The Landscape of Mid-Career Research: Where do Librarian Researchers Fit In?

By Katya MacDonald, PhD
Research Facilitator, University Library, University of Saskatchewan

Research identifying that mid-career researchers have particular needs and challenges has been taking place since at least the early 1990s. The mid-career phase is the longest and sometimes most nebulous stage of an academic career, and one that can take many different directions and often moves away from the more focused goals of early career researchers.

Studies looking at the needs of mid-career researchers have identified various themes in researchers’ perspectives, but few studies have focused specifically on mid-career librarians as researchers. Some general research experiences may resonate with librarian researchers, and there may also be others that haven’t yet been articulated.

Some researchers’ observations of their mid-career experiences across universities and disciplines include:

Research community:

  • An interest in stronger community and relationship-building in the research process, among librarian researchers
  • Desire for informal peer support networks to approach with a range of questions and considerations, to help create an organizational culture of supports
  • Time pressures that make it difficult to take an interest in others’ research
  • Conversation about research is valuable, but can also be a site of imposter syndrome

Research practices and communications:

  • A need for supports for exploring new methodologies
  • Additional attention to ways of capitalizing on the unique position of librarians to engage in interdisciplinary research
  • Seeking recognition and support networks for methodologies that may not fit a conventional mold
  • Desire for assistance with communicating the value of librarian research but also experiencing ambivalence about the “prestige economy” of research communication and evaluation of impact

Individual career trajectory:

  • A need for more support for decision-making and reflection within a realm of many research and professional possibilities
  • Workloads, funding, and time as barriers to research
  • Research burnout after the push for tenure, and a desire to seek new collaborations or take research in new directions
  • Seeking support for fluidity and change in the research process

Given all of the above, the diversity and at times fluidity of mid-career researchers’ experiences are clear. But within this diversity, some common themes emerge, especially around community, feedback, and increased recognition and understanding of researchers’ work.

Do any of these experiences sound familiar? Are there others that haven’t been discussed here?



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