The Insider’s view from the Library: 7 things I bet you didn’t know librarians could help you with.

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Research Degree Insiders doesn’t normally do guest posts, but this was a special exception. While I have worked in jobs across the university sector, academic and professional, and I have often worked in Libraries and with librarians… this is one part of the uni that I’m not an insider in! 

So I was really excited to be linked up with Eleanor Colla, a Research Relationships Manager in the university library at the University of New England in NSW, Australia. Eleanor gives us 7 insights into services librarians can offer to support you in your research. 

People often think librarians just do books and EndNote–but contemporary libraries actually offer research support for a whole range of things that are more widely to do with organised knowledge: data, metadata, data storage, data analysis, data communication and more! In this post, guest librarian Eleanor Colla tells us 7 things I bet you didn’t know librarians could help you with.

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With the research lifecycle getting longer and longer, researchers are being told to do more research in less time, and more and more ‘non research’ jobs are required of researchers. There really should be a group of people to assist in the whole research process. Don’t worry- there is! And they’re called librarians.

A lot of students I meet have never spoken to a librarian before and have come to us as a last resort. I hope that students- and academics- will begin to see the benefit and worth of using not just the library but librarians. I leave you with this: it is okay to come to us at any time, it is okay to ask any question, and it is okay to be unsure what the question is you are asking. We can help you figure it out together.

Incorporating the library, and librarians, in your research lifecycle will be beneficial to you and your research. Since graduating ‘library school’ I have worked in a number of tertiary libraries across the Eastern coast of Australia. In all of these positions I have assisted researchers (both academics and post-graduate students) in a surprising number of different ways, always centred around their research.

In Australia, tertiary libraries have a significant commitment to research and our resources extend further than database subscriptions and running sessions on EndNote. The role I am currently in is a new position created to recognise the space that sits between information management and research management and that more strategic initiative was needed to drive library-based and library-assisted research projects, conversations, and services.

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Below I outline some of the ways I have assisted postgraduate students and academics with their research in my role as a Researcher Services Librarian.

1. Databases and keywords

Librarians spend a lot of time in both general and subject-specific databases so there’s a good chance we know the terminology being used in the literature and how to turn your key words into an effective search term. I find many students are unaware that you can save searches in databases and have the search alerts and table of content alerts set up and emailed directly to you. This can be very useful when doing research over an extended period of time.

2. Literature review

Many students begin a library consultation with the statement, ‘I need to do a literature review’.

I have many follow up questions: Are you doing a standard literature review or a systematic literature review? Does your systematic literature review require a meta-analysis? Does it need to be registered? How will you know what databases cover which journals and what keywords they prefer so you can map the most effective search strategy? How will you be keeping a record of all of this?

Often, students are unable to answer most of these questions. Meeting with your librarian early will assist you in creating a more systematic and reproducible methodology and research in the early stages of your dissertation. This is often done in tandem with supervisors. I also recommend seeing if your library has a form you are required to fill out in regards to asking for assisting with literature reviews.

3. Publishing

At UNE we regularly run information session on the publishing process (and yes, as a librarian I have published articles and presented at conferences). Whilst many librarians may not have as much experience with academic publishing as academics and post-graduate students, we are well placed to discuss issues regarding predatory publishing, data management, copyright, and more. Academics and students often contact us to scope out potential journals for research they are planning. If you’re very new to academic publishing here is a useful resourceto get you thinking about the processes involved and some questions you should be asking- and be able to answer!

4. Institutional repositories

Librarians often work closely with an institution’s repository team and can assist researchers with ingesting work. Many institutional repositories are indexed by Google which allows you and your work to be more easily found. At many institutions you can submit a research output at any time to your repository so don’t wait until the end of the year or the last day before the deadline to do so. Making this process part of your research culture (as soon as your research is published you submit it to the repository) will save you a lot of time.

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5. Author profiles

Having author profiles- such as ORCID, Google Scholar, and Scopus AuthorID- up to date and correct is important. Libraries often host drop-in sessions to assist in setting up and maintaining these profiles. Whilst this may seem like a bit of a hassle having author profiles up to date allows for easier HR processes (and trust me, you want admin staff on your side!), easier integration when submitting an article to a journal or applying for an ARC grant, and are often incorporated into academic promotion rounds and professional end of year reviews.

6. Digital research support

Whilst some institutions may have specialised data and software technicians the library can often assist with a variety of software issues and literacy. At UNE, we also assist in archiving data collected for research purposes, sourcing published datasets, and contacting people on behalf of researchers because often people are more likely to respond to a librarian than they are to a student.

7. Impact

There is more and more pressure to track your research through academic impact (metrics) and the Australian Government’s Engagement and Impact Agenda. Librarians often discuss this with researchers and can provide ways of planning, implementing, tracking, and using this information. Many researchers request metrics reports for grant applications and academic promotions. As librarians, we not only collect all this data but we are able to provide context for it. I stress the importance of having your intuitional repository, CV, and author profiles up to date if you request a metrics report. If a researcher has everything ready to go this can take a few days. If there are gaps in the repository, an out of date ORCiD, multiple Scopus AuthorIDs….well you’ll be looking at probably longer than a month for a report to be able to be compiled for you.

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When I was assigned to a particular School or Faculty I made it a point to go to as many public meetings, forums, seminars, and morning teas as I could. I found that interacting with researchers here, in their own environment, was of most benefit to them. Many people would not think to email the library- and if they did think to they often didn’t know who to actually email- to ask a question or mention an issue they were having trouble with but mentioning it casually over a cup of tea was okay.

Many people were also surprised as to what librarians actually do, so much so that I once hosted a talk to a School just telling them all the ways in which the Library could assist them and how they could get I contact with us. I see this as largely an issue that lies with librarians for, as a profession, we are inherently undermining our own services and not telling people about them enough. Though when a researcher responds to a question about whether they received an email I sent out with ‘I don’t read emails from the library, the library is for undergraduate students’ it is clear the issue goes both ways.

I encourage you to contact the librarians at your institution. It’s likely they also offer research support you have been just wishing someone would offer you!

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Eleanor Colla is a Research Relationships Manager at the University of New England in NSW, Australia. In this role she drives strategic library projects across the institution, working closely with the Research Office, Faculties, research support staff, and researchers. Prior to this Eleanor was a Researcher Services Librarian where she assisted academics and postgraduate researchers at any point of need in the research lifecycle. Eleanor was a QULOC Graduate Librarian allowing her to work at a number of tertiary libraries throughout Brisbane. Since graduating library school Eleanor has never shelved a book on paid work time. Eleanor can be found on twitter at  and on LinkedIn

Thanks so much for sharing Eleanor!

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