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Academic and Research Libraries Group – Yorkshire and Humber

The Librarian as Researcher’ – York St John University  – 25th January 2013

This is the first external ‘professional’ event I have attended, I wasn’t particularly nervous until I shivered through the door (after getting a little bit lost amongst all those lovely buildings at York St John) and realised I hadn’t actually prepared myself for the total lack of familiar faces. I’d been so focused on finding the room that I’d had no time to plunge myself in to a worry of who I’d sit myself next to, how I’d get chatting to people and all the other social basics. Grabbing a cup of tea is a good way to survey a room and pick a seat, incidentally! Of course everyone else appeared to know each other already and all the tables were full, except for one entirely empty one. I had visions of being alone all day so decided a biscuit was in order. Fortunately, others took some seats and I plonked myself next to a chap called Andrew. My priorities quickly became apparent when I realised I had tea, biscuits and no handout. I fear my reputation begins with being a greedy guts. I had really interesting conversations with everyone at the table, it was really lovely to meet people who are excited and interested in libraries! One of the first things I actually noticed was the huge variety of job titles on the attendees list; I think the only two that were the same were Library Assistants. It certainly highlights the variety in the profession!

The day was focused on the importance of Research for Librarians; how to get started with your research, the role of the researcher and the commitment needed to achieve your goal (whatever it may be) and the possibilities open to you for disseminating your research.

My approach to Librarianship is definitely weighted by an academic perspective, this is probably because I am still studying and getting to grips with theories and approaches and have only a few hours a week as a practitioner. I think it’s really necessary to keep hold of the academic view as my career progresses though, each perspective lends itself to improving the other and for me that was really the crux of the days discussion. I am hoping research will become an integral part of my work, even if it takes place when I’m at home.

Carolynn Rankin kicked off the presentations with “Getting Started as a Researcher.” The role of the researcher was considered; the terms we picked out (‘we’ refers to the people I was sat with) were based upon fairly traditional ideas of inquisition so it was interesting to consider the storytelling researcher, the facilitator of information. There was a lot of discussion on the reluctance of the profession to recognise their own innovation and to share good practice; it’s worth considering the effect this can have upon the reputation of the library service and its status within an institution.

Dr. Jane Secker and Dr. Emma Coonan delivered a very interesting presentation on ‘A New Curriculum for Information Literacy – Doing Research in Your Day Job.’ There was an interesting focus on how their partnership bloomed and the positive effect of their differing approaches to information literacy. The practicalities of research were addressed here and commitment to the research project was perhaps the standout feature. Overcoming the inevitable challenges to conducting your research can only really happen if you choose to commit yourself to it – through getting out of bed an hour earlier to ‘make time’ and finding your own space to immerse yourself. Making your situation work to your advantage really is the key, although is of course quite tricky and involves significant sacrifice in lots of cases. The resounding message certainly seemed to be that anything is achievable, there are countless avenues available and hard work will bear fruit. Inspiring stuff indeed!

EDIT: Emma and Jane have kindly uploaded the slides and transcript here

Dr Miggie Pickton was the final presentation of the day looking at disseminating research. A look at the impact of highlighting your libraries research output was certainly worth considering, it seems a lot of research is being done at Northampton University Library! There are many different ways to disseminate research these days, it’s worth remembering that the traditional, peer reviewed article or book is far from the only option. I’d like to keep an open mind with how I would approach disseminating any future research.

Overall it was a really useful, inspiring day. An ideal introduction to the world of professional events I would say (also the lunch was fabulous, good work indeed York St John!) and I’m really keen to attend more in the future. The Research Methods module of my course begins today, and it involves deciding upon a dissertation topic and developing a research proposal – I’m going to go in to this in a later post. I also want to say something about academic capital and an institutions “respect” for the library, all prompted by this event but for another post!

I’ll be heading to the Teach Meet that’s taking place in Leeds on the 8th of February, I’ll hopefully be a bit braver in my interactions with other people this time!