Librarians – research support or research partners? 1


To say that the research activity at GUC has increased is a gross understatement. From 2004 to 2012 we went from having 8,2 publication points (1) to 88,6 points. In that time we have also gotten our own PhD programme and PhD research positions as well as grants for faculty staff members who want to get their PhDs at others institutions.

So – what about the librarians` role? Are we still just research support staff – a person you can call when you need a little help with your reference manager or to dig up a copy of some ancient journal article? OR do we see a new role emerging..?

Several librarians I have talked to lately has spoken about their competence in seaching, finding, evaluating sources and documentation now being sought for something more than “support”. Mariann Mathiesen, a librarian at the Norwegian knowledge center for health services, was part of a research team. Not only did she give advice about knowledge organisation subjects, but she actually did the systematic searches involved in the study that the team was working on, and Mathiesen was made co-author of the study. (Btw, read her excellent, award-winning Master`s thesis – if you read Norwegian..) Is this the way of the future? Can we become valued partners in research teams?

Of course, there are some questions:

  • Resources: Do libraries have the resources to let their librarians engage in research teams?
  • Skills: Do all librarians have the necessary skills to do the job properly?
  • Interest: Are librarians interested in these kinds of tasks?
  • Interprofessional knowledge: Do researchers know that they can ask librarians about these issues?
  • Will: Do the researcher want to engage librarians – as equal partners?

I think it very likely that some research teams here at GUC could have had good use of the librarians` expertise in knowledge organisation, and I (personally) would be very interested in participating in such a team (as a partner), but I also think that I would have to learn by doing, and that I would be a little anxious about not getting it right the first time (Control freak= me). I have talked about Embedded librarianship before, and I still very much believe that we need to be better integrated in the academic environment at our institutions. Being true research partners in teams would certainly be a step in the right direction here.

I read the article “Librarians as Partners: Moving from Research Supporters to Research Partners” by Monroe-Gulick, O`Brian and White(2013)  today – and the article served as inspiration for this blog post. Although the article didn`t really provide me with much new information, I think the fact that it is being discussed at all is interesting. And then again — it seems like we (meaning the library profession) is moving in very different directions. On one hand we are to be “learning centres”, focussing our efforts on our students and to provide them with the academic writing skills they need as well as more traditional services like access to information. On the other hand we need to be/ want to be partners in research teams. These are interesting times to be a librarian. I think that we`ll see more of this professional developments and that we are moving towards a less unified perception on what a librarian is. There will probably be no such thing as “core competensies” to all librarians in a while. We will be “research librarians”, “teaching librarians”, “digital service librarians” etc. and probably have less in common than we do now. The questions are: How do we handle the transition? Are we willing to live with the consequences of our choices?

Well – these were just a few musings (and rants) on a Thursday afternoon. And now– coffee!

Monroe-Gulick, A., O`Brian, M.S., and White, G. (2013). Librarians as Partners: Moving from Research Supporters to Research Partners (online) URL: http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/2013/papers/GulickOBrienWhite_Librarians.pdf (25.04.2013).

(1) Here in Norway there is a system of awarding publication points for different types of research publications. The institutions then receive monetary support according to publication points achieved.


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