Twitter chat: Research support

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    • #2392
      Katherine Lee

      Research support is a hot topic within academic libraries. The term is used to refer to the variety of services and programs offered by libraries to academic staff and students. The key point that came across in the Twitter chat on Monday was that research support is an area with huge potential for librarians to provide value-added services to their clients.

      One of the questions discussed was whether librarians should actively contribute to research projects and, if so, how? A tension between the perceived roles of academics and librarians was identified as a barrier preventing the collaboration between faculty and librarians on research projects. It was believed that it was best to keep the roles of academics, as subject matter experts, and librarians, as information retrieval experts, separate when it came to research. The general consensus was that librarians could contribute best to research projects by finding information relevant to their clients’ work. In doing so librarians can enhance the research produced by universities due to their expertise in information retrieval and knowledge of the library’s resources.

      However, I believe there is scope for librarians and academics to work together on research projects. Many subjects within library studies cross over with other disciplines. Additionally, collaborating on a research project with faculty can overcome the resource and time issues that obstruct librarians from conducting research and provided the library with data that can be used to inform program planning. For example, Mary-Lousie Edwards (liason librarian) and Valerie Cotroni-Baird (lecturer) from the University of Melbourne collaborated on a research project with the aim of developing a research skills program for students (Lecturer-Librarian collaboration experience and student feedback: Development and change in a research skills building program, paper presented at the EBLIP8 conference, 2015). These collaborations can enhance faculty’s perception of the library and the research standing of the University but require strong librarian-faculty relationships.

      In addition to collaborating with faculty, librarians can contribute to research projects as consultants on open access publishing and social media. With many University libraries establishing Institutional Repositories (IRs), academic librarians are perfectly placed to lead the movement towards open access publishing. In doing so librarians are able to increase the reach of the academic out put of their clients. Librarians are also social media experts and can provide assistance to clients in tracking their research impact using altmetrics.

      The second question discussed in the chat was whether or not it is important for librarians to be specialists in the subject area they work in. It was felt that a general understanding of the subject was needed, but an in-depth knowledge was not essential. While I do not believe that librarians need to be experts in their subject area to the extent that the academics are experts, I do feel that being a specialist in the area enhances a librarian’s ability to suggest relevant resources. Being a specialist means the librarian has insider knowledge and can recommend tips and tricks that are only gained through having a certain level of experience in the field. It might be unsustainable to have a specialist within a library department, but I believe there are significant benefits.

      Negative impacts of an emphasis on research support were also identified. Two issues were raised in the Twitter chat:
      • Funding is taken from other areas such as collection development and information literacy programs
      • Undergraduates are disadvantaged due to the focus on the needs of academics and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students.
      While funding was a concern, the chat focused more on the negative consequences for undergraduates. There was concern that as the HDR students of tomorrow, undergraduates needed to receive as much support as more advanced students. However, the general consensus was that focusing on HDR students was necessary due to the complexity of their research.

      I agree with the point raised in the Twitter chat that undergraduates are not necessarily looking for the same level of support as HDR students. I think that libraries are currently providing sufficient support for undergraduates, although, the marketing of programs and outreach to HDR students is better than to undergraduates. This may be because undergraduates have a wider variety of needs and it is difficult to market all the services that are available to them. Libraries provide support to undergraduates through directional services such as the helpdesk and chat. These services work really well as they provide students with a link to the library and allow librarians to point students in the direction of the specific service or program that will fulfill their need.

      The questions raised in the Twitter chat highlighted some ongoing issues and potential areas for development within research support. Overall, research support seems to be a very effective way of connecting with clients and providing value-added services and programs.

      • This topic was modified 8 years, 8 months ago by Katherine Lee.
    • #2407
      Deborah Fuller

      Another interesting and informative post Katherine.  The summaries you provided for the question responses provided reinforcement for me about the chat, which often can be difficult to keep up with, particularly as my platform crashed a couple of times. Your closing sentence was an excellent  summary of the chat.

    • #2492
      Katherine Lee

      Thanks Debbie, I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

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