UBC Okanagan’s First Researcher-in-Residence Day Report

by Marjorie Mitchell
Research Librarian, UBC Okanagan Library

A small and intrepid group of librarians and archivists gathered on December 15, 2017, in the University of British Columbia Okanagan Library Special Collections room for a day focused on the processes of conducting research. Librarians from Okanagan College and UBC’s Vancouver Campus joined their Okanagan colleagues to hear Jane Schmidt talk about her experience conducting research while on sabbatical, the challenge of peer-review for a topic that takes a critical stance, and, following the publication of her article Little Free Libraries®: Interrogating the impact of the branded book exchange, the media attention she and her research partner, Jordon Hale, received. Jane talked candidly about doing research on a topic she was passionate about, creating strong research partnerships with people who have complimentary skills, and about managing the aftermath of publishing an article critical of a US-based not-for-profit organization that caught the media’s attention.

In the question and answer time following Jane’s formal presentation she said one thing she would have done differently was to have secured ethics approval for portions of the research. She ultimately ended up excluding from her article what she learned from following social media on the Little Free Libraries® because she hadn’t sought ethics approval in advance of joining the closed Facebook group whose members are all people who built individual installations of a Little Free Libraries® box. A participant also asked Jane how she would have done this research if she had not been on sabbatical. Jane emphatically answered that the research would not have happened!

Following Jane’s candid and engaging talk, invited speakers Pierre Rondier and Mary Butterfield, both from UBC Okanagan, talked about writing grant proposals. Pierre focused on information about applying for Social Science and Humanities Research Council grants including the types of grants available, their scope, deadlines and criteria. Mary shared her insight as both a person who helps members of the Faculty of Management to write grant proposals and as an adjudicator for community grants such as community arts grants and grants from the Central Okanagan foundation. Both agreed researchers need to thoroughly understand the criteria of the grants for which they are applying.

The final session of the day was a panel presentation and discussion of research collaborations. Jane Schmidt talked about working with her researcher partner who was a student at the time they worked together. Sajni Lacey spoke about finding research collaborators during her time as a contract academic librarian prior to starting at UBC Okanagan on a tenure track. Finally, I spoke about collaborating in a large group over long distances highlighting my participation within the national studies on research data management practices of groups of faculty. Audience members added their experiences to the discussion to round out the breadth of variety of research, especially research done while on sabbatical or study leave.

Participants expressed an interest in seeing this type of event happen again.

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.

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.