The librarian as researcher

Over the past few months the LIS Research Coalition has been involved in a number of conferences and meetings, as can be seen from the listings on the Events web page. Last week attention focused on the Librarian as Researcher event organised by the Yorkshire and Humberside branch of the University, College and Research (UC&R) group of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). As well as those who attended in person, a number of people followed the day’s proceedings on Twitter by watching the hashtag #ucryhres and corresponding with those tweeting, including @LISResearch. Miggie Pickton, who presented at this event, kindly agreed to contribute a guest blog posting on the day for the LIS Research Coalition web site.

Miggie is Research Support Specialist at the University of Northampton. She has been a great supporter of the LIS Research Coalition in the first year of its implementation. Miggie has served on the programme committee for the conference which takes place later in the month on Monday 28th June at the British Library, and is the one behind the organisation of the one minute madness session at this event.

Over to Miggie…

We all enjoyed a fun-filled day on practitioner research in York last Thursday, participating in the ‘Librarians as researchers’ event hosted by UC&R Yorkshire and Humberside. In the morning Jean McNiff of York St John University put us all through our paces as action researchers (yes, we actually did a piece of action research there and then) and then Sheila Corrall from the University of Sheffield’s i-School presented a set of convincing arguments for embarking on a higher degree in LIS. Professional doctorates appeal – a structured programme with lots of relevance to the day job – but, as yet, there not many professional doctorates available for LIS professionals in the UK.

Slightly awed by this exalted company, I was there banging the drum for practitioner research. But why would practitioners want to do research? The group came up with lots of reasons….

Research is good for the individual:

  • It is interesting – an opportunity to explore something in more depth, learn something new, satisfy your curiosity
  • It encourages you to challenge yourself, to move out of that comfort zone, develop new skills, become reflective, stretch yourself
  • It adds variety to the job – research involves a change from routine, an opportunity to do something different, work with new people
  • It involves making a personal connection with work
  • It increases job satisfaction
  • It enables you to do your job better
  • It supports professional development
  • It enhances personal profile and improves career prospects

Research is good for the service and the organisation:

  • It provides evidence of value and demonstrates impact
  • It underpins strategic improvement and other decision-making… and on the way research can help to solve problems and improve service
  • It leads to greater engagement with service users through:
    • Understanding their perspective
    • Showing that you’re interested in their needs
    • Doing what they do (promote the library as ‘academic’ department and the librarian as credible researcher)
  • It increases staff motivation and dynamism
  • It enhances organisational reputation and achieve recognition (within and beyond the institution)
  • It brings financial benefit – by generating income or discovering ways to reduce costs

Research is good for the profession:

  • It provokes conversation and debate (and not just within LIS – with other disciplines too)
  • It creates and disseminates new knowledge and good practice – furthering professional excellence (as CILIP would have us do)
  • It provokes positive change
  • It develops an engaged and vibrant professional community
  • It enhances the profession’s reputation and profile
  • It defines our professional future

And with all that is going for practitioner research, we’d better get on with it, taking advantage of continuing the conversation at other professional events that provide research support and opportunities to consider its context in LIS practice, such as the LIS Research Coalition conference at the end of this month.

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