Sunday 17 November 2019

The New Normal? Reflections on the Charleston Library Conference 2019

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Charleston Library Conference in the US. This annual event is about to celebrate its 40th anniversary and it's easy to see why. Sessions on multiple topics mean there is something for everyone, there are plenty of social events to meet new people and the atmosphere is very welcoming - especially to someone attending the conference from another country. I can't possibly comment on everything I covered in my two and a half days but below I'm going to pick out some of my highlights.

Building bridges?
There were several keynotes over the course of the conference including the opening session from Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. Brewster's talk looked at how we as librarians can fill the various gaps in the information landscape in order to create a more complete picture for our learners. There are two main ways in which we can do this: access and preservation. As with most things today, digital is the default and this is where they gaps start to become apparent. The average webpage only lasts for 1000 days before it is changed or deleted and this can make linking to permanent references difficult. Linking sites such as the ever popular Wikipedia to resources such as the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine can help to offer stable access to the resources that are cited in articles and build a reliable network of knowledge. Linking to directly to digitised copies of book pages enables users to check the references and quote directly from the source, but this is obviously not without copyright issues. Brewster also made the point that it is important to help preserve our shared history through digitisation. We are at a time when we are losing the survivors of many of the most important events of the last century and that soon recorded accounts are all we will have left. We need to take this chance to preserve this knowledge and the keynote was the ideal chance to announce a partnership between the Internet Archive and Better World Books which aims to use digitisation to create an online library of knowledge. You can read more about the project here.

The other keynote which struck a chord was given by Kumsal Bayazit, the new CEO of Elsevier. Working in scholarly communication can mean a somewhat difficult relationship with the Dutch publishing company and I was pleased to see Kumsal acknowledge the problems that exist and Elsevier's role in them. However, the scholarly publishing process involves a lot of different players (including libraries) and there is never only one party to blame for issues. The theme of the keynote was building bridges, something that is going to be important as we move forward. Kumsal certainly came across well I her speech and there were a mixture of reactions from the audience. I will reserve judgement for now as I prefer to judge on actions rather than words but hopefully this new appointment marks a turning point. You can watch the keynote via YouTube and draw your own conclusions.

Common research problems
Working in a research support role, I was obviously interested in attending many of the scholarly communication sessions on offer. There were too many interesting take-aways to mention in one report but one of recurring theme was that of predatory publishers. This is a phenomenon that I've written about before and one that still continues to be a problem for researchers at every career stage. Researchers are now more aware that there are unscrupulous publishers which can target them for content and the potential consequences of using them. These consequences vary in seriousness depending on individual circumstances but for most researchers the worst thing that will happen is a wasted opportunity for publication elsewhere. However, we should not underestimate the impact that this can have. Researchers are under ever increasing pressure to publish and make an impact with their work and we need to remember the effort that goes into each output they produce. To have this effort wasted can be a major blow with unexpected consequences to the mental health of the individual. I was also pleased to see the role that librarians can play in educating their community on these problem publishers discussed. As researchers themselves have identified this as a problem they are often engaged with finding a solution and several presenters offered up tips and tricks that had worked for their community. Adapting my session on predatory publishers is something I will be making a priority in my new role as this is obviously something researchers want help with. Many presenters noted that working to help researchers with the predatory publisher problem is a great way to showcase how the library can support the research process so I'm hoping this builds a strong foundation for future partnerships.

Copyright was another theme running through many sessions. Obviously copyright law differs between the UK and the US but many of the same issues were under discussion and researchers seem to struggle to understand the law no matter where in the world they are. One of the highlights of the conference for me was the 'Long Arm of the Law' session. It came highly recommended and I can see why! It was informative as well as entertaining and I definitely learnt a lot about both the US approach to copyright and an effective way to get the message across. Among the topics under discussion were the ones of Katie Perry and whether you can copyright the design of a yellow plastic duck (you can't!). As many library colleagues will know, copyright can often be a dry subject and anything which makes it more relatable and engages learners is a plus. I will definitely be using more fun examples in my copyright training in the future - hopefully it will help to get the more serious messages across!
Plan S and transformative agreements have been some of the biggest developments in scholarly communication in recent months and it was no surprise to see so many sessions focusing on both aspects. They were both a major element of discussion and I was pleased to see that they were so well attended (many were standing room only). This indicates that there is significant interest in these areas, both from library staff and those they represent. It was also interesting to hear about this from a US perspective as a UK librarian. We all fall into the trap of thinking that these changes happen in a vacuum and it was good to see the wider implications of these developments acknowledged and discussed. 

Does motivation matter?
Another important part of my role will be developing information literacy instruction. This is something I'm fairly new at so I took the opportunity to learn more in Charleston. One particularly memorable session was Snake News or Fake News. This interactive quiz-show style session showcased the results of research undertaken by staff at at the University of Florida into how students identify the content they find online. Can they tell if a resource is a blog or a journal article? How likely are they to trust content from these sources are will they cite what they find online? The insights gained from the simulation project were really interesting and showed that brand recognition was one of the most important elements for students when identifying resources. Students trusted materials from sites such as Nature and Springer as they recognised the brand names but were often confused about what the materials actually were for the same reason - Springer are known for journals so everything they produce must be a journal, right? This (lack of) brand recognition is something that I find really interesting and I will definitely be thinking about this as I plan my info lit training moving forward.

Having worked with early career researchers I was interested to attend a session looking at their motivations for using ResearchGate. As librarians we can sometimes be tempted to tell our users not to sign up for these sites but this is pointless (and potentially incorrect) advice. As the session pointed out, those who are critical of these sites are not usually the ones using them! The session offered some interesting insights such as the fact that researchers were very concerned about their future digital footprint and wanted to use ResearchGate as a way to establish that. Even more interesting was the fact that although they liked having a way to create their own digital repository of works, they were not completely sure how to make the best of ResearchGate and tended to check it when prompted rather than actively use it. At the end of the day, having a presence on the site showed that the researcher was active and they felt that this would be important for their career development. These are all lessons that I will be taking back to my interactions with my own research community when talking to them about their online presence. I don't caution against use of particular sites but rather give them the tools to make their own choices and understanding their motivations is an important part of this.

Is Open Access the new normal?
Perhaps the biggest takeaways for me came in the wrap-up session at the end of the conference. As part of the closing Poll-a-palooza, attendees were asked to participate in a number of online polls about the conference including the terms which summed up the event for us. One reflection that was made was that Open Access was a less prominent term than it had been in recent years. This led to the question of whether we have reached a situation where Open Access is now so much the norm that we have moved on to discussing other things? This mirrors discussions I have been having with colleagues recently. Our researchers largely accept Open Access as a concept so is it time to move on to discussing the wider issue of Open Research? I think so and it appears that others at the event agreed, The point was made that there are many factors involved in moving towards an open future but the key is people. We might all have different opinions on how it should be done but we are now (mostly!) moving towards the same goal when is comes to Open Research. There will be bumps along the way but hopefully at a future Charleston Conference we will be talking about Open Research as the new normal and moving on to the next big topic.
You can find more information on sessions at the Charleston Library Conference on the conference website.

Monday 29 July 2019

Research Support Training Resources

Over the past few years, both within my role and outside, I have been lucky enough to develop a range of training materials. Most of these are related to scholarly communication and research support although other areas also creep in from time to time! I try my best to upload all of my content  to Apollo - the University of Cambridge repository - but sometimes life gets in the way. All of my content ends up somewhere and as people are often asking for copies of materials I have created a site on Humanities Commons to keep everything in the same place.

Research Support Skills Training Logo

I have compiled all of my training materials to date at the imaginatively titled Research Support Training together with lists of conference presentations and publications. All of the materials are available under a CC-BY 4.0 licence meaning that they can be used and adapted as needed as long as the original author is credited. 

Topics covered include Open Access, data management, the publication process, copyright, metrics and librarians as researchers. There are a variety of formats to choose from including printed materials, online courses, podcasts and webinars so there should be something for everybody.

Further training materials will be added as and when they are developed but for now please help yourselves! 

Wednesday 8 May 2019

Literacy Lessons from LILAC

The annual LILAC Conference took place a couple of weeks ago in Nottingham and I was lucky enough to attend (mainly thanks to Jane Secker who asked me to speak as part of a panel discussion!). This is likely to be my last LILAC Conference for a while so I tried to make the most of it.

I find blogging a good way to bring my thoughts on the conference together - although there was really too much to try and fit into one post. I always come away from LILAC full of enthusiasm and ideas and the 2019 conference was no exception. If you want to read my thoughts I have written a post for the CILN (Cambridge Information Literacy Network) blog which can be found here. I've also collected the tweets I sent during the event in an archive here. I use Twitter as a note-taking tool at events so hopefully I've managed to capture everything there that I was unable to in my post.

Tuesday 8 January 2019

Moving Online: Training Librarians in 2018

This blog has been a little neglected of late as I have had several projects to work on which sadly leaves limited time for blogging. Hopefully many of these projects will be wrapping up soon and then I can get back into writing. In the mean time you can catch up with some of what has been keeping me busy via the blog post below which was originally published on the Unlocking Research blog and is reposted here via a CC-BY license.

Moving Online: Training Librarians in 2018

As we move into 2019 it is a good time to look back at another year spent training the library community, both in Cambridge and more widely. Over the last 12 months, the Office of Scholarly Communication has held nearly 50 training sessions for Cambridge staff on topics ranging from navigating copyright issues to the mechanics of the publishing process. 

Face to face

We have continued to deliver high-quality face-to-face training sessions on many topics. Sometimes sessions just work better when participants are all together in a room, especially if there are a lot of activities. For example, our sessions looking at Research Data Management and Data Management Plans are designed to be interactive and so wouldn’t really work in any other format. Feedback from sessions tells us that participants really value the chance to meet other librarians and hear their perspectives on things.
Cambridge has more than 100 libraries including faculties, departments, colleges and connecting institutions. Many staff do not get to meet each other unless working on a specific project and even working in the same university it can be hard to avoid becoming too focused on local issues. Attending workshops and other training sessions allows conversations to happen and several people have told us that they really value the chance to connect with their colleagues. 
Webinars to the rescue!

Of course, librarians are very busy people so sometimes it’s just not possible for them to attend sessions in-person. Working in small teams often means that staff are unable to leave the library to go to training, especially when travel time and family commitments are factored into the equation.
To help with this we introduced webinars as a delivery method in 2017. This means that staff can either attend training sessions remotely or catch up with a recording.  Because of the success of this project we have continued to deliver sessions via webinar in 2018 and feedback from attendees tells us we are doing something right! Several people have commented that they have attended sessions online which they would otherwise not have been able to make but others have had some suggestions for improvement.
It can be hard to carve time out a busy schedule to attend even an hour-long webinar so there needs to be some incentive like an activity so people get the benefit of attending live. We have taken this on board and tried to build in interactive elements where appropriate. The main lesson we have learnt about webinars is that they are particularly useful for information delivery sessions which would usually involve someone standing at the front of the class delivering a talk. People can easily listen to this at their desk and/or ask questions through the webinar chat box without having to leave work.
Most of these webinars are shared with a Cambridge audience only but a few have been released more widely such as our talk on How to Spot a Predatory Publisher. As discussed in our previous post on advertising videos we have discovered that naming our content something that people are likely to Google is a great way to increase hits! 
Increasing discoverability

As we offer more and more webinars we are starting to think about the best way to collate and share these. Although they can be useful resources, people need to know where to find them without having to hunt around. One of our priorities for 2019 is to gather both our webinars and online resources together to create a mini-hub where library staff can go to find more information.
These resources include webinar recordings but also the results of two other training projects from 2018: our Research in 3 Minutes videos and our Scholarly Communication Information Booklets. Research in 3 Minutes in a series of short videos which outline basic concepts in scholarly communication. Most of these areas can be quite complicated and terminology laden and these videos aim to provide an accessible introduction. They can also be uploaded for display on screens around the library or on other webpages to engage users. We started to create Information Booklets when we realised that all librarians love a handout (at least in our experience!).
These four-page booklets can be viewed online or printed out and offer a more in-depth look at areas we are often asked about, for example what exactly is a Creative Commons license? There are six booklets in the series so far, covering everything from the publication lifecycle to academic social networking and we aim to add more in 2019. 
Online learning

One of our biggest forays into online learning took place with the Research Support Ambassador programme. This is an annual programme aimed at educating library staff on the core elements of research support and in previous years it has been run both face-to-face and via webinar.
This year we decided to do something different and used Moodle to create a completely online course. Participants were able to work though modules including video content, quizzes and discussions to test their understanding of the concepts. Each module was assessed by an activity which allowed learners to put their new knowledge into practice by undertaking a research support task. Examples of this included assessing a data management plan and attempting to spot a predatory publisher.
Overall the course was completed by 20 participants who gave us a lot of positive feedback on the format as well as suggestions for improvements. In the next few years this is something we would like to expand on, perhaps to those outside Cambridge… 
Beyond the University

That doesn’t mean we have neglected non-Cambridge librarians this year. In March our Research Support Skills Coordinator delivered two well-attended sessions on Moving Into Research Support with CILIP. The original session was so popular that we had to add a second and attendees came from around the UK to hear how they could get involved in this exciting new area. There was also a return visit to CILIP HQ in London for their 2018 Careers Day where attendees were introduced to the wonders of working in research support (including dealing with penguin poop and breaking the internet).

We also contributed to a range of other events such as LILAC 2018 and Dawson Day held in the summer – both of which gave us a chance to talk about the need for training in scholarly communication literacy for library staff. 
All in all 2018 has been a very busy year for training but we will not be slowing down in 2019. We have plans to expand our online training offer and deliver even more face-to-face sessions for our community. Who knows what this blog will contain this time next year? Readers had better stay tuned to find out! 
Originally published 8th January 2018 on the Unlocking Research blog.