Search This Blog

Monday, 11 September 2017

LARK’s seminar grants

By Suzana Sukovic

LARK is getting ready to celebrate its fifth birthday in research style next week. With speakers and participants coming from close and afar, it really feels like birds of a feather are flocking together. 

If you haven't secured your place, there is still time to check our program and register. You will be able to claim ALIA PD points. 

LARK's preparations for a whole research day are getting even more exciting now that we can grant some free registrations.  

LARK is inviting full time library and information students and people from rural and remote areas to apply for a seminar grant. We have 3 free registrations available for suitable candidates. 

If you are interested, you need to apply quickly as applications close this week, on Friday 15 September
Click here for further instructions and to apply online.

Seminar audience: primarily LIS professionals, but it is suitable for educators and anyone who wants to learn about research in practice.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Cultivating a Culture of Curiosity? The Benefits of Doing So if Research is on Your Mind


By Virginia Wilson

Many information organizations strive to create a culture of research for different reasons. Some, like many Canadian academic libraries, do so to encourage their librarians who are required to conduct and disseminate research for professional advancement, i.e. tenure, permanent status. Others have embraced evidence based library and information practice (EBLIP) where research alongside professional expertise and what the users want/need is prevalent. Still others see research as an important part of librarianship where research can inform practice. And then there are combinations of the above. Indeed, our own University Library has spent the last 10 years developing a robust culture of research, where research and scholarly activity are supported and encouraged, as librarians are faculty members and on the tenure track. We also consider the tenets of EBLIP in our practice of professional skills. 

However, many librarians do not have extensive training in the research enterprise. Library schools offer the obligatory research methods survey class and unless the librarian also has another graduate degree or opts for the thesis route in library school, research experience is not a given. So, when a librarian comes into a culture of research, it can be daunting and frustrating no matter what supports are offered and a common difficulty for new librarians is trying to think of or decide on a research topic. It seems to look (simplistically1 ) like this:

Even though we ask candidates about their research interests, often the idea of the actual doing of research doesn’t hit home until the candidate is faced with the realities and requirements of the tenure process. 
The research life cycle looks something like this:

"Research Life Cycle" image from UC Irvine Library Digital Scholarship Services 

Found on University of Michigan Scientific Discovery Path of Excellence - An Information Resource Starter Kit.This seems to be a robust and thorough depiction of the research process (although I might use the term “data” instead of “assets” in the Implementation box). I like how this process encourages open access publishing and includes social media as a source of impact metrics. It’s good stuff. But nowhere in this process is there a description of coming up with a research topic. It presumes that the topic is there and the research question is already at hand. 

I wonder then if the idea of a “culture of research” is too late in the game. There are many different cultures an information organization can strive to create: culture of learning, culture of excellence, culture of success, but what about a culture of curiosity?  
1:  desire to know:b:  interest leading to inquiry - intellectual curiosity - Her natural curiosity led her to ask more questions.

A culture of curiosity is in line with encouraging research amongst librarians as researchers. As defined by Merriam-Webster, curiosity is interest leading to inquiry. Fostering a culture of curiosity with the implicit and explicit aim of curiosity leading to research allows the research piece to be part of the natural process of having a question and seeking an answer. A culture of curiosity would look something like this:

Research, therefore, would be part of the process – just not the starting point. 
But if the organization requires research and indeed it is part of a librarian’s job, that fact cannot be ignored. Can a librarian put that requirement to the back of their mind and go into their job all wide-eyed and curious? Surely there will be the looming spectre of research outputs and then the pressure to be curious in the right way – a way that will lead to an answerable research question. I don’t deny that the scenario could happen, and I’m not trying to institute tricking your employees into doing research as an active strategy. I believe we can have both a culture of curiosity and a culture of research, and that they will build on one another moving forward. Curiosity leads to questions which lead to research which can lead to innovation. An added bonus of working within a culture of curiosity is that curiosity will also increase employee engagement and provide the continuous impetus to examine and reflect on the work so to be open to innovation. 

How does one develop a culture of curiosity? Obviously, having management that is on board with such a culture is important. However, in browsing around about this topic, I compiled four ways to encourage curiosity that anyone can try:
1. Write agendas as questions: using the premise that employees are more engaged when they feel like they can influence the outcome, set up meetings that are as participatory as possible and encourage interest by structuring agendas in the form of questions.
2. Encourage collaboration: because great ideas don’t generally happen in a vacuum, have employees work together often and in different groupings. They will be exposed to the talents of their co-workers and can take advantage of cross-unit ideas and inspiration.
3. Get rid of fear by embracing failure: research and publishing can be a hot bed of disappointment. Harsh peer reviews, rejection letters, uncooperative methodologies – there are many ways to find yourself down the wrong path. An organization that calmly accepts that failure is a part of progress will enable employees to move on to the next thing faster and with confidence.
4. Encourage questioning: while it is true that constant questioning has the risk of causing defensiveness, realistic questioning of policy and processes can help to stimulate new ways of thinking and new ways of doing the work. This is also the place where research topics are born. 

A culture of curiosity will benefit not only the librarians who have research as a mandate, but also all the library employees who are working in the information organization and the organization itself. Encouraging curiosity, creativity, and innovation can help in a sea of constant change. And in our fast-paced work world, keeping pace with or ahead of change will serve us all better. And if a research mandate is on the table, curiosity is a must to achieve something relevant and useful.

Works consulted
Goodman, R. (2016, June 1). How to build a culture of curiosity [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Kalra, A.S. (2015, October 23). 10 ways to build a culture of curiosity. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from 

Karl, A. (2013, November). Create a culture of curiosity: guest blog by Allan Karl. [Blog post]. Retrieved from 

Milway, K.S. and Goldmark, A. (2013, September 18). Four ways of cultivating a culture of curiosity [Blog post]. Retrieved from 

1 I say simplistically up above because of course candidates at our library know prior to being hired that they must do research. We focus on it specifically during the hiring process to avoid blindsiding someone coming in.

Virginia Wilson is Director of the
Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP)
University of Saskatchewan, Canada

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Seminar Holy Evidence: Research in Information Practice

By Suzana Sukovic

On 22 September LARK is celebrating its 5th anniversary in its signature style - by organising a seminar dedicated to research in practice. We are delighted to announce that the full program is now ready.

The seminar will be presented in two parts. In the first half of the day, we will consider issues of research in practice, learn from experiences in other professional fields and consider some examples of successful practice-based research projects in different types of libraries. The second half of the day will be dedicated to learning how to put research ideas into action. We will finish the day by discussing communication of research from Twitter to peer-reviewed journal articles. 

The seminar will be presented by experienced researchers from the profession and academia, and we will hear from young professionals who are at the beginning of their research journey.


Audience: primarily LIS professionals, but it is suitable for educators and anyone who wants to learn about research in practice.

ALIA PD points can be claimed.


See the full program with details about the sessions and presenters.

9-9.30 am
9.30-10 am
Welcome & Introductions

10-10.30 am
LARK on the research horizon: developing research in practice
Dr Suzana Sukovic, HETI (Health Education & Training Institute)
Learning from other professional fields: research in rural health
David Schmidt, NSW Health
11-11.30 am
Morning break

11.30-11.45 am
RFID project at UTS: collaborating with academics
Sally Scholfield, University of Technology, Sydney Library
11.45 am-12 pm
Peer-led learning in a public library
Liz Griffiths, Willoughby City Council Libraries
12-12.15 pm
Developing a validated integrated care search filter:
a practice-based research project
Suzanne Lewis, Central Coast Local Health District
12.15-12.45 pm
Panel discussion
12.45-1.30 pm

1.30-3 pm
Doing research in practice
Dr Suzana Sukovic and Fiona Salisbury, La Trobe University Library
3-3.15 pm
Afternoon break
3.15-4 pm
Doing research in practice: Planning a project (group work)
4-4.50 pm
Communicating research: from Twitter to peer-reviewed article
Dr Mary Anne Kennan, Charles Sturt University
Dr Bhuva Narayan, University of Technology, Sydney
4.50-5 pm
Feedback and close

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

LARK branches out

By Liz Walkley Hall

Last Wednesday 10 May, LARK held its first face to face meeting in South Australia! This was an informal gathering over lunch, facilitated by me, but with an emphasis on working as a collective.

There were 13 attendees, including PhD students, academics, and practitioner-researchers; most of whom are actively working on current projects, with others are very interested in doing so, or have done so in the past.

Research topics ranged from preservation of collections, including digital preservation, through to librarian salaries, engagement with researchers, and information behaviour.

 Over our discussion, it emerged that we are most interested in

  • networking and collaboration opportunities
  • presentation and dissemination opportunities
  • case studies of research practice from which to learn from.
All in all it was a very successful first meeting. We look forward to planning our next steps, please do be in touch if you'd like to join us!

Many thanks to ALIA SA Manager Emily Wilson for coordinating this event, and thanks to ALIA for providing lunch.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Thoughts on attending an academic writing retreat for the first time

By Virginia Wilson

I recently returned home from a week-long academic women's writing retreat in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Academic women from the University of Saskatchewan (U of S; my home institution) and elsewhere in Canada came together for 6 days (arrived Monday; returned Saturday) to write/work/think. Our days were unstructured although we did have a permanent writing room that was ours for the week, open daily from 7am to 11pm. With it being at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, smack dab in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, there were fitness facilities, good food, and amazing views/walks. I had never attended a writing retreat before and I found it to be an amazingly productive experience. Not only did I get a ton of work done, I was actually able to slow my brain down enough to do some revelatory thinking. I feel calm, focused, and energized. I’ve got some confidence back. The retreat occurred at the perfect time in my work life. I would go again in a minute. In fact at this point, I would spend my professional development funds on this kind of activity rather than a conference.

Town of Banff
I was inspired to attend the writing retreat because I had been unhappy with my progress during the first months of my 6-month sabbatical. It was difficult to motivate myself, and with the lack of motivation and lack of productivity, I became lackluster! I wasn’t happy with myself or where I was at. The Academic Women’s Writing Retreat was organized by a U of S faculty member and she spread the word to other female academics. Space was limited to about 16 people. I registered and awaited the time when I could fly west and start to regroup. 

When I first arrived, I was somewhat discombobulated. I had been to Banff before, many times, but not to the Banff Centre. There was the inevitable finding-my-way-around time, getting settled in my room, finding out where to eat, and generally developing a sense of direction in a new place. The first evening, 6 of us made our way down the mountain to the town of Banff and got acquainted over dinner. The trip back up the mountain (okay, it was only partially down and up a mountain, but it was steep in places!) made me know that I was out of my usual space (flat prairies) and that there was potential here for a different perspective. 

During the week, I wrote in the Banff Centre library, the shared writing retreat room, and my hotel room. I found great inspiration to silently work with other people. I had known about this possibility from attending the bi-weekly writing circle that the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice runs at our Library. It was maybe even more intense because I was with women faculty members from different disciplines. During off times, I talked about research and writing with women from the English Department, the College of Education, the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, and the Department of Sociology. We shared with great interest our different perspectives and our goals for the week. And at the end of the week, we compared notes and celebrated accomplishments. I went away with a feeling of determination. I would recreate this feeling again! I would be as productive in my usual environment as I had been at the writing retreat! 

I’ve come back home all jazzed up about my experience. I looked around for some articles on writing retreats and found that this is not an uncommon part of academic writing and that it’s conducive to getting results. Writing retreats come in many shapes and colours: unstructured retreats that provide space and time (like the one I attended), retreats with structure/workshops/mentorship (Murray & Newton 2009), in-house writing retreats (Casey, Barron, & Gordon 2013), and retreats anywhere from a weekend to two-three weeks or more. The gist of it all seems to be that time away for writing is time well spent. I can see this approach working for all types of writing or other creative endeavors. A change in location can manifest in a change of perspective, a change in thought patterns, and even a change in self-identity. When I was at the writing retreat with other academic women, in addition to getting actual writing done, I felt like a researcher and writer, I felt like an academic, and I felt productive and confident. And for a practicing librarian with a research mandate to feel all these things…well, this was an unanticipated result and one that I hope to pass along to others who are struggling with writing or contemplating a writing retreat. If you get the chance, do it!

Casey, B., Barron, C.M., & Gordon, E. (2009). Reflections on an in-house academic writing retreat. AISHE-J: The All Ireland Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 5(1). 1041-1054.

Murray, R. & Newton, M. (2013). Writing retreat as structured intervention: margin or mainstream? Higher Education Research & Development, 28(5). 541–553

Virginia Wilson is Director, Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP), University Library, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Twitter: @VirginiaPrimary

Image Town of Banff

Saturday, 22 April 2017

10 May: LARK events in Adelaide and Sydney

By Suzana Sukovic
10 May is going to be an eventful day for LARK. First of all, LARK is spreading its wings to South Australia. The first SA LARK meeting will be in Adelaide on 10 May at 12 pm. It will be an informal meeting to connect with people interested in research in library and information practice. 

LARKs in Sydney are delighted that another group in Australia is forming. We will get together on the same day at 6 pm and may be able to hear from LARKs in Adelaide about their first meeting. 

Survey: beyond a happy sheet is the topic of our meeting in Sydney. We will talk about survey design and offer some practical advice on this popular method of collecting information. As always, everyone is welcome. 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Why research support is not enough?

By Suzana Sukovic

Library and information professionals ask themselves regularly what they can do better to support research. It is a worthy question, but the answers never go far enough simply because we can’t really support research anymore. And how are we going to do deal with that? In the nutshell, by becoming transliterate research specialists. It may sound like a contradiction in terms. Transliteracy (described as a fluidity of movement across a range of technologies, media and contexts) is about moving broadly while being a specialist means focusing on one area. But, professional dancers are transliterate specialists. With a rigorous dancing technique, physical and musical training, daily practice and a good deal of talent, they dance to different types of music, performing in theatres, dancing halls and on streets. Many information professionals are transliterate specialists in the way they go about their work, but their practices haven’t become an integral part of who we are as a profession.

As a researcher and a practitioner, I have worked with educators and academics for many years. I have heard over and over again about the overwhelming demands of daily work coupled with complex information and technological contexts. An academic who works on a research project, an educator who prepares online modules for health professionals, and a classroom teacher alike need someone to help them in navigating fast-paced information and technological changes. 

And this is not enough. Developments in the knowledge field have become so far-reaching that our clients need an information specialist as a partner in taking their knowledge work further. An academic, Peter Read, wrote about our collaboration in a way that captures the nature of this type of partnerships, which have been sprouting across the globe:

Librarians well versed in digital humanities, I realise now, offer not only new ways of creative thinking, but epistemological insights into how to present historical knowledge and understanding to solve new problems. Issues of design, attractiveness, maneuverability and access are just part of what I understand to be a great deal more than an easy way of putting everything together. 

Negotiation of shifting cultural norms adds a new layer of complexity to intricate knowledge landscapes. ‘Academic city of villages’, a model of how academics in the humanities live in their information worlds, is a reality for many scholars who negotiate disciplinary boundaries with a wish to work creatively and use abundant information outside their traditional domains. They need research partners who understand disciplinary cultures as well as epistemic frameworks, information sources and digital technologies.

The concept of transliteracy has captured the interest of information professionals over the last decade as it addresses many practices and challenges they observed in their work. As the information environments have become increasingly complex, existing practices of moving across media, technologies and contexts took new forms. A dynamic approach to understanding old and new information behaviours and related capabilities is needed. The conceptual model of transliteracy below provides a framework for thinking about transliteracy as an overarching concept in relation to other capabilities. 

Applying these capabilities to the work of information professionals leads to reconceptualising our professional contribution to research. While we as a profession have all the capabilities which form transliteracy to some extent, it is the way we move across that makes new forms of our work possible.

The transliterate research specialist needs to assume three roles, which often overlap and merge as is the case in any transliterate work.
1. Transliterate research partner. In this role, the information specialist brings information from different domains to contribute to investigations, acting as an information broker with solid disciplinary, and the deep specialised knowledge of information landscapes. With the knowledge of digital tools and methods, s/he takes part in thinking about different ways of knowing applicable to the work at hand. Academics in particular need and greatly respect people who work with them not only on providing access to information, but who could also help them to take their understanding further. I have argued elsewhere for a resurrection of the highly respected Medieval librarian in the guise of the Librarian iScholar (Sukovic, 2011).

2. Translational researcher. Two useful models borrowed from medicine as a major field of applied research underpin thinking about this role. One is the model of teaching hospitals, which provide practical training for students, and enable connections between academia and practice. Another is translational research, which is based on the same principles. Translational research focuses on applying results of basic research into medical practice to improve health outcomes for patients. While there are many questions around translational research, it remains a valid and valuable approach to ensuring that research has outcomes in health services.

The health models are applicable to LIS as an applied discipline. ‘Teaching libraries’ could be grounded in the principles of connecting academic and practice-based research and training. Considering the richness and variety of contexts in which they operate, libraries and information centres have potential to become nodes of research activity. Investigations of fluctuating information needs and practices, and experimentation would lead to innovation and enable new insights. A number of disciplines could become partners in these investigations. The information professional as a translational researcher would not only bring results of research into practice, but would also take the role of translator between different knowledge domains. 

3. Provider of transliteracy-enabling systems. In this role, the information specialist would develop systems to support flexible and meandering information paths. With a creative mind and high-order technological skills, the information specialist researches and creates information ecologies to support innovative thinking.

Many information professionals already do the work of the transliterate research specialist. The next step is to make it a norm and embed it in the way we operate as a profession. Instead of asking how we can be better research supporters, we need to ask how we can be better research partners. The key is in thinking creatively how we can use our rigorously developed capability sets in amphitheatres, public libraries, digital classrooms and on the streets.

Book Transliteracy in complex information environments (Chandos, 2017) is available from Elsevier store

SUKOVIC, S. 2011 E-texts in research projects in the humanities. In: WOODSWORTH, A. (ed.) Advances in Librarianship, Vol. 33. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.