This post is a joint contribution from myself and my colleague Kate (@katecbyrne). We are presenting a BoF (Birds of a Feather) session at the E-Research Australasia Conference at the end of October where we hope to spark debate with our topic “E-Research and Libraries: A Perfect Partnership?”. We recognise this is at times a controversial space and the background to our approach is described in full in our abstract on the conference website & partially reproduced here:
Libraries have had long histories with many of the challenges facing e-research including interoperability, metadata creation, sustainability and ensuring that systems meet the needs of client communities. By earmarking academic and research libraries as potential collaborators for e-research projects, both researchers and libraries can maximise limited budgets and draw from the complementary expertise of both sectors. This includes capitalising on existing librarianship knowledge bases such as classification, metadata schemas, ontologies, taxonomies and thesauri. Many of the demands of data management and respository services are similar to the demands of information management, the heartland of librarianship. However, potential benefits increase as other departments within an academic or research library are involved, allowing libraries to capitalise on existing relationships with researchers and exploit the library’s interdisciplinary focus and knowledge of projects, policies and networks across the university.
These partnerships are not without challenges. Libraries often have limited budgets which are allocated carefully to meet a broad range of needs across the university. They often cannot offer financial support or vast amounts of server space for data storage and as such independant project funding must often be secured. Not all libraries are comfortable in the e-research space and leaders in this field are still experimenting. There are parts of the e-research space such as respositories and bibliometrics in which libraries are more established; though fields such as research data management are undergoing rapid development.
A brief literature review reveals that for many academic or research libraries, e-research services have tended to cluster around repositories, either creating them as products or providing technical support. Several libraries also appear to be offering services exploring e-literacy for research. However, few have been identified as wholistically linking e-research services to the strategic aims of the library.
Now here’s where you come in. We recognise that there are many different arrangements in the e-research space and we would like to hear from librarians and researchers who have been working in the e-research space and are willing to share their perspective on library/e-research partnerships. We have three questions on which we are keen to crowd source opinions as conversation starters:
- What are the benefits of libraries or librarians getting involved in e-research projects?
- What are the challenges of libraries or librarians getting involved in e-research projects?
- Is the library involved in e-research initiatives at your university or research institution?
Please also let us know if you are willing to be identified with your quote. If you would prefer for yourself and/or your institution to remain anonymous please let us know if you are willing for us to describe your institution (eg. a mid-sized regional university) and how you would like us to do so. Leave your answers in the comments, or contact either one of us (@newgradlib or @katecbyrne) to get email details.
Thank you for your involvement and we hope to have you join in the conversation at our session if you are attending the conference.
Kate and Clare
If you work in academic libraries sooner or later you are going to come across the issue of research data management. Increasingly, we are also working in an e-research space where everything from finding journal articles for a literature review through to making a copy of the finished work available in an institutional repository happens in an online space.
My previous posts on digital humanities send out a call for libraries to be more involved in this process and to come to the table as partners and collaborators with researchers. This is an area of librarianship I didn’t know existed before starting at MPOW 15 months ago and it has caught my interest in a big way.
I did say much of this #blogjune from me would be about data. Now I can reveal that I have a new job for the next 12 months and am going to be working in our library’s repository services team, talking about research data management all day long. It starts next week – stay tuned!
In casual conversation at morning tea on the final day, Professor John Unsworth of Brandeis University in the USA (one of the keynote speakers at the conference and vice provost for Library & Technology Services at Brandeis) said he thought there was a role for libraries to be represented at a much higher level. In his opinion, the participation rate of the LIS sector at the international Digital Humanities conferences is much higher.
The conference participants list outlined delegate’s institutions, not their affiliation within that institution so it is difficult to tell what representation there was from the LIS sector. My sense is that the audience was overwhelmingly academics – stumbling upon other LIS sector representatives was luck rather than management.
I turned to twitter (as I often do) and asked
Morning tea chat with Prof JohnUnsworth Brandeis University – he says international DH conference has up to 1/3 LIS delegates?
Some GLAM representation here but overwhelmingly academic presence, lib tweeps, what barriers were there for you in coming?
I didn’t get a lot of response to this – but the responses I did get were around awareness. It’s an emerging field in librarianship, I get that. Although I had done some reading on digital humanities before heading to Canberra, it is the reading I’ve done in this area since that has crystalised some of the concepts for me.
Like any good LIS professional, I began with a google search and after reading many, many forum postings, blog posts, conference presentations and journal article abstracts I found this from the wikipedia entry:
The digital humanities is an area of research, teaching, and creation concerned with the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. Developing from an earlier field called humanities computing, today digital humanities embrace a variety of topics ranging from curating online collections to data mining large cultural data sets. Digital Humanities currently incorporates both digitized and born-digital materials and combines the methodologies from the traditional humanities disciplines (such as history, philosophy, linguistics,literature, art, archaeology, music, and cultural studies) with tools provided by computing (such as data visualisation, information retrieval, data mining, statistics, computational analysis) and digital publishing.
Being a humanities librarian at the moment, I guess it’s natural that my specific interest is in this area, but through another project I am doing with a colleague I’m beginning to examine e-research and the role of libraries in a wider context.
I told you much of this month’s #blogjune will be about data.
Today I put out on twitter
as this is something that has increasingly had me wondering. This has been prompted in part by a discussion on twitter yesterday about whether as undergraduate students ourselves we ever used the library or contacted a librarian (most of us said no) and partly as a result of a discussion at MPOW about what the journal subscription model may look like in the future. I think both of these discussions are worthy of further investigation and thinking in their own right at another time.
So, back to the point of this post. As stated in the tweet, I was crowd sourcing, looking for some ideas, possible arguments for and against this position & trying to gauge the mood of my potential audience before putting this post out there.
I’m very grateful to my PLN for their responses, including:
still think it’s important because they will need to know for reference formatting. so boring but true
[important for] selecting sources, eg. book provides overview, journal more likely to be orig research…good scholarly practice
journals still regarded as “better” for some subjects
I don’t think it matters if the info is relevant to their topic eg history uses a lot more book references than info science
if trusted source (lecturer) is pushing papers to students distinctions b/w source types not key – all abt content
If students (& by this I am referring mostly to the average UG student, who make up the bulk of the student population at most universities) are given a list of readings or citations to look up, then yes, it’s helpful if they can tell the difference between a journal & a monograph. It certainly makes our job in reference much easier if they know that.
However, my point is slightly different – and here I run into the fact that at times it’s hard to express myself adequately in 140 characters. I think I am really asking “Once having arrived at the source, does it really matter what the source is?”
Let me explain further. At MPOW, we put a great deal of energy into helping academics generate stable links to our online resources. These links can placed into the Learning Management System (LMS) usually Blackboard or Moodle, and they route students via the library proxy server to land them at their article, e-book, digitized chapter or AV resource without the student having to navigate any of the path along the way – other than to authenticate themselves as our students at some point if they are off campus. So increasingly, students are not being given a list of readings or citations to look for and often their further reading from the subject can occur as a direct hyperlink provided in the document they were originally sent to read.
In my experience, the academics generally like these links and while it’s a slightly complex process to generate them it’s usually a one-off investment of their time. While some are concerned about what they see as the loss of student research skills, the feedback from most is that they want the students to read, absorb & synthesize the material. Many feel that unless it’s made easy for the students, they will just not bother reading it. I have also had academics tell me that the time spent generating these links pays off in terms of less time spent further down the semester track answering emails & phone calls from students who can’t find the citation from a list.
This situation of course causes an instant librarian dilemma! On the one hand, if the link is provided as a ‘click here’ service, without citation data being included then students arrive at the reading with no context whatsoever and this has the potential to bring an information professional out in spots. However, the point of this post is to stop and ask myself ‘why is this so?’
Even when academics attach the hyperlink to an actual citation, aren’t students still just going to click & not notice the context? Many e-records include a copy & paste ‘how to cite this’ – and while I understand that this may not meet the requirements of a particular referencing style, it still means students don’t really need to have context to create a citation for the information they have just used. It might look wrong and the student may lose a few marks for not following instructions, but let’s face it, an academic can still find & check the source document even if it’s formatted in Harvard when they really wanted Chicago or APA.
On the other side of this argument, supporting our academics is my role – and if this link generation makes their lives easier & enables them to help students focus on the skills of critically evaluating the content then isn’t that a good thing? Is this actually a similar argument to the print vs e? Is content king rather than the container?
Increasingly, the publishing gap between monographs & journals is closing. Traditionally journals are more agile, more reflective of current practice, published faster and peer reviewed journals are seen as more authoritative. The different publishing models, rise of open access publishing and the increase in academic blogging are all pushing the boundaries of the traditional model. I’m in no way suggesting we stop helping students understand how to evaluate their sources, I’m just wondering if the model for that is coming to its use-by date. Is the issue of format in publishing becoming irrelevant in that evaluation?
The obvious elephant in the room here is the serious researcher, whether post-grad or academic, as context is bound to be more appropriate or relevant to them, but they are not really who this is about. I think there’s a lot more to say on this topic and some others that float around it in a more or less connected way. Another time perhaps.