Research Support – Twitter Chat Champion

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    • #2366
      Leena Riethmuller

      This week’s Twitter Chat discussed research support, primarily in an academic library context. Research Support work in university libraries has increased alongside the growing number of Higher Degree Research (HDR) projects. Universities are dependant on research projects to raise revenue which places emphasis on HDRs within the university system and means librarians prioritise their time towards supporting HDR.

      The first discussion of the chat debated what role librarians could or should take in HDR. Many of the tweets suggested that librarians can be involved in every aspect of research. @C_OSulliv commented that there needs to be an awareness of the perspectives and skills librarians can bring to a research project, which can be used to compliment the skills of the researchers. Alongside this, librarians need to be sympathetic to the pressures of academia within HDR contexts. I speculated that as the field of librarianship becomes more academic* there may be more synergy between library and faculty, and @C_OSulliv commented that genuine interest in the research is also important for librarians to work on research projects.

      Subject specific librarians is one answer to ensuring adequate interest and support for HDR. Subject expertise may prove helpful for librarians, particularly in the roles of research support and liaison librarian. However in order to ensure librarians are adequately supportive, it is necessary to develop set responsibilities within the research project. @katedavis believes that academics should be the subject experts, in which case librarians can still be of great advantage for HDR. As @StaceySarasvati points out, data management is one skill librarians have that can be applicable to any research project. In the Twitter Chat, @C_OSulliv and @katedavis came to the conclusion that librarians involved in research support may not need to have subject expertise, but instead, must understand their client’s needs in order to identify how to best utilise their skills in a supporting role. This view is supported in Library Research Support in Queensland: A Survey, which demonstrates that libraries are taking this approach.

      While HDR is an extremely important part of any university, @KMcK2015 questioned whether the emphasis on librarian’s support of HDR redirects resources away from supporting undergraduate students. @ruthmcconchie noted that undergraduate students need support in order to be capable of undertaking HDR, and that universities may be at risk of losing money if HDR students are not academically prepared. Improving Information Literacy skills in undergraduate students may make it easier for students transitioning to HDR. This would mean librarians can more easily support HDR students.

      Universities and their libraries will change along with the the rest of the world, meaning that librarians will find themselves in new positions and undertaking new activities. Being responsive to needs and adaptable to new situations is key for libraries to remain helpful and relevant. This means understanding the complete academic landscape – through undergraduate and HDR, to academics, faculty and larger organisational needs. Systems and roles need to be implemented to ensure that librarians’ skills are best utilised and all students are supported at their level of need.

      *When I first looked into becoming a librarian, I contacted ALIA for advice on what qualifications I would need. They recommended doing a masters degree rather than a diploma because a master’s degree is becoming the new standard qualification for librarians.

    • #2404
      Deborah Fuller

      I found your post interesting and informative Leena. It was a well-written summary of the chat. I enjoy reading the Twitter chat posts, as I often find it difficult to keep up with the chats online and your post definitely helped consolidate the chat in my mind. Thank you

    • #2432
      Caitlin .

      Hi Leena,

      I really enjoyed your post and your contributions during the chat, its an area you seem knowledgeable about. Your references to the key threads in the chat have provided a nice overview too. While I understand the need for HDR support to be a big part of what academic libraries do and the constraints on how to do this well. I was just wondering if you had any thoughts on how to balance this with the general collection management and assistance for undergraduates. I noticed you included researcher in your Bio, do you have personal experience of this kind of support?

      While not totally connected to the topic I have read about Academic Libraries opening their archives and specialist collections to the public in the US, do you think this would be appropriate in the Australian context. Perhaps as a way of generating funds or as a community gesture of good will.


      • #2471
        Leena Riethmuller

        Hi Caitlin, thanks for responding to my post!

        In answer to your first question, about balancing HDR support and collections management and support of undergraduate students: I think that solutions will vary depending on the individual library and its needs. So, I don’t think there is any one solution but that it is important to be mindful that needs must be periodically assessed so that aspects of the organisational structure can be changed accordingly. I think this is true for most organisational constructs. I don’t have any experience working in this particular context, but I have experienced the student and tutor side of things so I have some awareness of how different groups within the university may be invested differently in research.

        I think opening parts of the library to the general public would be really useful. Having been in and then out of the university system, there were times when I was unable to access information I needed and I realised the benefits of university. I can predict that some people would prefer to keep collections private in order to ensure that paying clients and staff have priority access to all library facilities. Personally,  I would gladly welcome non-students to access university collections (especially content available online) because access to information in fundamental to bridging gaps in education.

    • #2455
      Ruth McConchie

      Great Twitter Chat reflection Leena. I think you made a great point about ensuring that librarians’ skills are best utilised. I feel like that issue is really fundamental and hard to measure in many ways. I would extend your argument that Universities should try to ensure that librarians’ skills, experience and place within the University and research cycle are fully utilised by the academic staff.

      • #2472
        Leena Riethmuller

        Thanks Ruth. Yes, I agree that i is difficult to measure skills and whether they are being applied effectively. I like the idea that it is a university’s responsibility to ensure this. It means that the pressure is taken off academic staff and librarians to assert their positions, and instead the university could consult them in developing a workable system. 🙂

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