Sometimes the path you take isn’t the most direct-your end point and your beginning are in different places
What are research cafes What we used to do What we did this year Other opportunities What you can do
This is a brief breakdown of how the library is set-up and where I sit within this organisation.
We’re a small team, we had another temporary project manager, too, but they only focused on research data management.
The downside of being a small team is that you’re small. You’re always busy. The upside is that you’re always busy. Plus my only other colleague is keen and curious, so we’re always looking for other stuff to do.
We’re the library. We’re here to help. So we help students to:
But do we help them to present in the ways that we should? I’m interested in helping people to think about sharing their work with a wider audience (really important with regards to impact, REF, etc.) I think the library is well placed as a ‘neutral friend’
In addition to the ways that our PGRs and academics need to present their work in the written format: ie-publishing, presenting data appropriately
They also need to share it to the ‘subject community and the wider world’.
A way that we have done this at LJMU is with research cafes.
For a fair bit of time, before I was even doing this job, the library service and the graduate school liked the idea of research cafes, based on the idea of Café Scientifique. So people come together and share ideas and present their work in an informal environment.
The purpose of the Research cafes are twofold: allow researchers to discuss their work in an informal environment amongst other LJMU academic/researchers/students and for PGR students to gain experience presenting in an informal setting.
Possibly allow cross-fertilisation of ideas with different people from different depts.
Held with the graduate school, who were located across campus. They found the speakers, we provided room and the food. They did the booking and some publicity. Pretty standard format for a number of year: 3-4 speakers, held in each of the libraries Speakers from across different departments Held on Wednesday afternoons when there is no teaching Provided tea/pastries
We were kind of like teammates that had different jobs. We wanted overall success but had very different roles to play.
Sometimes these events had decent turn-outs, approximately 15-20 people.
But sometimes there would be 6-8 people, that’s including library staff and speakers.
We usually had a great turnout at our flagship Christmas café, which was open to all public.
We often had lots of food leftover.
It felt like it was time for a change
This coincided with me starting my new post in the new role of Research Support Librarian in August 2015.
We met with the graduate school and basically decided we needed to change things up.
Some were pretty fundamental, some not such a huge deal.
Used all the faculties Provided a free lunch Made them open to the public Held across campus in different buildings Advertised on Eventbrite
In 2015-2016, we noticed some changes and they were pretty good.
In 2015, we had 5 cafes and a Christmas café. Approx 20+ at each café and 75 at the Christmas cafe
This year we’ve had 3 cafes so far and one Christmas café (with one to go in May). Had around 23+ at each café and 60 at the Christmas cafe
We noticed some changes in 2015-2016 and also a few from this year (which I’ll get to later!)
All booked up for three events in advance
Last year, four events have been fully booked, a marked increase on last year’s overall attendance and the Christmas café was sold out.
By using Eventbrite, we have a better sense of if/when we need to publicise more widely.
Now that there’s one named person in charge, it’s easier to organise.
I still liaise with people, but I ‘own’ the whole process-from booking rooms, speakers, to food, publicity and signage.
It makes it much easier to prepare for but also deal with things on the day.
Because it sits within our small team, we know we need to be there. This sounds like an odd good thing but there is no confusion about who is coming on the day.
The best part: speakers gave us great feedback. Both the lecturers and PhD students that took part commented on what a valuable experience that it was. They enjoyed the low-pressure environment and also to be able to sort of contextualise their work in different format (presentation). In that sense, we were really pleased as it meant it was worth it to keep doing it!
Bad stuff isn’t probably the best way to put it. The things we can keep working on!
Although numbers are way up, still getting quite a few that book and do not come.
I set the numbers at 30 and could actually put these up.
Wonder-should people book? Just leave it open? I’m open to suggestions in this regard!
The no-shows mean that we often have leftover food. You want to book less food but what if everyone turns up? Still, we have found that the packed lunches work well in this environment-much easier for attendees and also when food is leftover, easier to transport back to hand out to other colleagues.
We get a great turnout at our Christmas café of members of the public but not so many at our faculty cafes.
We invite people that have attended but are hoping this is a growth area that we will encourage more!
Seek other ways to promote to the masses.
Other LJMU links
Would like more students/more colleagues to attend
Sometimes difficult to get speakers-didn’t have the same connections as the grad school Had an out-of-date spreadsheet with people that had received funding and might like to speak
However, attended different days, got names and keep a look out through various channels. Now that we have booked our dates for next year, can start to get people to come along!
For this year, I’ve looked at news stories and invited people, also those that put papers into the repository. The difficult thing is if people don’t get back to you or if you are trying to get a good representation and no one gets back to you.
I currently need one more speaker for my final café in May, having asked various sources, will likely someone ‘easy’ and then worry I haven’t represented all departments within a faculty!
So this year has been different, too!
There’s always stuff to improve on but it’s been a great year thus far, with new opportunities because of increased exposure, meeting new colleagues and trying to collaborate more to help find time/spaces for people to present their work.
Then we had another change for this academic year. A good one. The graduate school moved into our building.
The post within the graduate school that arranged training and events that had been vacant for most of 2015-2016 was filled.
The appointed person was very keen to work with the library but also to promote what we were doing.
This direct link also meant we had someone to ask for speakers/help.
It also meant that links she had with graduate events were extended to our team.
We also formed a new team made up of library, graduate school and research and innovation support staff.
When we heard about events or had ideas, we have tried to share these and have found these mutually beneficial!
My boss was also on maternity leave so invited to meetings/had to be more assertive.
Exposure and serendipity have brought new opportunities for our small team. They’re exciting! Some I can take credit for, others are just because I’ve said yes!
But we have also had the opportunity to be involved in other events, in part because of hearing about them from our new colleagues.
And there were other opportunities, things we couldn’t have necessarily anticipated because somewhere, someone had heard of something!
At our first café, the graduate office/marketing got in touch, asking if they could do a story.
They did a nice story and the participants were keen to talk about it!
It was great as the marketing person got some feedback, which I need to be better about getting.
She pointed out the things that are really great-that we can learn from each other, whichever department we are in. The likelihood you might pick up a research paper from one department is possibly less likely than popping over for lunch to listen.
Also highlighted that it is meant to be a good introduction to presenting.
Meant to not be scary or intimidating….but presenting can be. So try to make it as easy as possible.
Also, some of this ‘cross fertilisation’ has happened.
This speaker was from school or art, the other was from history, they both had talks about very similar interests and yet, because of their different faculties, would have likely not met.
We hold our Christmas café in Central Library, a relatively central location for the university and the community. We sold out the event with 80 people (and still had no shows! Argh…)
Just another photo from the day!
We linked in with Special collections and archives so that Dr. Brian Maidment could discuss his area of expertise (literature and working class dustmen) and then the audience could look at the primary source material.
This was slightly different, too-thinking more widely with our speakers to invite.
Who could come that could also promote something within our own special collections? It’s about thinking more strategically, and it has encouraged us to think of this when we’re planning other things, too.
Also strategically within the community-so working with the University of Liverpool.
Have our standard research cafes and carry on with pretty good attendance and a good range of speakers/attendees.
This was an example of an opportunity. Our new contact in the grad school mentioned she was attending a meeting about an international women’s day event, asking if we were going.
We hadn’t been invited, but asked the organiser if we could come along to help and she said yes.
It then meant the library was involved in the planning. We also gave out an award and are now a key partner for next year. And-lots of posters from grad students-so potential speakers!
Again, thinking strategically-so tweeting out articles from the people speaking on the day, trying to connect the researcher with their research and beyond.
And, part of sharing/presenting is the actual presentation but also that dissemination of their work. We see the library as a key partner to help do this.
Again, unprompted opportunity. An academic brought up research cafes at a planning meeting at a local, prominent theatre, that receives some sponsorship from LJMU and they asked if we wanted to run an event.
There isn’t much to the cafes, but people see the library as the ones that can run these. For this event, I’m not going to attend all of them but a liaison librarian is going to try and attend and we have booked the room for them.
I always email each speaker to say thank you, but I loved this speaker’s reply.
He totally got out of it what I had hoped.
I’m going to try and not be afraid. Need to try things to see if they work. They haven’t always worked. Some people didn’t like the women’s day speakers. So we invited them to come along next year!
Don’t be afraid to change/try new things That’s easier said than done.
But also, don’t be afraid to say, ‘yes’ Don’t be afraid to ask if you can come along Don’t be afraid if it’s a new partner…just give it a try!
I am not unaware of the intricacies and politics of the upper echelons of university management and academia
But working in the library, I feel like I can throw caution to the wind a bit and just ask.
Not necessarily a case of money. Usually just need space (which most libraries have) and librarian time (don’t always have time but you can try and find it?)
Reaching out with research: promoting academic scholarship and synthesis via research cafes - Stephan
Reaching out with Research:
Promoting Academic Scholarship and
Synthesis via Research Cafes
Katherine Stephan, Research Support Librarian, Liverpool John Moores University
Research cafes: Bit of Background
Library Services Research Support
Audience member and new PhD student Victoria Brennan
said, ‘I think it’s really important for postgraduate
researchers to hear about research within fields you would
not encounter on a daily basis as there are many examples of
good practice that transcend all research
disciplines. These events are at the heart of what it
means to be a student at LJMU; whereby you are
encouraged to share your achievements and
seek feedback and guidance from likeminded
Lucy Wallis (PhD student and speaker in 2015-2016): ‘From a
presenter’s perspective I think that it offers a really nice
relaxed atmosphere where people ask questions because
they are genuinely interested and are not trying to catch you
Kathryn Smith: …it was so valuable. We have
so many common interests and concerns
(other speaker on the day); we’ve promised
each other a follow-up meeting and hopefully
many more. So actually, thank you!
I am the liaison account manager for LJMU with the XXXXXX and XXXXX, we have recently had a Ideas Generating
session day at the XXXXXX with LJMU academics and XXX staff ,and one of the things mentioned was the Research
Café events. The Development Manager at the XXX, XXXXXXX has mentioned as part of our partnership
relationship that they would be interested in hosting a
Research Café eventobviously it would have to be a mutual date and time on both sides.
Let me know if you think this is a feasible.
Hi Katherine, I understand that you are
involved in the research cafes. I’m PGR
coordinator for NAH and I’ve been
wanting to run something like that for
our PhD students who have very specific
needs. Is this something you can advise
on or at least point me in the right
But I’m so glad that I could squeeze in the Research Café today
in the busiest of my days. And to no surprise of mine, it was an
amazing experience!! So relaxed, so straight forward, and
despite being the similar thing we do in many international
conferences, it was yet ‘Minus’ the pressure bit and clocks
But I strongly back these types of event be open to the public as
well, meaning that we are going to the community and society
to showcase them what are our inventions, helping directly or
indirectly in the living.