Support for Researchers: how librarians can support REF, data management etc

On the 8th May I went to the CILIP headquarters to hear my colleague Monique Ritchie and Andria McGrath, from Kings College, and David Buckley talk about their positions (Research Librarian, Research Information Specialist, and Liaison Officer for Any Book Library Services respectively) and how they support academics in their research. I arrived early, and after some considerable confusion as to what room the event was in, and having walked in on two separate meetings (one was a roundtable discussion that I have to admit I’m glad I wasn’t involved in; it appeared quite heated...) and walking around the labyrinthine CILIP's corridors for some time, I arrived, still punctually, for the meeting and sat down with a coffee and biscuit, courtesy of David Buckley.

David Buckley was the first to speak, and humorously too, about his company: Any Book Library Services. The company started in Greenwich and has since moved to Leicester where they are now based. They pick up books from libraries and sell them, splitting the money between the library and themselves. It sounded very interesting and I’m definitely more positive about giving books to them to sell; to pump the money back into the library as well as David’s company is surely better than hiring a skip to dump them in unloving. (And, of course, I feel compelled to support a fellow Buckley!)  David's company collect the books free of charge and 100% of profits are given to the library if the book sells on the first day of being uploaded to all of the usual suspects online (Amazon, Abe (also now owned by Amazon), Libris etc.). If it sells after that, the money given to the library is on a daily sliding scale; 1st day 100%, 2nd day 99%, and so on.  David seems passionate about his company and it’s certainly an interesting and seemingly profitable business model for both libraries and the company itself, but I have to admit I’m not entirely sure how it makes enough money, considering the competition for selling books online and the percentages Amazon, and the like, take from sellers.

Next up was Andria who discussed the importance of working with IT and research management as well as supporting academics. Andria highlighted the importance of providing training that is designed for supporting the researchers, however designing this training it seems is only half of the work; getting people to attend being the other half. Together with providing the teaching, Andria mentioned, the key to success is having very solid relationships with the institution, such as a good working relationship with the Graduate School in order to publicize and get people through the training room door. Along with providing training, another key skill is a willingness to professionally develop. Andria attended a course in Leiden, which, along with an amazing trip, helped her to fulfill her role to her full potential. Obviously this is not something that every institution is willing to pay for, especially in a time of falling student numbers and smaller budgets, but attending free events and training is something that is available, and well worthwhile.

The third Speaker, Monique Ritchie, Research Librarian at Brunel University, spoke about her new post supporting researchers and the Research Data Management Project. The key skills that Monique brought attention to are:

·      Flexibility and adaptability
·      Prioritizing
·      Diplomacy
·      Sense of adventure
·      Thinking strategically
·      Networking

Networking is something that has always sent a shiver down my spine, and many other people’s as well, but from the events that I have attended that have included that twenty minutes for “coffee, tea and (yes! the dreaded) chat”, that very twenty minutes has often been for me the most memorable. I’ve met some very interesting people and even stayed in touch with some. Other skills Monique drew our attention to are those that many other library roles require as well; most people it seems must be flexible with the ability to move around the institution, but with such a heavy workload for librarians supporting researchers, the skill of prioritization certainly seemed like a must. Other skills at first seemed more aligned with Parliament than libraries, such as diplomacy and strategy, but Monique soon explained that she often had to justify what she was doing and fight her corner. The research librarian has to stay up to date and even determine in advance what the needs of the researcher will be.

Supporting researchers seems to be a fluid role that constantly changes with the developing needs of researchers themselves, the publishing world, and changing academic practices.  Both speakers were incredibly enthusiastic towards their professional lives and appeared to relish the dynamic positions they held, and the opportunities for learning and developing they offered.

Monique's slides are available here:

Andria's slides are available here:

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