Finding your place

I was asked to make a video about tips for new researchers and I was taken back to thinking about a workshop Emma and I ran twice on doing research as a librarian. We talked about finding your niche and finding a place to think. When I talk about finding your place I mean both of those things. But I also think librarians struggle with their identity as a researcher (as I suspect many people do, undergraduate students for example). But librarians often spend a lot of time helping other people do research and providing ‘support’ when in reality they should be acknowledged as researchers. I am not sure why they are not, but I think changing your own attitude towards your identity might help. If we didn’t have libraries and librarians a huge amount of research would be impossible. We provide access to the literature, we hold archives of huge significance which we help people to navigate and interrogate. We are not just providing a support to the research process, we are underpinning it, we are providing the research with the foundations on which it stands. As we know, all research and ideas are built on things that have gone before. So finding your place is all about recognising, even if you think you don’t do research, as a librarian you probably do. Or as someone who provides specialist advice and support to others on information related issues, then you are in a pretty important place! A house won’t stay up without solid foundations. And good research has to be built on solid information and knowledge.

I think research can sometimes be an exclusive place that makes people feel they are not worthy. Even the language and methodologies, in fact any of the -ologies are horribly scary. That’s not to say anyone can just do research. There are things you need to do properly, like devising a decent research question – and one that can be answered! And finding an appropriate way to collect the data you need. It’s also important not to just go looking for evidence that backs up what you think is true. Having a critical friend with a different perspective to you can be really helpful here. However, for me finding your place is all about finding the topics that you are passionate about, so the research really matters to you. The best research projects I have worked on are ones where I feel like I am making a difference, or helping to develop something that will make a difference, even if just in a small way. And there are lots of different types of research, much of what I do has a really practical application. But that still doesn’t mean I don’t try to read some literature, see what others have done in the field, and develop a robust methodology. One example is the research I’ve been doing with Chris on librarians and copyright – what do they want to learn more about and what aspects of copyright cause them concern? And then let’s try and see what their experience of copyright as a phenomenon might tell us about how to improve things. This research helped us write the recent guidance for librarians on the Copyrightuser.org website. But it should also help us to develop and improve resources like Copyright the Card Game. So, I urge you to start thinking of yourself as a researcher and get out there and try to find your place where you can make a difference!

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