v29 #5 The Evolving Role of the Library in Supporting a Changing Research Landscape

by | Dec 11, 2017 | 0 comments

by Karen Phillips (SVP Global Learning Resources, SAGE Publishing)

In this special issue of Against the Grain, we aim to highlight some of the diverse ways that academic librarians support the research endeavors of researchers in their institutions at all levels and across all disciplines and in a changing methods landscape. At SAGE Publishing, we share with librarians a focus of supporting the researcher, and we do this primarily through our research methods publishing program, from our introductory reference resources, our journals publishing, through to our QASS series of quantitative techniques for the advanced researcher, and of course our digital library research tool SAGE Research Methods. In this issue, we want to draw on our publishing experience to highlight some of the trends in research as well as the library’s response to these changes.
We will draw on the perspective of the academic and student researcher, the librarian as researcher, as well as the librarian as provider of research materials and resources and as advisor in managing research data. As new types of big data research emerge, the need will only increase for knowledgeable support in how to manage data and maintain openness and transparency in both data and research.
In this issue we start with two librarian perspectives on how they support research in their institutions. Anne Langley’s article, “How Research Libraries Support the Research Process,” points to how the research process has become more complicated for researchers with new funder requirements, metrics to understand, and demands of information management. She outlines how librarians have become more service-oriented, listening and responding to the needs of researchers. Roz Tedford’s article, “Expert, Guide, Cheerleader, Coach, Fake News Combatant,” focuses on the librarian support for the student researcher ranging from a whole class session to one-to-one support for a research project. In an era of fake news, she points to a faculty need for the library to help students learn which sources to trust.
We are delighted to bring to this issue the voices of both a researcher and student, Diane Hirshberg and Iain Miller, each talking about how they use library services and take advantage of the expertise of their librarians, when they find the library most helpful, and tips for librarians looking to strengthen their relationship with faculty and support for students. We also bring the voice of the librarian as researcher with an article by Frans Albarillo, “A Librarian’s Journey to Becoming a Researcher-Practitioner,” which brings insights of the process and skills involved in a librarian becoming a researcher and how the joint roles support each other.
A key part of library support for the researcher comes from library collections, from journals databases to primary source special collections. Michael Levine-Clark’s paper, “Primary Sources as a Vital Part of An Academic Library Collection,” outlines the important role of primary source collections in engaging humanities and social science students in research and getting them to think critically about their topic of interest and how the librarian can work with faculty to integrate these resources into their teaching.
Newer but increasingly essential areas of library support for the researcher have emerged around data management. Sayeed Choudhury’s article, “Data Management and Preservation of Digital Research Data,” points to the evolving nature of data-intensive research and teaching and the need for libraries to offer data management services to support research workflows that come with increasingly large and complicated data. He outlines principles for the librarian to navigate this new terrain.
Finally, we look at the increasing demands on researchers for openness and transparency and how the librarian can support researchers in successfully responding to these trends. An interview with Arthur Lupia outlines the response of the research community to these trends, setting up Data Access & Research Transparency (DA-RT), and providing transparency and openness guidelines for researchers. He sees librarians as being on the frontline of these initiatives for change and working together with DA-RT and the Center for Open Science they can help bring about changes that are needed to maintain the legitimacy of Higher Education research as the source of valid and reliable knowledge.
This is a time of change in both the methods of research, and the roles of the academic librarian. These changes come with challenges of dealing with increasing complexity, increased demands for transparency and openness, and more complex research datasets to manage. This all means more pressure for librarians to continually evolve their roles as supporting research of students and faculty comes with new demands. At SAGE Publishing, we are keen to find ways of supporting academic librarians to rise to these challenges. As several of our contributors point out, this is also an exciting time to find new ways of inserting the library into the research process of their institutions, developing new skills and bringing in new specialist roles to the library. I’d like to thank our contributors for sharing their experiences and insights and giving us all lots of food for thought in how to keep the research of the institution at the heart of the activities of the library.

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