Working together to join Software Carpentry in New England

By
Lora Leligdon, Dartmouth College Library
Kristin Lee, Tisch Library, Tufts University
Joshua Dull, Yale University Library

It seems that great collaborative efforts come together through a magical combination of timing, a common problem, and a group of enthusiastic people. This has definitely been the case with the creation of the New England Software Carpentry Library Consortium (affectionately known as NESCLiC), where seven New England institutions of higher ed are joining forces to provide researchers with the basic coding and data toolkit that will help them get the most out of their projects.

If you are unfamiliar with the Software Carpentry (SC) family of organizations, its basic mission is to “[teach] researchers the computing skills they need to get more done in less time and with less pain” (https://software-carpentry.org/about/). Membership in the SC organization has many advantages, like faster access to instructor training (so that we can teach the workshops), access to the rest of the community and curricula, and the ability to use the widely-recognized Software Carpentry branding to promote workshops that we teach on our own campuses. There are trained SC instructors all over the world and those instructors specialized in different aspects of the curriculum. This could mean that they know a particular coding language very well or that they have special insight into how those skills can translate into a certain discipline. This is a dynamic and growing community.

The NESCLiC members decided to join as a consortium for both practical and philosophical reasons. SC offers tiers of membership, and as a group we were able to join at the top level (Gold). This allows the seven schools to get 15 people trained as instructors. We have members from different areas of academic librarianship and technology including the digital humanities, statistics and HPC, STEM and medical libraries, and data librarians. We are all familiar with aspects of the SC curriculum at different levels, and intend to work together to make sure that everyone is supported to learn new skills, apply the rusty ones, and provide the best workshops to our communities. Self-organized workshops are free with our membership, so we will have the opportunity put what we learn into action.

Our first group activity is to attend a SC workshop as learners. This workshop, led by James Adams from Dartmouth, will give us the chance to see what it is like to be a workshop participant – which is essential as we learn how to provide this instruction. It will also let us get to know each other beyond our Slack team so that we can all put a face and a voice together with an avatar and email address. Creating connections within our diverse group will also allow us to broaden our professional networks and think about new approaches to research and coding. Once our 15 members are trained as SC instructors, we hope to not only provide training, resources, and support for our institutions, but also to other new England institutions that may not have the needed resources or staff.

I realize that a lot of this post is about possibilities. This first year is a pilot for us; not just to see how Software Carpentry works in our schools but also to find ways for information and technology professionals in New England to combine our collective resources and skills to provide programming that might be impossible if we all act alone. In this world of greater demands, smaller budgets, and broader interdisciplinary and inter-university research connections, this kind of consortium seems like a great way to meet the needs of our communities.

The NESCLiC organizing team includes:
Andrew Creamer, Scientific Data Management Librarian, Brown University
Lora Leligdon, Physical Sciences Librarian, Dartmouth College
Julie Goldman, Countway Research Data Services Librarian, Harvard University
Sarah Oelker, Science Librarian, Mount Holyoke College
Kristin Lee, Research Data Librarian, Tufts University
Thea Atwood, Data Services Librarian, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Joshua Dull, Research Data Support Specialist, Yale University

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

Cultivating a Culture of Curiosity? The Benefits of Doing So if Research is on Your Mind

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

[This post was originally published on the LARK Library Applied Research Kollektive blog on August 31, 2017.]

Many information organizations strive to create a culture of research for different reasons. Some, like many Canadian academic libraries, do so to encourage their librarians who are required to conduct and disseminate research for professional advancement, i.e. tenure, permanent status. Others have embraced evidence based library and information practice (EBLIP) where research alongside professional expertise and what the users want/need is prevalent. Still others see research as an important part of librarianship where research can inform practice. And then there are combinations of the above. Indeed, our own University Library has spent the last 10 years developing a robust culture of research, where research and scholarly activity are supported and encouraged, as librarians are faculty members and on the tenure track. We also consider the tenets of EBLIP in our practice of professional skills.

However, many librarians do not have extensive training in the research enterprise. Library schools offer the obligatory research methods survey class and unless the librarian also has another graduate degree or opts for the thesis route in library school, research experience is not a given. So, when a librarian comes into a culture of research, it can be daunting and frustrating no matter what supports are offered and a common difficulty for new librarians is trying to think of or decide on a research topic. It seems to look (simplistically1) like this (click on charts for a clearer view):

Even though we ask candidates about their research interests, often the idea of the actual doing of research doesn’t hit home until the candidate is faced with the realities and requirements of the tenure process.

The research life cycle2 looks something like this:

This seems to be a robust and thorough depiction of the research process (although I might use the term “data” instead of “assets” in the Implementation box). I like how this process encourages open access publishing and includes social media as a source of impact metrics. It’s good stuff. But nowhere in this process is there a description of coming up with a research topic. It presumes that the topic is there and the research question is already at hand.

I wonder then if the idea of a “culture of research” is too late in the game. There are many different cultures an information organization can strive to create: culture of learning, culture of excellence, culture of success, but what about a culture of curiosity?

Curiosity
1: desire to know:
b: interest leading to inquiry – intellectual curiosity – Her natural curiosity led her to ask more questions.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/curiosity

 

A culture of curiosity is in line with encouraging research amongst librarians as researchers. As defined by Merriam-Webster, curiosity is interest leading to inquiry. Fostering a culture of curiosity with the implicit and explicit aim of curiosity leading to research allows the research piece to be part of the natural process of having a question and seeking an answer. A culture of curiosity would look something like this:

Research, therefore, would be part of the process – just not the starting point.

But if the organization requires research and indeed it is part of a librarian’s job, that fact cannot be ignored. Can a librarian put that requirement to the back of their mind and go into their job all wide-eyed and curious? Surely there will be the looming spectre of research outputs and then the pressure to be curious in the right way – a way that will lead to an answerable research question. I don’t deny that the scenario could happen, and I’m not trying to institute tricking your employees into doing research as an active strategy. I believe we can have both a culture of curiosity and a culture of research, and that they will build on one another moving forward. Curiosity leads to questions which lead to research which can lead to innovation. An added bonus of working within a culture of curiosity is that curiosity will also increase employee engagement and provide the continuous impetus to examine and reflect on the work so to be open to innovation.

How does one develop a culture of curiosity? Obviously, having management that is on board with such a culture is important. However, in browsing around about this topic, I compiled four ways to encourage curiosity that anyone can try:

  1. Write agendas as questions: using the premise that employees are more engaged when they feel like they can influence the outcome, set up meetings that are as participatory as possible and encourage interest by structuring agendas in the form of questions.
  2. Encourage collaboration: because great ideas don’t generally happen in a vacuum, have employees work together often and in different groupings. They will be exposed to the talents of their co-workers and can take advantage of cross-unit ideas and inspiration.
  3. Get rid of fear by embracing failure: research and publishing can be a hot bed of disappointment. Harsh peer reviews, rejection letters, uncooperative methodologies – there are many ways to find yourself down the wrong path. An organization that calmly accepts that failure is a part of progress will enable employees to move on to the next thing faster and with confidence.
  4. Encourage questioning: while it is true that constant questioning has the risk of causing defensiveness, realistic questioning of policy and processes can help to stimulate new ways of thinking and new ways of doing the work. This is also the place where research topics are born.

A culture of curiosity will benefit not only the librarians who have research as a mandate, but also all the library employees who are working in the information organization and the organization itself. Encouraging curiosity, creativity, and innovation can help in a sea of constant change. And in our fast-paced work world, keeping pace with or ahead of change will serve us all better. And if a research mandate is on the table, curiosity is a must to achieve something relevant and useful.

Works consulted
Goodman, R. (2016, June 1). How to build a culture of curiosity [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.rickgoodman.com/build-culture-curiosity/

Kalra, A.S. (2015, October 23). 10 ways to build a culture of curiosity. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from  http://www.humanresourcesonline.net/10-ways-build-curious-company/

Karl, A. (2013, November). Create a culture of curiosity: guest blog by Allan Karl. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://marksanborn.com/create-a-culture-of-curiosity-guest-blog-by-allan-karl/

Milway, K.S. and Goldmark, A. (2013, September 18). Four ways of cultivating a culture of curiosity [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2013/09/four-ways-to-cultivate-a-culture-of-curiosity

1I say simplistically up above because of course candidates at our library know prior to being hired that they must do research. We focus on it specifically during the hiring process to avoid blindsiding someone coming in.
2“Research Life Cycle” image from UC Irvine Library Digital Scholarship Services Found on University of Michigan Scientific Discovery Path of Excellence – An Information Resource Starter Kit http://guides.lib.umich.edu/DiscoveryPoE

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.

Academic social networking sites – boon or bane of institutions?

by Nicole Eva
University of Lethbridge
Alberta, Canada

At our University, we are struggling with getting researchers to understand the value of the institutional repository. They think that putting their output in Academia.edu or ResearchGate is equivalent to putting it into the IR. It’s not, and the reasons are many: as public, for-profit entities these sites are likely to start monetizing their services (as was seen this spring with Academia.edu); there is no guarantee that these for-profit entities will remain in perpetuity (and in fact, it’s quite likely they will not); and they aren’t truly ‘open’, as obtaining copies of articles posted requires a login (even if that login is free) and thus does not comply with some funders’ Open Access mandates. Not to mention the trouble they could get into if they are posting versions of the article online for which they’ve signed away their copyrights.

I had the idea that we could view the researchers associated with our institution that have posted in Academia.edu and ResearchGate and contact them to see if they would allow us to harvest their articles for deposit in our IR as well. In hindsight, I should not have been surprised that a number of the scholars listed under the University of Lethbridge were not actually members of our faculty. Many were listed as either Graduate or Undergraduate students, the latter of which I wasn’t aware were part of the target market for these products, and neither of which generally posted any actual articles – presumably they set up their profiles simply to follow other researchers. But others were listed as department members who clearly had no affiliation with the University. There was much ambiguity and lack of authority control in the selection of department listings, including at least one that was completely fabricated.

It made me really question the value of these tools – shouldn’t there be some sort of screening mechanism? There are also a few researchers with a two profiles within one site, with no way to merge the two. It is possible, whether purposely or accidentally, to set up more than one profile using different email addresses. A vetting process in ensuring the registrant has an email address associated with the institution they claim to be a part of would solve this problem in addition to the imposter problem. Allowing non-institutional email addresses may be by design, as Alumni are also allowed to create profiles and may no longer have access to their institutional email. But if these sites claim to be academic in nature, should there not be some sort of authority control or vetting process? What is the damage to the institution if multiple profiles associated with them are not legitimate? What if some of the articles posted by these phony researchers are terrible, tarnishing the university’s reputation? Should universities be taking a more active role in shaping these tools, or at least monitoring them? I have always told people that I see no harm in creating profiles as it just spreads the research wider (but recommend rather than posting papers on these that they redirect via URL to the institutional repository) but now I wonder if in fact these sites could be doing our institution more harm than good.

It was fortuitous that I began this process, because as these questions began to rise to mind I realized I could have a research project here. A quick literature search suggests that little to nothing has been done looking at these sites and asking these questions. There is a lot on how researchers feel about them, and how their metrics compare to more traditional metrics – but nothing looking at the institutional impact. I’ve been struggling for a few months with researcher’s block, feeling uninspired and unmotivated to start a new project; in fact, my lack of excitement over my planned research for a study leave led me to withdraw my application. Stumbling upon this was quite fortuitous so I’m hoping I manage to turn it into something useful. Perhaps not enough to sustain a study leave, but at least enough to get me out of my rut and get publishing again.

What do you counsel faculty members about creating academic social networking profiles? Do you think these tools have an obligation to institutions to try to provide a gatekeeping mechanism against fake profiles? Does it matter? I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts on this topic.

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.

Public Library Research by Public Librarians

By Meghan O’Leary, MLIS
Collections and Reader’s Librarian, John M. Cuelenaere Public Library
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Most people reading this blog will already be familiar with the research process, so this post will not go into much detail on that. What I am going to talk about are research methods public librarians may want to utilize, as well as some other factors they will have to consider before getting started on a research project.

First, what type of research methods work well for public library research projects? Most of the research I do at my public library is statistics based; however, the following are some research methods that could work well for public library research. Leedy and Ormrod’s (2013) Practical Research: Planning and Design was the textbook we used in school and it is a great resource if you are trying to think of appropriate methods for your project. You may have a different method you think would work well in a public library setting, so I encourage you to comment and share your ideas!

Qualitative

    • Reference interviews
    • Focus groups
    • Photo narrative with follow-up interviews – Shailoo Bedi & Jenaya Webb (2017) wrote an excellent article about using photographic methods in library research. See the full reference down below.
    • Public consultation sessions
    • Qualitative questionnaires

Quantitative

  • Statistics (patron stats, collections stats, usage stats, etc.)
  • Anonymous surveys
  • Quantitative questionnaires
  • Behavioural mapping

The second factor public librarians need to consider before starting a study is the ethical framework behind their research methodology. When I was in library school I was taught that if you are dealing with one-on-one humans, asking personal questions, you need to get ethics approval before getting started. With the help of Virginia Wilson, Director of C-EBLIP, I contacted Beryl Radcliffe, Human Research Ethics Specialist (Behavioural) from the University of Saskatchewan’s Research Ethics Board (REB) and asked her some clarifying questions about research ethics for public libraries. According to Beryl, public libraries are not required to go through a REB to do research, nor is there really any mechanism for them to do so. There are some for-profit REBs out there but applications are expensive and are usually only used for clinical trials. Public library research tends to deal mostly with improvement of programs, assessment, and physical space; therefore, it is not necessary to get ethics approval. There is no point in wasting funds to get approval you do not need. If there is no need to go through a REB for public libraries where can public librarians go for approval of their research project? The first step would be to talk to your superiors and seek approval from your library’s Board of Directors. Second, check with your local professional association, for example, the Saskatchewan Library Association, to see if there are any research guidelines listed for their members.

On top of answering my questions, Beryl also gave me some helpful ethics tips for public librarians wanting to do research:

  • Go through an REB application process, even if you do not intend to submit it because it will help you with planning your research project and will usually provide templates for consent forms, agreements, etc. The University of Saskatchewan REB documents are online and free to look at and use. Institutional REBs, such as the University of Saskatchewan REB, cannot approve unaffiliated research, but going through the process will ensure that you have covered all your bases, so to speak.
  • Tell people why you are asking them questions and what you plan to do with the information you gather. If you let people know how you plan to use the information people tend to be more open with their answers, which can provide better data.
  • If you are still concerned about research ethics you can take the TCPS 2 Tutorial Course on Research Ethics (CORE) and get your certificate of completion. Here is the link: http://pre.ethics.gc.ca/eng/education/tutorial-didacticiel/

Since I briefly mentioned it before, I will now talk about the third factor that public librarians should consider before starting their research project – funding. Doing research does not have to cost a lot of money. There are, however, unavoidable expenses that come with doing research. The money for travel costs or honorariums, for example, needs to come from somewhere. There are grants available online, and if your research is going to be used to further develop and improve your library, attaining one of these grants should be a simple matter. Consider which sector your research falls under and search for grants in that area. For example, if your research deals with programming for senior citizens, consider a grant from Employment and Social Development Canada or New Horizons for Seniors. If your research is specifically about the library building, apply for community infrastructure grants. For example, last year Western Economic Diversification Canada offered a Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program grants.

If you are unsuccessful in obtaining a grant, try pitching your research project to your library board. Explain why you want to do the research, why it is important for the library, and why you need funds to accomplish it. There may be reserve funds that can be brought forward to help with your research. Another option is to approach your professional organization and see if they offer grants for research, or ask if there are any funds available for research in exchange for future conference presentations.

The last thing public librarians should consider before starting their research projects is how to gain access to scholarly articles when, generally speaking, public libraries do not have access to academic journal databases. Or, if public libraries do have access to some academic journals through a database subscription they tend to be quite limited. There are a few options one can consider. First, check to see if you have access to your alma mater’s online journals. Most of the time, as an alumna, you will have access to the journals if you are physically on site. If this is not possible for you due to distance, your next best option is to search for open access journals. Evidence Based Library and Information Science hosted by the University of Alberta Learning Services is an excellent resource, but also check out the Directory of Open Access Journals to find some peer-reviewed journals in the discipline you are researching. There are some other ways to get the articles you need, such as the Twitter #icanhazpdf hashtag, SciHub, and LibGen; however, it would be better to try and get what you need through more official sources.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post, and I hope if you are a public librarian wanting to do research you found this article helpful. If you have any other tips for public librarians please leave a comment!

References
Leedy, P. D. & Ormrod, J. E., (2013). Practical research: Planning and design. (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Bedi, S. & Webb, J. (2017). Through the students’ lens: Photographic methods for research in library spaces. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 12 (2). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.18438/B8FH33

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.

Can you always do “just one more thing”?

by Jaclyn McLean, Electronic Resources Librarian
University of Saskatchewan

I grew up hearing the refrain “just one more thing” about my dad, usually around 6 p.m., as we were all sitting down to supper and his chair sat empty. One of us would say, “well, he probably had just one more thing to do.” And then we would sigh, or laugh, and eat. Now, this isn’t a post about nature/nurture, but I do find it curious that I often find myself trying to squeeze in just one more thing, at the end of the workday, or before going to sleep, and this attitude that I’ve always got time to squeeze something else in can get me into trouble.

Like now, as I am diving into not one, or two, but three new research-type endeavors (and wrapping up a fourth). All with specific and overlapping timelines; and different methodologies and topics. So how did I get there? It’s entirely my own fault, not that I feel negative about it. All of the projects are interesting, variously collaborative and solo, focused on publishing, presentation, and art curation. I am excited about all of them, and can’t wait to dig in and get past this beginning stage.

Planning how the projects will intersect and cohabitate in my brain for the next few months is key. To that end, I’ve been working out a detailed Gantt chart, and working on accepting that this chart will change on a weekly, if not daily, basis. I enjoy having lots on the go, different projects and ideas to divert my attention. I also like making lists, schedules, and organizing my time (and that of others, my collaborators should be warned). A key to my success is going to be paying attention to this careful planning and checking in regularly on the established timelines, shifting and nudging things around as things change.

I need to accept that this will all feel overwhelming at some point down the road. Probably when the days get shorter, and the deadlines loom much closer than they do today. Because you see, this isn’t the first time I’ve found myself with a lot on my plate. And I’ve learned that if I can do all the pre-planning, and have an established plan to shift and flex with, I am more effective. Flexibility and rolling with the punches is not my nature, but I am optimistic, and excited about the opportunities coming my way with these projects (and those that might emerge out of them in the future).

But it’s also time to sit on my hands, and stop coming up with new ideas of things I would like to do. Because I need to make sure I don’t exceed my capacity, and switch my perspective from excitement to dread, from optimism to overwhelmed. Stopping the flow of new ideas isn’t something I’ll be able to stick to (it’s good to recognize your own flaws, right?), but I am committing here, in this public forum, to write them down for later, or share them with someone else who might be able to take them and run. And I will keep reminding myself that my slate is full for this year. And as we head into a fresh new academic year, doesn’t that sound exciting?

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 Groups and the Gift of Spaciousness

by Marjorie Mitchell
Research Librarian, UBC Okanagan Library

As I write this, it is early August. The days are long and hot, and a haze of smoke from wildfires tints the air. It’s a time of year I always find spacious. I have spent much of my life guided by the rhythms of the school/academic year and summer is that glorious time-out from regular duties and a period less scripted than most of the rest of the year. It is the time of the year for “projects” and “research” and “planning” and, my favorite, “reflection.” Traditionally, in the next few days, I would move from this feeling of spaciousness to one of increasing claustrophobia and borderline panic. Oh, it always started off as a mild discomfort. Niggling thoughts of “I should get this done before September” shifted to “I better get this data analysis done” to “OMG, I haven’t done nearly as much as I planned to do and now all my deadlines are getting pushed forward and now I have to plan for the classes I have to teach….” and so on into full panic mode.

This year is different. It’s not perfect, and yes, I still have a few “To Do” lists floating around, but I can see a big difference. This year I have seen evidence of increased research productivity and reduced stress that really are the advantages of sincere, concerted teamwork, specifically a research team.

I have been actively participating in research investigating the research data management needs of faculty from all across Canada and specifically from my institution, the University of British Columbia. I was not the initiator (a big thank you to Eugene Barsky who did initiate these studies at UBC), nor do I do the bulk of any of the work that goes into this research, and that’s the beauty of these research teams – sharing the work really does make it seem more manageable.

The larger team is a group of Canadian librarians, the Canadian RDM Survey Consortium, who saw a situation developing (research data management plans being made mandatory by multiple international granting bodies) and who decided to pro-actively prepare in the strong likelihood that Canadian granting bodies would follow suit. In order to effectively prepare, we needed to understand the research data management needs of our researchers across the disciplines. In other words, we needed to conduct original research about the actual practices and needs of researchers. We sought answers to questions as general as how many research projects did the respondent lead in the past year to specific questions about how much data a respondent’s research generated and where the respondent stored it, etc. We didn’t research all the disciplines at once. Instead, we started first with engineering and natural sciences, followed by the social sciences and humanities in the second round, then concluded with the health and allied sciences. This has taken over two years to complete.

The smaller team is a shifting group of librarians at UBC who have all participated in this research as we have worked our way through the disciplines. These research surveys and their results all form the basis of the national research, but were able to provide significant insight into our local research landscape. If you have questions about what researchers are doing with respect to research data management, we have discovered some of the answers.

The spirit of collaboration, goodwill, and support that members of these groups exhibit every time we meet (virtually) is inspiring. We discuss the tasks that need to be done for research, from the ethics applications, to analyzing the data, to writing the paper or poster, to colour schemes for graphics, etc. As we decide on the tasks, we also volunteer for them. One of the biggest advantages of such groups is the depth and breadth of skill within the group. Each of us aspires to creating the best paper or poster possible and each of us contributes something of value.

The other benefit of these collaborations has been the scheduling of the research, analysis, and writing. When working with a group, I don’t always get to set the timeframes for when the work needs to get completed, and that is not a bad thing. Yes, there can be some long days or extra work on a weekend as I race to meet a deadline I agreed to, but, ultimately, not letting the members of this group down is strong motivation for me. I appreciate that all the members of the group are also putting in the time, one way or another. The scheduling is often driven by conference or journal proposal deadlines, and those all happen in the winter and spring, and not so much over the summer. And so, this year, RDM research is not on my list of things yet to do before September. They really were right at the Librarian’s Research Institute when they suggested not being a solo researcher.

If your research practice is stalled, or hitting some speed bumps, or just not going the way you envisioned it, think about creating or joining a team/group/consortium. The benefits outweigh the costs significantly. And you might have some fun – I know I do.

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.

“I miss math…”- Strengths & Comfort Zones When Choosing Research Methods

by Laura Newton Miller, on sabbatical from Carleton University

I have the great fortune to be on a one-year sabbatical. I love to learn, and I’ve moved out of my comfort zone by doing more qualitative research. I am interpreting a lot of open-ended comments from many interesting people, and have gone from being overwhelmed to kind of/sort-of comfortable in the mounds of data I’ve collected. I really do appreciate and love the learning.

So, a little story: In late spring, I was helping my 11-year-old son with his homework to find the surface area of triangular prisms. After watching some YouTube videos, we eventually started working through a practice sheet until he finally got the hang of it. While working on some problems myself in order to help him understand, I had a bit of an epiphany: I miss math.

You see, in “real life” I’m an assessment librarian. This started as mainly collections assessment, and eventually broadened to also include service and space.  If anyone ever thought that they would like to become a librarian to avoid math, they best not be working in collections, administration, or assessment. I do math all the time in my job. Does it drive me crazy sometimes? Yep. But I like it- I’ve always been pretty good at it.

For the most part, my research so far this year does not include much math. And that’s ok; It doesn’t work for what I’m trying to do at the moment. I have been stretching out of my comfort zone, treading my way through to learn new skills. I guess this is nothing new- I get out of my comfort zone a lot in my regular job too (ie. I never knew I’d use Excel so much). With learning any new skill, there are overwhelming moments- the “what have I gotten myself into” kinds of moments. They are happening less and less now, but I sometimes find myself comparing this sabbatical to my last one in 2010. At that time, I was just getting used to the idea of doing research at all. One of the things I did was a bibliographic study on graduate biology theses at Carleton University (shameless plug here: http://www.istl.org/11-winter/refereed3.html). There was lot of math involved.  It was a very new process for me and I’m sure I had my doubts at the time, but I also remember saying out loud “I LOVE this”. Not that I’m NOT loving what I’m doing now…I’ve certainly had my “ooh” moments…. I just find it more…difficult maybe?

I love Selinda Berg’s blog post (https://words.usask.ca/ceblipblog/2016/03/22/capacity-not-competencies/) focusing on capacities for research- not just research competencies. I have to keep reminding myself that this is a learning process. I’m definitely growing as a researcher. I remember being part of the Librarians’ Research Institute (2014) (http://www.carl-abrc.ca/strengthening-capacity/workshops-and-training/librarians-research-institute/). Although I can’t find it in my notes (and I still refer to them 🙂 ), I do remember us talking about choosing research methods to answer your questions- understanding the advantages and disadvantages of choosing quantitative, qualitative, or critical/theoretical methods. In the end though, someone said you do have to feel comfortable with your choice of research method. As an example, if you are a complete introvert, you have to ask yourself if you really want to conduct focus groups or interviews. Just how much do you want to get out of your comfort zone?

I’m happy to be out of my comfort zone, but I have also learned that when I’m looking at future ways to answer my research questions, I need to remember my strengths and skills that I do have. I purposely did not say “weaknesses” because those are the opportunities to learn. I do think that librarians can sometimes be a little “judgey” about some methods (ie “not another survey”) and this is not helpful.

Ultimately choose the research method that is right for your research question, and when weighing the pros and cons of each method, remember your strengths and the learning curve that might be involved. Next time (if it makes sense to do so) I know that I won’t necessarily leave math out of the equation (bad pun intended).

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 right tool for the job: NVivo software for thematic analysis

by Carolyn Doi
Education and Music Library, University of Saskatchewan

This post builds off of an earlier one by research assistant Veronica Kmiech, which outlines the process for searching and identifying literature on the topic of how practitioners in cultural heritage organizations manage local music collections.1 I have worked with Veronica since summer 2016 on this project, which led to a thematic analysis of the literature seeking to better understand the professional practices implemented and challenges faced in managing, preserving and providing access to local music collections in libraries and archives.2

Using NVivo to facilitate the thematic analysis in this project was ultimately extremely helpful in organizing and managing the data. With over fifty sources to analyze in this review, the thought of doing this work manually seemed daunting.

Thematic analysis typically encompasses steps which take the researcher from familiarization of the data, through development of codes and themes, and finally to being able to tie these themes to the broader picture within the literature.3 NVivo becomes particularly useful at the stages of coding and theme development.

During the coding phase, NVivo will help save descriptions, inclusion, and exclusion criteria for each code. These are fairly easy to change as needed, being able to see an overview of the codes you are working with is definitely helpful, and it is easy to create hierarchies within the node sets. Once code labels are identified, coding the dataset involves (a lot!) of highlighting and decisions about which node(s) to assign to that piece of text. Adding new nodes is fairly simple, as there will likely be themes that come up throughout the coding process. Word to the wise: coding is made easier with NVivo, but the software doesn’t do all the work for you. Schedule extra time for this portion of the research.

During the phase of theme development and organization, NVivo made it quite easy to sort nodes into broader themes. In practice, this process took a few revisions in order to fully think through how and why nodes should be sorted and organized. The software has some features that assist with finding significance within the themes including ability to make mind maps, charts, and word frequency queries. After this process, I identified five broad themes were identified within the literature, some with as few as three associated nodes, and some with as many as thirteen (fig. 1).

Figure 1: Themes and node hierarchy

Following the development of this hierarchy, I went back into the literature, to find examples of how each theme was applied and referred to in the literature. When presenting the analysis portion, these examples were helpful in illustrating the underlying narrative.

This example (fig. 2) shows nodes found within the theme which brings together data on the theme of why practitioners choose to collect local music.


Figure 2: Goal and Objective theme

To better illustrate the significance or application of these concepts, I used quotes from the literature as examples. This excerpt works particularly well as an illustration of why heritage organizations might choose to collect local music, why it may present challenges, and why it can be considered unique:

The Louisville Underground Music Archives (LUMA) project was born of the need to document this particular, and important, slice of Louisville’s musical culture. …from a diverse community of bands and musicians, venue and store owners, recording studios and label managers, and fans to maintain the entire story from a broad range of perspectives.4

Pulling quotes such as this one helped me to build a narrative around the themes I’d identified, and serve to provide a gateway into the literature being analyzed.

The process of analyzing the data this way provided me with a rich resource on which to build the literature review, and a unique map of what the literature represents. While NVivo has some flaws and drawbacks (price, switching between operating systems, and working collaboratively were notable obstacles), the benefits outweighed them in the end (quick learning curve, saves the time of the researcher, assists considerably with organization of data and thematic synthesis). I highly recommend NVivo as a tool to keep in your back pocket for future qualitative analysis projects.

1 “Locating the local: A literature review and analysis of local music collections.” https://words.usask.ca/ceblipblog/2017/01/17/lit-review-local-music-collections/
2 Results from this analysis were recently presented during the 2017 annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Music Libraries (CAML) in Toronto, ON in a paper titled Regional music collection practices in libraries: A qualitative systematic review and thematic analysis of the literature.
3 “About Thematic Analysis.” University of Auckland. https://www.psych.auckland.ac.nz/en/about/our-research/research-groups/thematic-analysis/about-thematic-analysis.html
4 Caroline Daniels, Heather Fox, Sarah-Jane Poindexter, and Elizabeth Reilly. Saving All the Freaks on the Life Raft: Blending Documentation Strategy with Community Engagement to Build a Local Music Archives. The American Archivist, Vol. 78, No. 1 (2015): 238–261.

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.

Grey areas in research

by Christine Neilson, Knowledge Synthesis Librarian
Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Library
Centre for Healthcare Innovation
University of Manitoba

Through the course of my day-to-day duties, I came across an interesting article by Adams et al. about searching for “grey information” for the purposes of evidence synthesis in public health. For anyone who is unfamiliar with evidence synthesis, evidence synthesis is much more than a literature review. It involves identifying and tracking down all relevant evidence, evaluating it, extracting data, contacting authors to request additional data that is not included in a published article (where applicable), and using that larger pool of data to answer the question at hand. A thorough evidence synthesis includes grey literature – literature that is published by an entity that’s main business is something other than publishing – in an attempt to reduce bias. There can be some seriously heavy statistical analysis involved, and the entire process is a heck of a pile of work. Adams et al. took the idea of grey literature, extended it to other information that is difficult to get hold of, and provided a critical reflection of three separate projects where they relied heavily on “grey information”. When I read their article, I was struck by two things.

First, Adams and colleagues were interested in public health programs that came out of practice, rather than formal research. As they point out, “Interventions and evaluations that were primarily conducted as part of, or to inform, practice may be particularly unlikely to be described in peer-reviewed publications or even formally documented in reports available to others in electronic or hard copy. Information on these activities may, instead, be stored in more private or informal spaces such as meeting notes, emails, or even just in people’s memories.” To me, this statement applies as much to librarianship as it does to public health. I can’t imagine how many awesome library programs and practices we could learn from, except for the fact that few of us have heard about them.

The second thing that struck me as I read this article was that even though the authors conceded that their work was “verging” on primary research, they considered these projects to be evidence syntheses instead. But evidence synthesis relies on published information. Rather than ask for additional information to clarify the data they collected from a published source, the authors gathered new information by interviewing key informants, so to me, they were conducting primary research: full stop. The authors seemed to know what an evidence synthesis actually entails – not everyone can say the same – so I wonder: the work they did was a legitimate form of research so why would they label it as evidence synthesis? Are the lines between different forms of research really that blurry? Were they trying to avoid going through the REB process? Or were they concerned their work wouldn’t have the status associated with an evidence synthesis and so they named it to their liking?

I think that sometimes we don’t realize that library research has a lot in common with research in other fields. Like the field of public health, there is so much useful information about our practice that is not widely available or findable. I think we also have our go-to research methods, and opinions about what kinds of publications count… and what don’t. The “how we done it good” articles that simply describe a program or activity have gotten a bit of a bad rap in recent memory. I do agree with those who say that we need more rigorous, research-oriented library publications in general. But simply sharing what was done informs us of what is going on in library practice in a discoverable way. Perhaps we should not be so quick to discourage it.

References

Adams J et al. Searching and synthesising ‘grey literature’ and ‘grey information’ in public health: critical reflections on three case studies. Systematic Reviews. 2016;5(1):164.
Available online at: https://systematicreviewsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13643-016-0337-y


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.