfunctional academic journal market.

In a recent planning meeting at my library, the topic of advocacy for open access (OA) came up. It has always seemed to me to be a natural role for academic librarians. We know the underlying issues better than most, and have the professional responsibility to raise the awareness of these issues among our faculty colleagues on campus. Indeed, librarians at many institutions have led the way in advocating for OA for more than a decade now. And much progress has been made: OA is quickly becoming the default (for journal articles at least) and there is no going back – especially now that major national funders are mandating it.

So, do we really need more advocacy for OA?

OA now seems to have a life of its own. We no longer need to advocate for it so much as support the researchers at our institutions in complying with the mandates of their funders to make their research outputs (publications and data) openly available. There are many practical tools and resources that librarians can introduce researchers to that will help them in this. And of course there are still many persistent myths and misinformation about OA that need to be countered. Roles for librarians abound! So, awareness-raising and practical support for compliance – but what of advocacy?

Lately, I am coming to the conclusion that our advocacy efforts need to be redirected to pushing for more fundamental changes in the journal publishing market. Let me explain:

Academic librarians have always been some of the strongest proponents of OA simply because we can clearly see the unsustainability, and inequity, in the current commercial journal market better than our any of our campus colleagues.

The system is unsustainable:

Publishers have increased subscription fees beyond inflation for decades, and make “obscene” profits from selling research papers produced by faculty at our institutions back to us. Library budgets have not grown at the same rate as journal subscription increases. For many years librarians have been able to maintain these subscriptions by reducing expenses in other areas and cutting spending on monographs – but this can only go on for so long. To make an unsustainable system even worse, many commercial publishers are now co-opting OA for their own financial gain. With “hybrid” journals, publishers charge authors high article processing charges (APCs) to make their individual papers OA, and yet continue to charge libraries subscription fees to that same journal (i.e. “double-dipping”). Publishers have essentially found a lucrative additional revenue stream in OA – this is not the outcome that the original proponents of OA had in mind! Currently our low Canadian dollar makes this unsustainable system even worse (since most subscriptions are paid in U.S. dollars). Libraries are at the breaking point.
The system is inequitable:

This is also an ethical problem. Much of the research locked up behind commercial publisher paywalls is taxpayer funded, yet taxpayers cannot read the results without paying again. Taxpayers also largely fund the salaries of university faculty who peer-review and serve on editorial boards of these journals. The publishers generally do not pay these individuals for their services, nor do they pay the authors of the papers. To be blunt: commercial scholarly journal publishing is a racket. The tax paying public loses, practitioners and patients lose, independent researchers and journalists lose, academics in developing countries lose, scholars and students at poorer institutions lose, and now those at even the richest institutions are losing too. I could go on.

So, returning to the advocacy piece…

I believe we now need to advocate for more radical change in the entire scholarly publishing market. Imagine the millions of dollars per year that each institution could save if they could cancel all of these subscriptions. A portion of this money could be redirected to support innovative new OA publishing models, or simply support scholarly societies to take back their flagship journals from the commercial publishers (e.g. Cultural Anthropology). And the rest could be redirected to support research and student scholarships, or many other worthy needs on campus.

I’m not naïve. I realize this is not a straightforward task. But it is essential to the future of higher education and research institutions. And there are innovations already taking place (I list some below), but the key in this equation is outreach to researchers. They are the authors, the reviewers, the editors. They are the colleagues that sit on tenure and promotion committees. They are also often in administrative roles at universities. They have the real power to effect change. But, they are generally unaware of the full extent of the dysfunction in the system. Librarians have an opportunity, and a professional obligation, to raise their awareness on these issues, and advocate and support them in changing it to more sustainable and equitable OA models.

A few examples of innovative models of scholarly OA journal publishing:
Overlay journals
Open Library of the Humanities
Open Access Network

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: Limiting Label

by Selinda Berg
Schulich School of Medicine – Windsor Program
Leddy Library, University of Windsor

This is a complementary post to Kristin Hoffmann’s post, Librarians as Practitioner-Researchers: Constructive Concept. Kristin and I are both deeply interested in the development of research culture in academic libraries, and together we have discussed the possibilities of framing academic librarians as practitioner-researchers. We have taken diverging approaches in our posts, but we have many points of convergence as well.

I would like to suggest that the term “practitioner-researcher” has the potential to also be a limiting label. I agree with much of Kristin’s argument: We are both researchers and practitioners and we want to embrace the distinctive knowledge about research and practice that can only come from our unique vantage point. My concern is that this label will not only inform our identity as researchers, but also dictate our image as researchers. It is not only about the way we view ourselves from the inside, but also how we are viewed from the outside. Ultimately, naming is a not only a personal issue, but also a political one.

One of the primary texts on the practitioner-researcher identity is Peter Jarvis’s The Practitioner-Researcher published in 1999. There are multiple examples in Jarvis’s book where the research of professionals and practitioners is presented as second class. One such example is:

[Practitioners] often are not recognized a researchers. They certainly do not have the traditional image of the researcher, and they may not always be in a position to conduct their research in a most satisfactory way, nor do they necessarily meet the stringent demands of some members of the traditional research community. Nevertheless this does not mean that they should not be viewed as practitioner-researchers, because that is what they are. (Jarvis, 1999, p.9)

This description of practitioner research as low quality and sub-standard is disheartening, but not necessarily rare. The library community of researchers to which I belong strives to produce high quality and valuable research. (At the same time, we recognize that there is always lots to learn and ways to grow as a researcher). No researcher wants their output to be viewed as unsatisfactory or low quality, but this may be the reality of how the practitioner-researcher’s work is perceived. It has been suggested that we need to reclaim and redefine the term practitioner-researcher and make it into what we desire. It is likely, however, that we can only reclaim and redefine this term for ourselves. The ways those on the “outside” view the practitioner-researcher will likely be quite different, and I fear that their perceptions will be more aligned with Jarvis than what we desire. This image of practitioner-researcher is limiting and will continue to limit where we, as librarians, are able to take our research.

I would like to provide one concrete example of how this inaccurate view of our research could be limiting—funding. I have heard on three occasions about academic librarians applying for SSHRC[1] grants, and being told (either from within the formal feedback process or from outside of the formal process) that academic librarians should not be applying for these grants, because these grants are “not for them, but for faculty researchers.” I do understand the magnitude and significance of the SSHRC grant. However, if it is not our research itself, but rather our image or even identity, that is precluding us from such opportunities, I see this as deeply problematic. In the future more and more librarians will have the credentials, supports, and research programs that meet SSHRC’s criteria: They should not be limited by their image. While a SSHRC grant may not be of interest to all, these same kinds of limitations may play out in the type of journals we publish in; the conferences we are comfortable at; the institutional funding we have access to; and our overall position in the research community.

I recognize the importance of the interplay between our professional work and our research; yet I also believe that before we embrace the term ‘practitioner-researcher,’ there must be acknowledgement and recognition that labels and naming are not only personal issues, they are also political issues.

Jarvis, P. (1999). The practitioner-researcher: Developing theory from practice. Josey-Bass: San Francisco.
1. SSHRC: Social Science and Humanities Research Council is Canada’s federal research funding agency that promotes and supports postsecondary-based research and training in the humanities and social sciences.

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.


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.

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.