Research and Library – a perfect partnership

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Who’s the researcher?

So, why do I think that research and library are a perfect partnership?

The concept of a partnership between research and librarianship is not new, nor is it one that not been discussed widely and explored actively by academic and specialist libraries over many years. ALIA’s recognition of the connectedness of these skills was first adopted in 2002 and has since been amended in 2006 and 2015 to recognise the tumultuous evolution of information and data.

Library disciplines of organisation and descriptors perfectly complement the analysis and synthesis of information skills of researchers, placing librarians in a position to support research. This aligns with the ALIA’s basic principle on its role in research:

ALIA is committed to promoting and encouraging a research culture and research practice amongst library and information professionals in order to improve theory and practice.

Evidence-based practices are emerging in the form of research data management plans which are developed to meet the rigorous demands of professional standards.  Academic libraries are focussing attention on  data, developing roles for data librarians who manage and organise the data.

Emma Uprichards speaks of the v-dimensionality of ‘big data’, the top three descriptors are volume, velocity and variety with a second tier of value, veracity, validity, vitality and viscosity. The characteristics of data become increasingly complex.  With so much data being produced so quickly in so many formats, the big question is how to deal with that data in a meaningful way.  According to Alice Keller, Australian academic libraries are taking a lead role of research data management, with many dedicated data management roles being developed.

Similarly a survey of member libraries of the Queensland University Libraries Office of Cooperation (QULOC) revealed that 77% of their members have research plans in place.  This proactive and innovative approach to partnerships between librarians and researchers is further supported in a paper by  Janke & Rush, 2014 , who argue that librarians play a pivotal role in the investigative team for research because they have a suite of advanced skills in literature review, copyright issues, publication policies and compliance.   The partnerships deliver an amalgamation of skills to create structured plans that contextualise information and provide a framework for future projects.

Gold Coast University Hospital, Southport
Gold Coast University Hospital, Southport

During fieldwork placement at Gold Coast University Hospital and Health Library (GCUHHL) I observed firsthand the benefits of partnerships between librarians and health professionals.  With branches at Southport and Robina Hospitals, the library mission is to ‘provide a range of information and knowledge service … to support the provision of patient care, clinical research, professional development, education and management activities’.

The research librarians work closely with their users to deliver information that is relevant, current and accurate.  This aligns with the base principles discussed in a paper presented to ALIA 2014 conference Sharon Karasmanis and Fiona Murphy discussed the changing role of librarians supporting health researchers at La Trobe University, Melbourne (LTU).

They talked about collaboration and relationship building to create a connectedness that was a partnership between researchers and information professionals rather than support.   With an abundance of online resources and a myriad of pathways to information, librarians were key to guiding researchers to resources through improved information literacy.  The  La Trobe Future Ready: Strategic Plan 2013 to 2017 identified five Research Focus Areas to ‘measure and improve research quality, impact and volume and to increase cross-disciplinary research collaborations while developing and implementing strategically important research partnerships‘ (p.4).

Under the LTU 2013 Library Business Plan the traditional role of reference librarian expanded to include expert searching, training and research consultations.   Through consultation and collaboration with researchers and faculties, a system of evaluation of reference services was developed to measure the effectiveness of the new services.    This shift in focus has resulted in greater visibility for information professionals with better alignment with researchers and a plethora of opportunities for diverse professional development. 

 

 

 

Makerspaces – version 2

I do wonder what I was thinking when I opted to be twitter champion for the week of Makerspaces.  So much to say, so few characters – the dynamic medium of twitter communication with an intrinsic demand for being succinct did not fit well with the wide horizons of Makerspaces.

To makerspace or not to makerspace?  That is the question for many libraries that build a strategic plan based on community needs and expectations.   Continue reading “Makerspaces – version 2”

Getting into the library thing

Where the Wild Things Are Bookstore at West End sends regular emails to customers to join them in their celebration of literature – there areinvitations to view new publications, speak to the authors, bring children to author chats and activities, listen to story time on Mondays, go to school holiday activities.

I know it’s a sales pitch, but it’s a great sales pitch .  The Wild Things community cares about literature, specialising in children’s literature. They promote local artists and authors, advise on books and activity choices for children of all ages and offer a wide spectrum of topics and interests.

Getting into the library thing early gives children a great start to learning, to imagining, to listening and to sharing stories with others.  It’s about widening horizons through reading, rhymes, poetry, painting and activities.

Facebook page creates an online community where the bookstore and its patrons can communicate and be updated on new books and upcoming events. Customers can also follow the bookstore programs by accessing its blog, following on twitter or viewing on youtube.

Creating a community of learning through a suburban bookstore where like-minded people can meet up and share their love of literature gives parents, carers and children a happy place to go to.

Book Chat vs Book Club

Literally from the driver’s seat of my car this week, I tweeted merrily about readers’ advisory services.  As a newbie to public libraries, I am amazed at the different perspectives of librarians, borrowers and user groups that all revolve around reading.

Firstly the sophistication of the ‘Book Coasters’ reader’s advisory service is impressive with many new and not so new titles displayed giving readers a wide choice of genre and writing style to choose from together with advice on DIY Book Club.

At Fraser Coast Regional Council Libraries, both Book Chat and Book Clubs exist meeting the different needs of users.   Book Chat is an introduction to new publications, fiction and non fiction, in a range of genres and styles to suit the members.  Attendance at the monthly meetings fluctuates from as few as four readers to fifteen.  At the meeting on Wednesday all of the 12 female attendees were retirees. Two library staff guided the session, and four of the regular readers presented prepared critical appraisals of their recently read books.   The session was hilarious with plenty of rivalry for first speaking position and only mildly covert comments on the appraisals.  After a lengthy description of the plots and sub-plots of The Golden Key, one reader commented that: ‘Actually, I realised that I wasn’t really interested in what the secret was, where the golden key was, or whether they actually found any of it! It was all far too bizarre’.  Book Chat is about introducing readers to readers, readers to books, engagement with library staff and gathering information about what readers want.

Similarly Book Clubs build connections between readers and their library.  In Hervey Bay, Maryborough and the smaller communities of Howard, Burrum Heads, and Tiaro, readers meet either at the library or at a cafe or private home to share their reading experience.  Ten copies of the same title, often chosen from the recommendations from websites like Goodreads and Reading Group Choices and from popular demand, are supplied to the Book Club for up to three months.  It is up to the book club members to establish the ground rules for  the club.

In establishing a readers’ advisory service, both these programs provide great insight for librarians to gauge interest areas from their keenest readers while circulation statistics further support reviews of the reading and information trends within the community.

Becky Spratford’s comprehensive list of Readers’Advisory blogs, although published in 2012 would be a great starting point for any RAs as the diversity of blog sites gives librarians and RAs a guide to RA resources, library resources, major media outlets, general book blogs and podcasts.   Sifting through the myriad of advice online in relation to RA services is quite onerous and time consuming and confusing, if not overwhelming.

The most critical factors for an RA include communicating with the readers, taking on board suggestions, identifying trends, catering to interests/demographics and responding accordingly.  These were reflected in a recent advertisement for a Readers’ Advisory Librarian, where the Mosman Council specified a need for a qualified library professional ….with knowledge of literature and current reading trends … and experienced in social media for promotion and marketing.  It seems that RA services will become a critical part of information services as the volume and complexity of information continually evolves.

In different environments the user needs will be different and accordingly, a readers’ advisor’s knowledge of the physical collection as well as online sources of information will make a difference to the efficiency and completeness of the service provided, as will their soft people skills to understand what is needed and how best to provide it.

 

Community of Inquiry

if you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; if you teach him how to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime

This is so within  a community of learning, for if we simply read and absorb the information presented by another, then that answers just that one query at that one time; but if we read the answer, then de-construct and analyse that information, investigate it further and add another facet then the answer creates a broader perspective and deeper understanding.

The concept of community of inquiry opens discussion, inviting analysis and investigation to improve understanding and increase knowledge.  Creating a culture of critical analysis offers opportunity to experiment and to think laterally to really make a difference.

We’re continually exposed to these opportunities through informal forums like think tanks and brain storming, and formal processes like investigation and research and analysis.   When I am in a Community of Inquity, I tend to try to fly under the radar, only venturing a strong opinion when I’m sure of supporting evidence.

This aligns with my ‘ideal’ personal profile of contributing to the online discussion with factual information that is in context with the discussion.  This doesn’t always work of course, but it is my ‘ideal’ profile.  I like to think that I am responsible and responsive to queries and genuinely seek information to share either online or offline.  I am respectful and courteous, non-discriminatory and compassionate with a commitment to practically and proactively supporting those within the community.

Having completed my first week of fieldwork placement at Helensvale Library this week my perspective of the services provided by public libraries was informed by the diverse programs and products run by the library.  The team of librarians, library technicians, library assistants, IT specialists and community organisations work together at Helensvale to provide the public with the information and services they need.  Community programs provided young families with an introduction to rhyme and literature through regular morning meetings with singing, dancing and a bubble machine.  School-age children were invited to undertake STEM experiments working individually and in teams to discover simple scientific and engineering concepts through craft-type play activities.  Older children were encouraged to experiment with Minecraft, Scratch and Digiworks programs run by librarians and other tech-savvy team members.  Adolescent and adult patrons were offered assistance in access to the internet, use of computers, operation of the printer/copier/scanner and basic access to resources including DVDs, music scores, CDs, audio books, books and magazines.

The library team was cohesive and collaborative in its delivery of information and literacy services, respecting the diverse levels of ability of its patrons and taking care to understand their needs and respond to their queries.  This kind of collaborative culture has been developed through an environment where experimentation and exploration is encouraged throughout the team.  It has evolved from observation and survey of users to asssess their needs and to meet their expecations.

Technology has changed the nature of library ‘business’.  Self check-out and check-in is accepted by an estimated 96% of the branch patrons, with patrons encouraged to manage their individual accounts online using their library membership card to access the catalogue, information about loans, holds and upcoming events at the library.

Access to computers, printing, copying and scanning services, together with free wi-fi access has brought a different vibe to the library with many arriving at the library at 9am with their laptops, phones and briefcases as if the library is their office.  Visitors to the area use library services to access free wifi to check emails.  New residents join the library so that they can use the products and services and become involved in programs of learning.   It’s a vibrant community of people who work together to engage in self-education, self-improvement, recreational learning and reading and discovery of new and not so new technology.

This sharing of knowledge and information and making available the tools and facilities needed to support self-education supports many within the community who may not otherwise have access to formal learning.  It also provides an open forum for sharing of knowledge, information and skills.   While Helensvale library does not currently have a formal Makerspace, programs and events provide activities that fit within the regulatory frameworks of health and safety.

As Liz McGettigan stated we need to ensure that the 21st Century library will continue to engage with community in the format and with the content that the users desire.