I’m from one of the smaller universities down in Melbourne, and my library believes we are moving away from the ‘cosy library’—the home of traditional library roles, collections and spaces—towards the ‘scary library’, where our collection and our users are increasingly offsite, and the role of the librarian is less and less familiar.At the heart of this revolution is a dramatic change in the needs, wants and expectations of academic library users—and perhaps also in our understanding of them. We are listening to our users more, but we still need to establish: if interest in the traditional library is on the wane, what do our users want from us?What is a research librarian?Many Australian academic libraries are appointing research librarians to ensure they can make a concrete commitment to research services. The core mission of a research librarian is still liaison, but this time the audience is researchers, and as we discuss later, also the university as a whole. 3 years ago, I was one of the only ones in Australia. Now we have research librarians at nearly every university and research institute in Australia.We also have local and national library research support communitiesMany of the skills required of research librarians are the same as for librarians in faculty outreach roles. These include:• leadership• entrepreneurship• ability to approach and communicate with academics• willingness to learn and experiment with different ways of promoting library services• excellent written and analytical skills; and• the ability to work independently on new or established projects.In addition, depending on what falls within the scope of library research services at each university, some new and different skills may also be required: Metrics managing small software projects Copyright research data curation.
A liaison role, not a technical one …How do I know if this is a reputable journal?Can I reproduce my chapter in a new book if I own the copyright?My paper has been accepted for a respected journal and the editors require me to have an identifier for the data. Can you help?My research is listed in Scopus under two names. Can you please merge them?
The challenge for us as usual is keeping up with those changes
It’s a beautiful building, but researchers never see it. Those we meet in person are the exception not the rule and we can’t devise our services around them. Several studies have shown that researchers’ in person visits to the library are on a steep decline. A recent study of engineering academics in Canada found that 73% visited the physical library less than 5 times a year.But what’s crucial to note is that they still rated assistance from librarians as important or very important.
Full title: an investigation into the roles and skills of subject and liaison librarians required to effectively support the evolving information needs of researchers.We’ve been taking this report seriously in Australia. AimsInvestigate the information needs and behaviour of researchersLook at the skills required by subject librarians to support researchers and map them against researcher needsConduct a gap analysis to identify training and development needs for subject librariansShare lessons learned with those responsible for training the next generation of librarians32 competencies identified as required to support research in the future.These are in addition to what might be considered ‘core’ skills, such as liaison, communication, negotiation and presentation skills.
Deep understanding of discipline/subjectExcellent knowledge of content (in all relevant media) available to discipline/subjectExcellent knowledge of bibliographic and other finding tools in discipline/subjectKnowledge to advise on relevant archive and special collections
Controversial: some differences of opinion within the groups consulted in the study.The University of Melbourne believes strongly that domain expertise is critical and indicate that their hiring policy will reflect this.
Awareness of current and changing local research interestsUnderstanding of typical researcher’s experience, including their workflow, and how researchers access and use information, within a discipline/subject and at different stages of the researcher’s careerAbility to gain an appreciation of individual researcher/project needs (including listening skills)Knowledge of sources of research funding to assist researchers to identify potential funders
Nothing beats actually talking to researchers about their work and what’s getting in the way of it.But we need to be systematic in how we gather intelligence. I’ve run some focus groups in the past and also roadtested prototypes with researchers. That has been really beneficial, but there’s an inherent bias in the sample: I spoke to people who wanted to talk to a librarian about their research.
Skills to build strong relationships with researchers and other campus professionals and to establish collaborative partnershipsAwareness and ability to recognise the value of services provided by agencies such as UKRR, RIN, RLUKSkills to participate effectively in research projects, assisting with bid and report writingAbility to proactively advise and market appropriate library services to researchers
A lot of these are already library skills. But what about the ones that aren’t? Are we necessarily the right people to be providing some of these services? Or do they belong more comfortably in other parts of the university?
Some years ago, some library academics started talking about librarians as ‘middleware’. Middleware is a computing term for ‘software that acts as a bridge between an operating system and applications’. By using it in a library context, Luce likens our role to one as connector between information and people.It is also a good metaphor for the role of library research support within a whole-of-university framework.
Melbourne Uni has dedicated research technology expertise: http://its.unimelb.edu.au/research
Libraries have known for decades that liaison with faculties is pivotal to the communication and use of library services by academics. Yet it is easy to forget about the need to build mutually beneficial relationships with other internal corporate departments as well.The success of whole-of-university projects such as research data management is not guaranteed without input from research offices, faculty administrators, IT and other key institutional stakeholders. The 2010 RIN report shows libraries are in danger of falling off the research support grid if they do not work more collaboratively with others. The report makes the logical conclusion that ‘the key requirement from most researchers’ perspectives is for services which are there when they need them’.Which means that researchers are far less concerned than we are about who is actually providing each service.
Outstanding skills in information discovery, literature searching, etc.Ability to synthesise, analyse and provide digests of ‘discovered’ informationKnowledge to advise on the management of researchers’ information, including its portability, particularly for bibliographic management and referencing tools, e.g. EndNoteKnowledge to advise on the manipulation and presentation of researchers’ informationKnowledge to advise on citing and referencing, and the use of bibliographic management software
There are some significant differences in researchers’ and librarians’ views of the future roles of libraries in supporting research.Researchers value access to information most, and they also want us to spend far more time on information management than information literacy.
Accurate repository content is a goldmine for universities.This is a great example of the library managing a research service sought after by both researchers and their universities.Because our universities are our customers just as much as individual academics.
Excellent skills to design information literacy training (both face-to-face and online)
Ability to advise on current trends, best practice and available options in research publication and dissemination, including scholarly communications and open access publishingAbility to advise on preserving research outputsAbility to advise on the preservation of project records
Since this study in 2009, things haven’t changed much, except perhaps for the increase in the number of hybrid journals.What this diagram shows us is that we need both gold and green open access to reach our goalsEven in disciplines doing well, barely 30% of the scholarly literature is open access
This diagram is from a more recent study.Again, we need both gold and green open access to reach our goals, and even in disciplines doing well, barely 40% of the literature is open access.
Sufficient knowledge to support compliance with the various mandates of funders, including open access requirementsUnderstanding of the national and local research assessment processesUnderstanding of research impact factors, the REF, and the ability to advise on citation analysis, bibliometrics, etcUnderstanding of author rights, copyright legislation and IP issues, and plagiarism
Firstly, we should ask: who are our users?New initiatives such as the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) assessment seek to measure the quality—rather than the quantity—of research output as the basis for funding, suggesting that research is not only valued by universities as a mark of esteem, but also expected by the government as a source of income.A large proportion of our income now depends on the productivity of researchers, including their ability to win grants, attract top research students, and to publish. These figures, when aggregated for the Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC), become a surrogate metric for a university’s research intensity.
Another area researchers are keen for guidance in is data management.Good knowledge of data sources available in the discipline/subjectKnowledge to advise on data management and curationKnowledge to advise on potential data manipulation toolsKnowledge to advise on data mining
I read this as an opportunity, but also a challenge, for libraries.
Once of the reasons given for the importance of good data management is that we need to be able to replicate results. Here’s a very recent example.This comment was found within the text of a published article. It’s a good example against the argument of the scholarly publishing industry that publishers add value.It’s also probably the end of someone’s academic career.
*** Visit this page for subject-specific repositories
But how can we do everything? We also need to support teaching.We don’t have to be the experts if we know who to call.
Under the Australian sun - Rebecca Parker
Under the Australian sun:
new directions for research
support in Australia
Swinburne University of
9 areas of high skills gap & high importance
- Preserving research outputs
- Data management and curation
- Complying with research funder mandates
- Discipline-appropriate data manipulation tools
- Data mining
- Preserving project records
- Sources of research funding
- Developing metadata schema and advice on discipline
- Cloud computing
- Research virtual networks
- High performance computing
- Large scale data storage
- Research policy and strategic direction
- Higher degree research training
- Higher degree research awards
- Grants management
- Research performance analysis
- Government research reporting
Research Information Network (2007). Researchers’ use of academic libraries and their services. London: RIN.
researchers … showed
little interest in making
use of information skills
training from the library.
They are confident in their
understanding of both the
generic and the specialist
tools that are relevant to
their research area
Research Information Network (2010).
Research support in UK universities.
Open access availability by discipline (2009)
Source: Björk B.-C., Welling P., & Laakso M., et al. (2010). Open access to the scientific journal literature: situation 2009.
PLoS ONE 5(6), e11273.
Source: Gargouri, Y., Lariviere, V., Gingras, Y., Carr, L., & Harnad, S. (2012) Green and gold open access percentages and
growth, by discipline. Paper presented at the 17th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators
(STI), Montreal, Canada, 05–08 Sep 2012.
3. Help with research
- All publications information collected
- All full text required for peer review sourced
- Dark archive of full text managed
- Support for submissions to the journal list
- Maintenance of the Scopus dataset.
6. Support for
Relatively few researchers have the knowledge
or skills to manage their data effectively, and only
a small number of people have the specialist
data management and curation skills combined
with the subject domain expertise often required
in order to provide effective support to
researchers in the course of their work.
Research Information Network (2010). Research support in UK universities. London: RIN.
Data helps with research integrity
Emma, please insert NMR
data here! where are they?
and for this
compound, just make up
an elemental analysis.
* Actual notes on a published paper
[Subject Librarians] cannot be expert in themselves in
each new capability, but knowing when to call in a
colleague, or how to describe appropriate expert
capabilities to faculty, will be key to the new liaison role.
Just as researchers are often working in teams to
leverage compatible expertise, liaison librarians will need
to be team builders among library experts where this
advances client research.
Hahn, K. (2009). Introduction: positioning liaison librarians for the 21st century.
Research Library Issues, 265, 1–2.
My wise research librarian
Australia and NZ
for inviting me to speak today
Where to next?
Rebecca Parker BA MIM AALIA
For more information on Australian research support:
Parker, R. (2012). What the library did next: strengthening
our visibility in research support. VALA Conference.
Richardson, J., et al. (2012). Library research support in
Queensland: a survey. Australian Academic and
Research Libraries, 43(4), 258-277.
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