A librarian's view: 'focus on the real needs of researchers'

Share this on social media:

Olga Koz describes how her job as an academic librarian has evolved and expanded over the years 

My interest in all aspects of knowledge creation, sharing, and communication started very early on in my career.

I'm a researcher who creates knowledge, a librarian who supports access to knowledge, a teacher who spreads knowledge, and was a psychologist who consulted 'knowledge workers'. Changing career paths, moving from one part of the world to another and gaining graduate-level and doctoral degrees in different countries prepared me to be more collaborative with people from different 'tribes'.

As an academic librarian, I assist graduate level students at the College of Education.

To be as effective as possible, I became an embedded librarian. It means that I have an office in the college and co-teach research-intensive courses. Though it is not a common practice in US universities, there are plenty of examples when a librarian is integrated into a curriculum or serves as a part of a faculty research team. The latter is still rare. It entails not only assisting researchers in finding knowledge but actively engaging in the process of producing it.

The library administration is supportive of my trying innovative ways to serve college academic community, and at the college I was fortunate to meet a group of educators and researchers who invited me to join them in the creation of the faculty-driven organisation, the Research Consortium (RC).

The decision to create this informal organisation was born out of necessity, in a situation where the university provides limited services (seeking funding) to support the whole research cycle, from the initial stage of planning research to publishing and promoting scholarship. We, the RC Committee, have surveyed college faculty and graduate students, mapped existing resources and services to a research life cycle to find out where we, RC methodologists, the editor, the writing specialist, and the librarian, might add value.

From the beginning, we decided to pull our expertise together and focus on the real needs of researchers.

An initial survey in 2016 showed that most researchers want RC support for: coaching on writing; citation and document management; checking the quality of instruments; and selecting journals for publications. For example, in collaboration with the college faculty, I conducted seminars, created the guide to journals by topic, listing their acceptance rates and impact factors, and offered individual consulting sessions on how to select the right journal, authors’ rights, an overview of open access journals and repositories.

I customised my seminar about citation management and include analysis of citations using digital and visualisation tools on the literature mapping. A survey of doctoral students regarding their research needs presented different results. In response to the survey, the RC began building an Interactive Research Methods Lab.

Working in a researcher-driven organisation like the RC means you do not force your ideas but monitor environmental changes, new methodologies and technologies, and offer help in response to the real needs of researchers. The second survey (2018) and the analysis of the RC requests indicated the increased interest in learning more about 'alternative publishing', i.e the open access (OA) movement. The RC Committee teamed up with newly hired scholarly communication librarian to organise an OA event. Measuring research impact, promoting and evaluating faculty scholarship was another area that all members of the Research Consortium were interested and involved, from learning about alternative impact factors to supporting more holistic approach by faculty tenure and promotion committees.

Unfortunately, discussion at the library associations’ seminars, publications, blogs, and listservs revolves around two aspects of the scholarly communication, publishing or research dissemination and 'open access'. After 10 years of advocating for the creation of institutional repositories, supporting Green and Gold OA, fighting for better license agreements with publishers, I clearly see my and my library colleagues' limitations in changing the whole scholarly publishing infrastructure and the role of government’ or public universities financial support in the dissemination of research and scholarship.

At the same time, the librarians with their unique combinations of research skills and competencies in knowledge management might be able to add value to other areas of the research cycle and further investigate how we can support not only open access but open science, communication, sharing knowledge, and collaboration throughout the research process and our immediate academic community.

I am very interested in the idea of 'open science', where researchers make available their reviews of literature, research protocols, instruments, data, digital analytical tools or even results for peer-review or sharing before publishing in a scholarly journal. Curating and organising repositories for these 'research elements' should be one of our priorities. As an information and knowledge management professional, I should play an important part not only in formal scholarly communication but informal as well. As an engaged and embedded librarian I am dedicated to continuously working to eliminate the structural and behavioural barriers in communication, and in collaboration to promote knowledge.

Olga Koz is a graduate education librarian and librarian associate professor at the Bagwell College of Education, Kennesaw State University, USA.

  • Do Olga's experiences chime with you? Would you like to share your thoughts as a librarian with the readers of Research Information? Email tim.gillett@europascience.com