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.
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.