By Allison Campbell-Jensen
By supporting campus researchers and by doing their own research, U of M librarians carry out key roles on campus and in their profession.
As a profession, librarians are all about helping people organize and access information and data, says Carissa Tomlinson, Libraries Director for Physical Sciences & Engineering. “Even those who don’t work with patrons help make information accessible,” she says.
Researchers can take advantage of a variety of support available from librarians. Librarians can help researchers, for instance, find a workshop so they can manage their own information by setting up a citation manager system to organize articles they’ve found.
Many funders require that researchers make their data findable and usable. As an example, librarians help develop work flows and processes so that the Center for Sustainable Polymers and the Materials Research Science & Engineering Centers can move their data into the Data Repository for U of M (DRUM). There it meets funders guidelines and others can discover it.
“We also help faculty with managing their scholarly identity,” Tomlinson says. Our Experts@MN service is one way to demonstrate their scholarly work.
In addition, researchers need to show their impact within their profession; evidence of how many times their articles have been cited by other researchers is just one way to do that.
Librarians often collaborate with faculty and researchers to create a very exhaustive study of everything that has been published on a specific topic for a systematic review. These reviews are highly valued research projects for librarians in the health sciences, notes Lisa McGuire, Associate Director for Research & Education in the Health Sciences Libraries. She says the work can be difficult but “it’s also great to be a co-author.”
It’s not just faculty and grad students who benefit, Tomlinson points out. Librarians also support undergraduate students as they are learning to become researchers.
Facile with skills
Being flexible and skillful is key. Danya Leebaw, Director, Social Sciences & Professional Programs, says that the social sciences have a great variety of research methods. “We have very humanities-oriented research happening and also have disciplines like psychology that in some other institutions are situated in the sciences.” As a result, she says, the librarians need to be facile with different skills.
For example, the Libraries hired Librarian Cody Hennesy a couple of years ago with a specific skill in mind, text mining, which is a growing area of research in the social sciences and humanities. He’s been teaching workshops so that other librarians might increase their skills, too.
“At heart,” says McGuire, “librarianship is a practice-based profession but it has this theoretical underpinning of research that has gone before.”
Academic librarians on the continuous appointment track are expected to do their own research. “It helps us grow as a profession,” Tomlinson says. Librarians may do a case study, for instance. Research may grow out of a role, says Leebaw. Hennesy researches text mining, including the legal literacies for text mining, as one can run into legal issues while downloading a large body of text.
Because of past incidents in which research was shown not to be reproducible, Leebaw says, Amy Riegelman in her field has been focused on reproducibility of research. Also, she has researched what happens — and what doesn’t — when articles are retracted: not all databases reflect that status. So she not only does systematic reviews, she also researches them.
Another example: Leebaw has been doing research on critical management studies, and what that can teach librarians about academic library management. And an examination of faculty opinions on research impact metrics was recently published by Caitlin Bakker, Kristen Cooper, Allison Langham-Putrow, and Jenny McBurney, which will inform future direction for librarians’ service to researchers.
The research projects of our librarians, Leebaw says, are “thought-leading research that energizes the organization and draws attention to our work.”