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?



Cheng, James, and Starr Hoffman. “Librarians and Administrators on Academic Library Impact Research: Characteristics and Perspectives.” College & Research Libraries 81, no. 3 (2020).

Coate, Kelly, and Camille B Kandiko Howson. “Mid-Career Academic Women: Strategies, Choices and Motivation.” The Leadership Foundation, 2015.

Couture, Juliann, Jennie Gerke, and Jennifer Knievel. “Getting into the Club: Existence and Availability of Mentoring for Tenured Librarians in Academic Libraries,” College and Research Libraries 81, no. 4 (2020).

Lacey, Sajni, and Melanie Parlette-Stewart. “Jumping Into The Deep: Imposter Syndrome, Defining Success and the New Librarian.” Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research 12, no. 1 (August 23, 2017).

Lamber, Julia, Tony Ardizzone, Terry Dworkin, Sam Guskin, Deborah Olsen, Phil Parnell, and David Thelen. “A ‘Community of Scholars?’: Conversations Among Mid-Career Faculty at a Public Research University.” To Improve the Academy 12, no. 1 (1993): 13–26.

Lyall, Catherine, and Laura R. Meagher. “A Masterclass in Interdisciplinarity: Research into Practice in Training the next Generation of Interdisciplinary Researchers.” Futures, Special Issue: Politics, Democracy and Degrowth, 44, no. 6 (August 1, 2012): 608–17.

Mamiseishvili, Ketevan, Michael T. Miller, and Donghun Lee. “Beyond Teaching and Research: Faculty Perceptions of Service Roles at Research Universities.” Innovative Higher Education 41, no. 4 (August 1, 2016): 273–85.

Martorana, Janet, Eunice Schroeder, and Lucia Snowhill. “A Focus on Mentorship in Career Development.” Library Administration & Management 18, no. 4 (Fall 2004): 198–202.

Sassen, Catherine, and Diane Wahl. “Fostering Research and Publication in Academic Libraries.” College & Research Libraries 75, no. 4 (2014).

Conversations with Colleagues: Working with Student RAs, Part II

By Katya MacDonald
University Library, University of Saskatchewan

Editors Note: This is part two of a two part series. Catherine Boden, C-EBLIP Director

In part 1, we heard from researchers who spearheaded our conversation by sharing their experiences and learnings from involving students in research. Their experiences sparked questions and commentary from other attendees, focused around a few overlapping discussions:

Funding agencies are increasingly interested in seeing meaningful student research experiences built into grant-funded projects. But who benefits most from having a student involved, and how can researchers maximize the benefit for students and researchers alike?

The amount of support that students need can vary a lot, depending not only on their level of study, but also on their existing general research knowledge and transferable writing and citation skills. Involving a student may not always be a direct time-saver in the research process, but laying out clear guidelines and a plan for frequent communication lay a foundation for successful work with student RAs.

Since the University of Saskatchewan doesn’t have an MLIS program, students who work on librarian research projects are likely to be unfamiliar with at least some of the researcher’s particular needs or approaches. Hiring a student from an analogous discipline can be a starting point for bridging those gaps, but perhaps more importantly, students with good organizational, communication, and other general work skills are likely to be well placed to integrate into the research project and their specific role.

Even once you’ve got a capable and dedicated student on board, it’s still challenging to translate tasks and gauge students’ comprehension before they get too far into the work. Session attendee Carolyn Doi highlighted a method of shadowing your own work alongside the student, to demonstrate and compare what you’re looking for, but also to train yourself how to communicate how you got the result you were aiming for. In other words, the first days and weeks of training a student are a test of students’ and researchers’ communication skills alike, and session attendees noted that they generally had to check in with students more often than they had expected to, and that being available to answer questions early on helped to build efficiency later.

How do you involve students in authorship or other scholarly outputs like conference presentations or co-authored articles?

Some grant funding (notably Tri-Agency grants) encourages meaningful research experiences for students. What can those look like in practice, beyond the day-to-day of the students’ work on the project? Session attendees reported that students experience a warm reception at academic conferences, and that the process of preparing and attending the conference strengthens teamwork as well as students’ sense of agency in the work. On a very practical level, students are also sometimes able to access additional travel funding from the conference, which eases the strain on researchers’ travel and dissemination budgets.

The session attendees noted that visions for student involvement in authorship may evolve over the course of the project. After getting to know a student and their work, expectations may change, or the student’s (or researcher’s) availability and enthusiasm may look different as the project moves forward. In the end, funding availability or the student’s general writing ability may dictate whether co-authorship is an idea to pursue.

There are also avenues that can afford students the experience of publishing, beyond the realm of a co-authored peer-reviewed publication – one option is for students to write a report on their experiences working on a research project and submit it to a journal that makes space for pieces like this.

What do you do if you need to let a student go, or the arrangement just doesn’t work out?

Research evolves, and so do students’ university lives. And in some cases, these changes may mean that a student is no longer a good fit for the research project’s needs. The student’s availability or other commitments, expectations about the work, level of experience, and time management skills may all become part of the evaluation about whether to continue the working relationship. Parting ways with a student doesn’t always need to be an uncomfortable or unilateral decision, however. As part of ongoing communication with the student about the work, you can ask the student to think honestly about their availability to continue the work, and come to a mutual agreement about whether the student will stay on.

What opportunities do you make for check-ins and debriefing, both during the research and as the project concludes?

The importance of clear communication was a theme that permeated our discussion. That communication can help to inform researchers’ future work with other students, too. The session attendees generally agreed that it would be helpful to debrief at the end of a project, to hear from the student about their experiences and what they had learned from the process. In practice, though, that may not always happen within the limitations of availability and comfort level (students’ and researchers’) with having this type of frank conversation. To lay the groundwork, it may be helpful to hold regular conversations with the student throughout the project about their expectations and experiences. But overall it’s challenging to know how to create an environment in which students are comfortable sharing feedback with their supervisor!

Any other considerations that we haven’t talked about yet?

In the context of librarian research, it’s also worth acknowledging that student supervision looks different and has different goals than for researchers in other disciplines. Librarians don’t have their own grad students, so don’t get the same recognition in tenure and promotion contexts for their work with students. Balancing funders’ expectations with researchers’ own value for money and time looks different for librarians than for other academics.

To preserve the anonymity of the students that session attendees had worked with, I’ve summarized the discussion mostly in aggregate, but I hope that within this post, you’ll hear the diverse perspectives and experiences represented, and consider this dialogue an invitation to add additional insights. How has your experience been with student RAs? Were there surprises, insights, and successes along the way? What would you do differently next time?

Conversations with Colleagues: Part I. Working with Student RAs

By Katya MacDonald
University Library, University of Saskatchewan

Editors Note: This is part one of a two part series. Catherine Boden, C-EBLIP Director

On April 9th, as part of what was originally meant to be a four-part series of lunch hour conversation sessions at the University of Saskatchewan Library about themes in librarian research, a group of researchers gathered to discuss their experiences of working with student research assistants (RAs).

The original description for the session read:

Hiring student research assistants can be an important support for research projects, and is a growing category of assessment for grant applications. But at times, managing student RAs is a separate experience from the actual research experience. Join librarians as they discuss the ins and outs of working with student RAs, incorporating their work into your research plan, and the strengths and challenges of involving students in this way. Bring your own questions and experiences to this open discussion.

The vision was to bring colleagues together for an opportunity to share, question, and reflect through conversation: conversations that can be hard to come by in the day-to-day of individual research endeavours. When it became clear that the conversation would not be able to proceed in person, the researchers leading off the session with their remarks, Vicky Duncan (Health Sciences Librarian) and Jaclyn McLean (Electronic Resources Librarian), agreed to share their conversation via WebEx instead. All the participants gamely persevered through some technological hindrances to share valuable insights.

Vicky and Jaclyn introduced the session by sharing their processes of learning and experience when involving student research assistants. They shared what are common experiences for faculty members seeking to hire students: that it’s hard to know where to begin and proceed with the hiring process, especially in the context of the library and not a specific department with its own cadre of students to approach. They found, though, that researchers in other disciplines working on complementary projects were happy to recommend students or suggest possible avenues to explore

The next challenge is choosing the right student, and determining an effective training process for that student. There’s often background guidance required, not only in the specific research tasks, but also in complementary skills like citation styles or knowledge of databases. If that initial training has gaps, it can be time-consuming later on to fill in additional knowledge for the student. It’s better to err on the side of giving too much detail and direct instruction than too little.

At the same time, grad students in particular can bring methodological experience and disciplinary knowledge that can complement the research. Regardless of the student’s level of experience or self-sufficiency, holding regular meetings and maintaining an archive of the meeting minutes creates a useful reference and foundation for future work for student and researcher alike.



Tips for successful grant applications

By Craig Harkema, Karim Tharani, and Helen Power, University of Saskatchewan Library

Editor’s Note. Hello Everyone! I hope you are all well. We had planned a series of research conversations to be held in person at lunch to chat about research through the lifecycle. Times have changed! And we are adapting.  My colleagues Karim Tharani and Craig Harkema were going to lead our conversation about their experiences applying for and getting grants.  Our newest colleague, Helen Power, was to facilitate.  When it became clear that meeting in person wouldn’t be possible, they all agreed to write a blog post. It is written by my colleagues as if we were holding the conversation we planned to have.  Their voices intermingle and sometimes shared opinions are expressed.  I hope you enjoy it and learn from their experiences.  Catherine Boden, Director of C-EBLIP

Every grant has its own application requirements and scope, but there are also some strategies for success that suit any application. At this session, a panel of recent grant recipients within the library will discuss their approaches, challenges, tips, and experiences when applying for research grant funding. You will have the opportunity to ask questions, hear about resources available to librarians applying for grants, and discuss research and grant writing in a collegial setting.

Tip # 1: Think of the grant application process as a project

It may be helpful to think about your grant application as a project. With this mindset, it is easier to focus on the process of grant application rather than the research itself. It can be quite frustrating for applicants who get mixed up in the two. Remember, all that you are doing is presenting a research idea that is well-situated in the literature. The actual research work is expected to follow only if the application is successful.

Tip #2 Identify funding sources options 

Universities encourage and support developing applications for Tri-Agency (refers to three Canadian funding agencies) grants. And our research facilitator does a great job of keeping us up to speed on timelines and what sort of projects the target. While SSHRC, NSERC, and CIHR grants are great sources of research funding, keep in mind there are many other grants available to librarian researchers. It’s fine to develop a project based on Tri-Agency grant criteria, but it can also be wise to hold out for funding opportunities that will support the type of research you have been contemplating for some time or have vested interest in. If you haven’t already, check out the Research Guide for Library Faculty libguide where Katya maintains a list of internal and external funding opportunities for librarians.

Tip # 2: Turn your research idea into a jargon-free research question

While it may be unsettling for some to disambiguate the grant application process from the actual research, it may bring comfort to know that there are a few similarities between writing a research paper and a research grant application. The most crucial similarity is a well-defined research question. There is no way around it! It doesn’t matter if you have convinced yourself that as a researcher-practitioner like you doesn’t need a research question. You still need to come up with a research question because your adjudicators will most probably be research faculty who are expecting a research question. Your grant application is not the place to engage in a debate over this.

Tip #2a Collaborations are good/bad

Depending on how early one gets involved, collaborating on a significant grant proposal can mean that the existing research objectives are already firmly established, perhaps with minor changes to accommodate co-applicant interests. Obviously this isn’t as ideal as contributing to the idea generation from the outset, but can still be interesting and exciting work that pushes you outside your normal comfort zone and introduces you to new areas. When discussing roles and responsibilities, it is important to be clear on what you want to do and how that contributes or aligns with your own research program. If the opportunity arises as a pre-tenured librarian, it makes sense to be very selective and prioritize work that gives you the opportunity for research outputs that will count toward tenure and promotion. Sometimes saying no is the best option — something pre-tenured librarians understandably have trouble doing. Whenever you’re approached with a grant collaboration opportunity, it is worth sitting down and prioritizing research obligations and opportunities before committing.  Again, if you’re involved from the outset, this becomes less of an issue as you develop and refine the application and consider deeply the amount of time and energy you are willing and able to put in.

Tip # 3: Make use of your research facilitator

Having a research question ready will also make our University of Saskatchewan library research facilitator Katya extremely happy. There is nothing more soothing to Katya’s ears than the sound of a well-articulated research question! It will also help Katya guide you to the most appropriate internal or external grant options for your research idea. In most cases, you may end up applying for one of the locally administered SSHRC Explore and Exchange grants. These grants are Tri-Agency grants, even though they are adjudicated and awarded by the university. The forms are available on the Office of Vice President Research website, and Katya is also well-versed in getting us all going on this.

Tip # 4: Make use of rhetorical questions and metaphors

Most grant applications have similar sections such as purpose, context, methodology, significance, dissemination, etc. In my opinion, the best chance to convince adjudicators to support your research idea is in the first couple of paragraphs of the application. This is where your research idea must not only make sense but also must be engaging enough for the adjudicators to keep on reading your application. If you convince them to read further, the chances of them experiencing “congeniality bias” are heightened. Congeniality bias occurs when we end up looking for evidence to reinforce our own biases. It happens to us all the time. Say you are in the market for a new car. If you already have a vehicle in mind, then all you will see around you is your favourite car. That’s when you know you’re a victim of congeniality bias!

So how can you engage your adjudicators to be victims of the congeniality bias? Well, one trick that has worked for me is to ask a rhetorical question that conveys the essence and purpose of your research. The idea is to throw a thought-provoking question at your adjudicators that they would like you to answer for them! For example, when I applied for my first Tri-Agency grant, I wanted to develop an open (non-commercial) search engine for the web using Linked Data. The rhetorical question that I came up with was: Have you ever wondered why searching for a book using Google never leads you to a library? Another common tactic is use of metaphors. For instance, I used “ocean” and “magnet” as metaphors to get my research idea across.  “Just as powerful magnets are used to recover metallic objects from the depths of oceans, this research proposes using credible “seed” citations … to attract new and relevant resources from the deep web using Linked Data.”

Tip # 5: Seek a senior decision-maker’s feedback on your application

You can also have your grant application reviewed by other faculty members through Research Services. I cannot stress the importance of using this service. Having constructive feedback from experienced peers made all the difference for me. It profoundly refined my approach to writing about my research idea and its impact. Another opportunity for you to get constructive feedback on our grant applications is when the proposal goes to the Dean for final approval. If you can convey the purpose and impact of your research idea in a way that excites the Dean, you know that your chances of convincing other decision makers (adjudicators) are much higher!

Tip #6 Take advantage of library located DRC support

Because we are library technology folks, we think it’s important to mention the services of the DRC. DRC staff can help with grant writing and provide in-kind support for projects that involve the use of computational methods for research activities. This can include digitization, space for student research assistants, website creation, metadata support, data modelling, digital asset management, etc. The staff can also give estimates on how long work might take and provide some project management support throughout the lifecycle of the project. Jon Bath, Co-Director, has extensive experience with SSHRC funded research and is available to review projects of this nature.

Tip #7 If at first you don’t succeed…

The odds are not in your favour when applying for grants. The most recent successful SSHRC application I was involved in was submitted in various forms 3 years in a row. It can be a grueling and disheartening journey, but one that can yield some pretty significant benefits down the road. In the very least, the application process helps clarify research objectives and develop a good narrative for your work. Or it can simply be an indicator that it is time to move onto something new.

This article gives views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.


An Ending and a Beginning

by Virginia Wilson
Director, Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP)

Another year of Brain-Work blog posts is in the bag. A huge thank you to all our Brain-Work authors who have given their time and expertise to provide stellar content for the C-EBLIP blog. And an equally big thanks to our readers. I’m writing on a lovely June day to tell you about some exciting changes that are coming to the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP). After 6 years, which included applying for and being granted a University of Saskatchewan Type A centre, opening the Centre at the 7th International Evidence Based Library and Information Practice conference (hosted at USask), 3 symposiums, a long-running journal club, a blog, prof dev activities and so much more, I am stepping down as C-EBLIP Director.

I told someone about my plans the other day and the reply was “oh, but that’s your baby!” And it is. But I hoped very much that my baby would leave the nest and fly on its own, with others to carry the good work forward. I am very happy to report that is the case and that my colleague Catherine Boden, a health sciences librarian here at USask, will be assuming the Directorship of C-EBLIP starting July 1. I know that C-EBLIP is in good hands with Catherine. She has a strong background in research methodologies and an interest in promoting evidence-based research as a way to address topics relevant to professional practice and library services.

These past 6 years have been the best. I’ve been able to support librarians as researchers and have been fortunate to be involved in mentoring several librarians on their way through the tenure process. I’ve had challenging and fun discussions with colleagues during our journal club meetings. The C-EBLIP Fall Symposium was a space where librarians could meet and share research and research experiences. The Brain-Work blog gave librarians across Canada a place to share concepts, tips, and thoughts. I’ve seen my ideas come to fruition, thanks to the support of the University Library. A special thank you to Vicki Williamson, who saw potential in my idea as Dean of the Library back in 2012. Thanks as well to Melissa Just, our current Dean, who sees the continued value of C-EBLIP.

Also, I must not forget my dear colleagues who have ensured that C-EBLIP work has not happened in a vacuum. The outputs of the Centre are a result of collaboration, connection, conversation, and teamwork. The events and initiatives undertaken in the past six years would not have been possible without likeminded and generous co-workers. You know who you are!

So what does the future hold for C-EBLIP? I don’t know all the details and that’s good! I’m excited to see what great things Catherine will do with the Centre within the mandate of supporting librarians as researchers and promoting evidence based library and information practice. As for me, I will continue in my role as embedded librarian for the College of Agriculture and Bioresources and as liaison librarian for the School of Environment and Sustainability at USask. And I will always be grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given to do the work I was keen on doing.

Brain-Work will be going on hiatus for the summer months.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Ethical Publishing Choices and the Librarian Researcher

by DeDe Dawson @dededawson
Science Library, University of Saskatchewan

As librarians we have a unique vantage point on the scholarly publishing market – both as publishing researchers ourselves and as our institution’s agents in acquiring content from publishers. We are perfectly situated to appreciate the dysfunction and unsustainability of the current for-profit system. And I believe we have a professional obligation to raise the awareness of our university colleagues about this issue. Certainly many of our faculty colleagues already have some level of awareness, but the details and extent of the problem remains mostly hidden to the average person outside of libraries.

In the past month or so I have been riveted by the steady stream of news and analyses of the University of California (UC) system’s cancellation of all Elsevier journal titles. It is not that the UC system cannot afford the big deal subscription. UC is actually taking a principled stand with their key goal being “securing universal open access to UC research while containing the rapidly escalating costs associated with for-profit journals.”

The UC libraries have worked for a decade or so now to raise the awareness of the faculty on their campuses of the problems with the current publishing system and the benefits of a transition to open access. So, the faculty are largely supportive of the stance UC libraries took with Elsevier. Some have even started a petition to boycott Elsevier in support of open access. Those who have signed resolve to publish their work elsewhere and to refuse to donate their time as reviewers and editorial board members. The free content and labour provided by the authors, reviewers, and editors is why commercial scholarly publishers are so extremely profitable. As Adriane MacDonald and Nicole Eva of University of Lethbridge note: It’s time to stand up to the academic publishing industry.

This is not just a library problem. And solutions need to come with the active involvement of the community of authors, reviewers, editors, and readers. Authors, reviewers, and editors in particular have real power! As Lorcan Dempsey ends his recent blog post on the UC cancellations:

“The UC action has galvanized attention. For Elsevier, the financial impact may be less of an issue than the potential loss of participation in their journals of UC authors, editors, and reviewers. This is because of the scale of the UC research enterprise. For faculty elsewhere, it is potentially important as an exemplary event – the example of UC authors may have more of an influence than the exhortation of their library. For other consortia and libraries it is a call to action.”

What about us? As librarian-researchers, those most aware of the problems in the current system, do we have an ethical obligation to lead by example with our publishing, editorial, and reviewing choices?

Personally, I think so. For years I have chosen to only publish my research in open access journals and I will not donate my time as a peer reviewer or editorial board member to closed-access, for-profit journals either. I consider this an ethical and values-driven decision. Having said that, I recognize I am in a privileged position as a tenured librarian (though I made this decision well before I achieved tenure), so I will not judge those who feel they need to publish in certain titles for career advancement. I only note that this in itself is the underlying reason for this dysfunctional market: the incentive structures in academia are extremely problematic. If we could let go of our addiction to “high impact” and “prestige” journals, and instead judge research by its own merits (not the package it comes in), then we could free ourselves from the grip of the Elseviers of the world. But I have already written an entire blogpost on that…

I’ll end with a reminder that the C-EBLIP website hosts a list of peer-reviewed LIS journals, those that are open access are identified by the orange open lock symbol!

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Research in teams & groups…when it works!

by Jaclyn McLean
Electronic Resources Librarian
University of Saskatchewan

Collaborations can be hard. Successful collaborations are rare (IMHO). I’ve been on teams of different shapes and sizes, and for different purposes since I became a librarian a decade(!) ago. Since I joined the USask Library five years ago, I’ve been lucky to have both the time and the opportunity to do some formalized learning about leadership and team development. I can look specifically to the Library Leadership Development Program (LLDP) and two posts from this blog as a turning point in the way I work in, and set expectations for, collaborative teams.

I could do a bunch of further research into the topic (and I have, see below for some sources I’ve consulted), but I thought I’d rather share my experiences:

  • Take time to plan early in the project: What are everyone’s expectation of timelines, deliverables? What are your goals from the project? If you want to publish an article, is there an outlet in mind? Who will be lead author? Are there roles each member will play on the team (aka note taker for meetings, booking meeting times/places, etc.)?
  • Talk about how you like to work: What makes you nutty? How do you measure success? How about others on the team? Where are your common values, and where are the potential conflicts? Identifying them early makes it easier to talk about them later—remember how I can think clearer if we meet in the mornings? remember how I like to take detailed notes?—rather than having to bring up these preferences in the heat of the moment.
  • Communicate: Talk to each other often and keep good notes. Keep track of decisions about methodology or changes along the way and check in with each other throughout the project to build trust with your collaborators.
  • Admit when you’re going to miss a deadline: do this before the deadline comes. Be understanding when another team member needs some flexibility on timelines too. We’re all busy, and shit happens.
  • It doesn’t have to be all business, all the time: being able to talk about other projects, or things in your life outside the research team not only lets your team members know when you will have reduced bandwidth (e.g., your cat is sick, or you’re going on vacation), but also builds relationships. Working on a team can’t be all about the working—it’s got to be about the team too.

I’ve always been a “get down to business” kind of person when it comes to work. It’s taken some hard lessons for me to remember to prioritize the more social elements of teamwork. They used to seem like a waste of time, time that could be spent getting the work done! I have now learned that making the time to build a foundation with your team and talking about how you want to work before you start doing the work is invaluable.

My apologies to anyone who was on a team with me before I realized this—I probably cut you off, or stifled your ideas, or rushed ahead with the task at hand without considering what you needed from the collaboration. Let’s be honest, I probably still do that sometimes. But I’m getting better 😊.

Further reading:
(if you only have time for one):

Shneiderman, B. (2016). The advantages of doing research in teams (essay) | Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].

Dunn, B. (2018). Leading a productive research group | University of Oxford. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].

Lee, T., & Mitchell, T. (2011). Working in Research Teams: Lessons from Personal Experiences. Management And Organization Review, 7(03), 461-469. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8784.2011.00224.x

McEwan, D., Ruissen, G., Eys, M., Zumbo, B., & Beauchamp, M. (2017). The Effectiveness of Teamwork Training on Teamwork Behaviors and Team Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Interventions. PLOS ONE, 12(1), e0169604. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0169604

Other excellently informed posts on the topic from this blog:

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Happy Holidays from C-EBLIP!

by Virginia Wilson, Director
Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP)

It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by, and so quickly! 2018 saw the first ever C-EBLIP Writing Retreat, where a bunch of writing, researching librarians headed to the Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa in Moose Jaw for 5 days of writing and floating. We also enjoyed having Jessie Loyer from Mount Royal University in Calgary visit us this fall in Saskatoon for a great workshop and a talk entitled On Research and Positionality: Silence, Ownership, and Power. We all learned very much about Indigenous perspectives of research.
Häppy Holidays!
Image by Peter Thoeny (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Brain-Work will be taking a holiday break and returning with new posts in the New Year. On behalf of everyone involved with C-EBLIP at the University of Saskatchewan Library, I wish you a very happy holiday season and all the best in 2019.

Reading About Writing

by Shannon Lucky
IT Librarian, University of Saskatchewan Library

I have been sick for two weeks. Home on the couch, too much TV, never enough tea kind of sick. It has been the kind of terrible cold that makes you unsuitable for human contact and too foggy to do any real focused work but I had so much downtime that I started itching to do something productive (but not too difficult). I decided to try to catch up on all of my unread listserv emails, blog posts in my RSS reader, and articles I had dumped into a “to read” folder that I never have time to open. There was a lot to cover so I decided to do a quick triage, group articles by theme, and tackle the most interesting stuff first.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t get through everything. I did wander down an interesting rabbit hole of articles about writing and procrastination – my research Achilles heel. Maybe there is something about having uninterrupted hours of free time (and a low-grade fever) that made all these articles feel very profound and personally relevant, but it was wonderful to have several days to let curiosity and serendipity lead me in many directions reading about how to write more, how to write better, and how to make writing less painful. In the past I have tried many different productivity methods to get more writing done, but this break to read broadly about it and reflect on my own writing practice (or lack thereof) motivated me to make a real change. It reminded me of meeting my trainer at the gym for the first time. She asked me what my fitness goals were and I, clearly not understanding what a normal fitness goal is, said that I wanted to become the kind of person who likes to run. Now I want to do the same thing with writing.

The first thing I should probably do is learn to keep better notes that refer back to my sources, but so much of the advice I read was repeated again and again in the books and articles that I read. Here are a few of the tips that stuck with me and that I am dedicated to trying out:

  1. Read a lot. In quantity, but also different subjects, mediums, and genres. You never know when a newspaper article or novel will make some connecting or spark some new thought. This can work for both the content of your research, but also how you write about it. I have started saving examples of writing that I love and make a point of re-reading it when I get stuck or am feeling frustrated. I have a folder on my computer full of articles, excerpts from books, bios, poems, and comments. Many are not related directly to my scholarly work but the writing style can teach me something about communicating effectively or connecting with a reader.
  2. Write a lot. This one sounds obvious, and it is. To get more writing done, I need to write more. Writing everyday is best, but it is most important to write frequently and consistently. Writing more, especially if the writing is bad. Practice is the only way to get better and the more writing I produce the more raw material I will have to fish the promising bits out of the stuff I never want anyone to read.
  3. Schedule time to write and defend it uncompromisingly. This is one that I have read before and have tried to follow but have mostly failed at. I have a recurring meeting in my calendar during the first hour of my work days for “writing”. This usually translates into returning emails or catching up on something I didn’t get to finish the day before. It is time to find a way to get this time back by treating it as a non-negotiable appointment. I would never skip a meeting with a colleague or a student so I need to start treating this time the same way.
  4. Editing is critical. It is necessary to give yourself some breathing room between writing and editing. Getting over the idea that my writing must be good out of the gate is going to be a process for me. I copied out a few choice sections from Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” about the importance of the “shitty first draft” and her three step editing process: the first draft is the downdraft (just get something down), the second is the updraft (fix it up), and the third is the dental draft where you check every tooth. My key takeaway – leave time for at least three drafts! You cannot do that the night before the deadline.
  5. Writing is research. The process of writing is formative, it is a way of thinking so I need to give it time and attention. There is nothing to gain from rushing through the process to get to the finished product. Barry White (the other Barry White) wrote a great book about thesis writing called Mapping Your Thesis that has great advice about scholarly writing in general. His argument, both encouraging a bit depressing, is that writing creates insight because thinking and writing are inseparable processes. Writing and revising is a recursive process. Recursive processes are not compressible, there are not shortcuts, and writing will always be a struggle.

Now that I am finally back on my feet and feeling human again I am dedicated to taking a new approach to my research and writing. If you have other advice I would love to hear about it in the comments section. If you are interested in checking out some of the writing that inspired this post the following is an incomplete list of my writing advice sources:

(Editor’s note: Brain-Work is hosted by the University of Saskatchewan and there is a problem with the comments that cannot be resolved. If you try to comment on this or any blog post and you get a “forbidden to comment” error message, please send your comment to and I will post the comment on your behalf and alert the author. We apologize for this annoying problem.)

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

What I’ve Favourited on Twitter Lately pt. 4

By Virginia Wilson, Director
Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP)

I do a lot of liking or ♥-ing on Twitter. Sometimes it’s to acknowledge a tweet or a reply. Often it’s so I can go back and look at whatever is in the tweet in greater detail later. Do I do this? Not as often as I would like. So, I’m going to do it now in front of everyone.

I’m currently working in the Agriculture Building on the U of S campus as liaison librarian for the College of Agriculture and Bioresources and the School of Environment and Sustainability. So, I’ve upped my game in terms of following Ag stuff on Twitter. I’ve favourited a couple of tweets from the Livestock & Forage Centre of Excellence @LFCE_usask. This state of the art research facility had its grand opening on October 9.

@myleejoseph tweeted a link to an article entitled Using ORCID, DOI, and Other Open Identifiers in Research Evaluation. A timely topic and an interesting read.

@ithinkwellHugh suggests that if you want to blog about your research, you don’t need to create your own blog (who has the time??) but you can contribute to someone else’s blog. Hugh Kearns writes a lot about supporting doctoral students and their research which I find pertains a lot to librarians and our research. Follow him! (you can contact me to get your research out there via Brain-Work any time!)

If you’ve wanted to know more about research data management (RDM) @NewRevAcadLib posted a link to a new literature review on librarians and RDM. This paper has been posted in its accepted version and I hope it’s not behind the T&F paywall.

@AprilHathcock posted two pictures from the 3rd National Joint Conference of Librarians of Color. The pictures are the two pages of a selected bibliography shared during a session pertaining to Indigenous research methodologies.

@katelangrell announced that the 2019 ABC Copyright Conference will be held at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. Save the date: May 30-31.

The Call for Papers/Posters is out for the 10th International Evidence Based Library and Information conference (@ConfEblip) #EBLIP10 Who doesn’t want to go to Glasgow, Scotland in June of 2019??!! You have till November 30 to get your submissions in.

That’s my selection of faves for now. I find Twitter so useful for keeping up professionally and for pushing out information to my liaison areas.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.