Event review: “Information, Digital Literacies & the Researcher”

With thanks to Allison Jones from the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David for this post.

The inaugural joint Great Western Four (GW4) , WHELF  and Cardiff University Libraries event  was opened with the following statement from Janet Peters, Director at Cardiff University, “72% of students are engaged with library staff but with the researcher we are barely scratching the surface”.  From the murmurings of agreement this relationship with the researcher seems to be echoed throughout the room.

Moira Bent, Faculty Liaison Librarian and National Teaching Fellow at Newcastle University, was the keynote speaker of the day.  Her session was a brilliant mix of informative presenting and collaborative discussion and exercises.  Moira started off questioning the word “support” in relation to library staff and library users.  Dictionary definitions are varied but she concluded that it can give the wrong perception of the library as it can be seen as secondary or supplementary.  Moira favoured the words facilitating, engaging, participating, collaborating and sharing when looking at the librarian’s role in the research process.  As a returner to the profession, “support” was a word that I frequently used but now find myself questioning the term.

“So what is research?” Moira threw this question to the floor where it was decided that there wasn’t a single straightforward answer.  Instead three distinct areas of research were identified; sharing boundaries of human knowledge, “New for You” and exploring grey areas.  Moira shared her findings on what researchers had identified as research and the research process.  Interesting was how Moira had identified different traits depending on the age, experience, discipline, “lifecycle” and personal preference of the researcher mentioning how the librarian needs to use this information to define the role they play in the research process.

The workshop was cleverly brought to a close with a break out session. In small groups we looked at various topics discussing good practice, aspirations and obstacles. Of course the majority came up with more questions than answers but the whole process was so valuable as we looked at the structures and strategies librarians need to consider to effectively accommodate the researchers.  Should we have subject specific staff with additional roles or specialist research support librarians?  Does there need to be blurring of the library roles with other university departments? Should librarians be embedded in the departments? Indeed what should the library “look” like?  Around the table we found out how others had overcome problems and what problems they had encountered and for me this provided food for thought as we moved forward to the round one of the ‘meets’.

Five Sessions had been organised and were varied in content.  The most difficult decision of the day was to decide which ones to attend as they all sounded great.  I had never attended a TeachMeet prior to this event and I loved the setup.  Each “Meet” lasted fifteen minutes which of course was never long enough. Nigel’s piecing alarm was always met with groans.  Of course on the plus side it always ensured that each session was succinct and informative.
It was quite impossible to have a favourite session as each one was so different in content and delivery. For me it was this that made the TeachMeet work.   Each ‘meet’ provided so much information and ideas that could be taken away and used in our own settings.  As a newbie it was an excellent learning platform. Some sessions were discussion based and provided fuel for networking opportunities during the lunch and comfort breaks and ensured that conversation never dried up when standing next to somebody new.

Round two, following lunch was equally interesting and entertaining.  The mix of topic and delivery styles was fantastic and with so much going on the post lunch slump never materialised.
Our first speaker was Kate Bradbury from Cardiff University, “Research Counts: Helping our Researchers prepare for the next REF”.  Kate discussed the importance of encouraging researchers to check the integrity of a journal and illustrating online some scams that are quite difficult to detect.

The second session of the afternoon was from Susan Glen and Sam Oakley.  This reflective presentation following Research workshops at Swansea University was illuminating and informative.  One day workshops designed for researchers had been held in December 2013 and April 2014. The days had proved very successful with a good mix of professors, lectures, researchers and PA’s. Susan and Sam openly discussed what had worked (and hadn’t) and what they had learnt from the whole process.  It was revealed that researchers had found Open Access, Social Networking and Impact2 Licensing Issues of particular interest.  It had been very important to draw on a number of learning styles and preferences and also realise that some topics required external involvement to get the essential mix of expertise. With regards to teaching styles they had also learnt that discussion was important for the majority of those in attendance.  Allowing time and opportunity for those on the course to network and collaborate – connecting people had also proved to be really valuable and was a factor in the success of the workshops. Most importantly they had concluded that there was a demand and a need to organise such courses and that food was a good draw in encouraging attendance.

To conclude on the day’s event I found the mix of direct delivery, workshops, Teachmeet sessions and of course the important networking element of the day absolutely fantastic.  I am humbled once again by the reception and kindness of those in the library profession as again I had the pleasure of meeting loads of interesting people and had some fantastic conversations and much help and advice with my career development given my break from the profession.   A big thank you to all who organised the event it has been so beneficial and provided me with ideas to move my role forward.

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