Connecting with the Community: Marie Kennedy on supporting librarians as researchers

By Kim Hill, Sales Manager, SAGE

kimMarie Kennedy is a Serials & Electronic Resources Librarian at Loyola Marymount University. I’ve worked with Marie for several years both in my prior role at Springer and now at SAGE.   In 2014, SAGE began to support the Institute for Research Design in Librarianship, a two-week program that equips librarians to design and conduct research projects. This is a one-of a kind program and we at SAGE are happy to be involved with these continuing education efforts of our customers – past, present and future.    It is a pleasure to share our interview with Marie, available below.

Q. In your opinion, how well do library schools prepare sMarie Kennedytudents to conduct their own research?

Library schools have a lot to contend with. They’re responsible for creating a curriculum that supports all kinds of future librarians. How they make that curriculum work for everyone is tough!

In 2010 we conducted a national survey of academic librarians and asked them about their research methods training. Of 815 respondents 57% believed that their LIS master’s degrees adequately prepared them to read and understand research-based literature, but only 26% believed that their LIS master’s degrees adequately prepared them to conduct original research.

Q. What was your original impetus for creating an Institute that would support librarians as researchers?

I noticed that as I was reading the library literature the quality of the articles was uneven. Some of the research was designed very well and some was not so great. I wondered why that may be, and then I discovered that only 61% of the 49 American Library Association (ALA)-accredited LIS degree programs with online information about degree requirements listed research methods as a required course in the curriculum (based on a 2010 article by Lili Luo). There was my explanation; not all librarians were being trained to conduct research. Even if a librarian did receive training, however, by the time they are ready to apply a research strategy to a problem that skill set may be diminished due to a time lag.

I scoured the Internet for continuing education courses for practicing librarians in research design and saw that there were none. I brought the idea to our Dean of the Library, Kristine Brancolini, and we decided to do something about it. We created the Institute for Research Design in Librarianship (IRDL).

Q. From what you’ve heard at the Institute, what are the biggest obstacles that librarians face in conducting their own research? How does the Institute help them overcome those obstacles?

Based on our 2010 survey time is the number one barrier to conducting research. Participating in the summer workshop of IRDL gives the librarians two solid weeks to hone a research project, with one-on-one expert consultation and peer mentoring, so that when they return home they have a jump start on beginning their research. In addition, the Dean or Directors of their libraries have all agreed in writing to provide support for their librarians for the year following the two-week workshop. Some of the librarians have been able to negotiate time during the work week to conduct that research.

Q. From your experience, how does conducting original research impact librarians’ support of their patrons’ research?

We have heard from multiple IRDL participants that understanding the research process from a practical standpoint makes them feel more capable and confident to partner with faculty and respond to student inquiries, related to research. We did not anticipate this as an outcome of IRDL – that is, we had not determined it as an assessment outcome to measure. We are delighted to have examples from our cohorts that their value to their libraries has increased by their participation in IRDL.

Q. 2016 will be the third year that you are running the Institute. What are some examples of outcomes you have seen so far?

Based on our 2010 survey we found that librarians did not feel confident in completing the steps in the research process (we developed a scale to measure confidence in the research process). In IRDL we did a pre-test with that scale, before the librarians began their two-week workshop, and then did a post-test on the last day of the workshop. In the first year their confidence increased in every measure on the scale. That’s awesome! We’ll be doing this same kind of measurement over each of the three years of IRDL, to see if that boost of confidence stays consistent across cohorts.

Q. Aside from attending your Institute, what tips would you give to a librarian who is struggling to find the time to complete original research?

We talk a lot about time management during IRDL but having the time to complete original research often comes down to support from the leadership at the librarians’ home institutions. We’ve learned anecdotally that those with library leaders who value research will provide time and space for their librarians to conduct it. Having this in mind is important when a librarian is job-seeking, so they know to ask about how their research may be supported, and may be able to negotiate time to do it.

To learn about the research projects of past IRDL participants, watch the recording of our webinar on the Institute here.

Read past Connecting with the Community interviews

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