Librarian as Researcher – HSLG Workshop

 

hslg-logo-165pxOn the 17th December 2015, Rosarie Coughlan (Scholarly Publishing Librarian at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada) facilitated a custom-made HSLG workshop “The Librarian as Researcher” in UCD, Belfield, which was well-attended and enjoyed by a mix of librarians from different sectors. In her current role, Rosarie manages the University library’s journal hosting service and institutional repository and coordinates library support to graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. Her previous roles include Information Literacy Co-ordination Librarian at Concordia University, Montreal, and Research support Librarian at NUI Galway.

The first part of the day was dedicated to the theme of ‘Librarian as Researcher’ and began with Rosarie describing the key differences between academic librarianship in Ireland and North America, including the obligation for librarians to publish when seeking tenure in North American Universities and the right to ‘academic freedom’ that faculty (and librarians) enjoy in some institutions. ‘Academic freedom’ allows researchers to develop, explore and disseminate research “regardless of prescribed or official doctrine and without limitation or constriction by institutional censorship.” This stimulated an interesting discussion on whether librarian-led research is valued in the same way as that

Why librarians conduct research

Why Librarians research – group discussion

of other researchers, and how we can balance institutional priorities and individual research priorities given time constraints and other professional commitments. Workshop participants discussed current research plans and the reasons why they personally engaged in research – which revolved around the desire to ground practice in evidence-based decisions and to affect positive change within health, education and special library contexts. Many participants felt that the professional development and research that they undertook had to be carefully balanced with supporting the research needs of scholars and practitioners in our organisations.

Rosarie described practical steps in the research process – from forming effective research questions and choosing a research methodology (be it quantitative, qualitative or critical and theoretical), to planning and setting short-term, intermediate and long-term goals. In terms of research dissemination, she emphasised the importance of knowing your message, who you want to hear it, and the best channels for making that happen.


The afternoon session focused on the opportunities and challenges encountered by libraries in their new role as publishers. A brief overview of the landscape revealed that 124 library publishers are listed in the Library Publishing Directory (with only 13 outside North America). Rosarie went on to outline her own experience of running a journal hosting service at Queen’s University Library. The open journals system at QU is a free and instant way for members of the research community (both academics and students) to set up scholarly journals and submit articles or conference proceedings to aid open access and long-term preservation. Alongside providing the software, the library supports the publishing workflow by offering guidance in key areas of doi minting, registration for ISSN and with cross-ref, indexing and abstracting in databases, and advice on copyright. Challenges faced included the clarification of policies, the management of user-expectations, the lack of traditional impact factors, the inflexibility of available journal hosting software and the overall sustainability of such initiatives.


The day ended with an exploration of the role of librarians within emerging models of digital scholarship. Participants left armed with ideas for research projects, a better understanding of how to streamline questions, and some practical and immediate steps for getting started on the research journey. Thanks to the HSLG for organising the day and to Rosarie for creating such a stimulating workshop.

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