Utilising research support services in a special library

I decided to study this unit as part of my Masters in Information Science as I am hoping to pursue a career in health librarianship. As a former health professional, I am aware of the importance of evidence based practice in all fields of medicine and healthcare and to achieve this health practitioners need to be supported to perform research in their fields. Prior to commencing this unit, I had done one of my fieldwork placements with the health liaison librarians in an academic library and witnessed how they supported academics and higher degree research students in their research endeavours.

For this report, I will theoretically develop a research support service for a health library within an organisation which provides services to support people with mental health issues and their families. This field of health is continuously evolving and it is essential that research is performed and applied to ensure that clients receive the most effective support and treatment available. The library will provide research support for health and social work professionals and higher degree students. It is hoped to develop the organisation in a collaborative role with local universities as per the National Innovation and Science Agenda . It is hoped by supporting research within the organisation, the organisation’s profile can be raised and that it becomes regarded as a leader in the field. Funding is limited so open access and open source resources would need to be utilised whenever possible, along with the possible formation of partnerships with university and other health libraries. By raising the organisation’s profile, government funding is less likely to be reduced and may be increased.

It is planned to support researchers through all the stages of the research lifecycle to complete their research as efficiently and effectively as possible. These stages are:

Once the area of research has been decided upon the librarian will assist the researcher in applying for grants if required. As the research is likely to advance health care the National Health and Medical Research Centre website can be examined for possible grants  and then once decided upon the librarian can assist the researcher in preparing the application for the funding body.

The librarian will help the researcher to develop their ideas by assisting them to perform a thorough literature review in order that they can discover gaps and limitations in the current body of work. This will ensure that their research is new knowledge and will be valuable to the progress and development of the field. The information gained then and in the future, will need to be managed which could be done by using an open sourced reference management tool such as Mendeley, the use of which can be supported by the librarian. This management of information will be ongoing throughout the research process.

The information or data produced also needs to be managed which includes storing it in order that it can be recovered and possibly reused in the future. The librarian would need to educate the researcher on correct storage of the data including logical naming and safe storage in a minimum of three different areas which should include a data repository. It is unlikely the library will have the resources to provide data storage, but the librarian can guide the researcher to suitable repositories which are available for their use.

Bibliometrics is another service that the librarian can offer as part of the research support service. This is used to measure the impact made by the researcher’s publications, including citation count and h-index (Cooper, 2015). This may prove useful for a researcher seeking funding or a promotion. Due to the limited budget, it is intended to use Google Scholar to provide this service, which also includes a tool for measuring altmetrics or the journals impact from non-traditional sources such as social media. There are limitations to Google Scholar including not being able to link different variations of an author’s name (Harzing & Alakangas, 2016), but it should be sufficient to the requirements of the organisation and its researchers. The researchers can be encouraged and assisted to build and maintain ORCID profiles, which can ensure that they are recognised for their work and works published under different variations of their name are credited to the individual.

The final stage of the research lifecycle in which support can be offered by the library is publication and sharing. There are many ways in which a researcher can share their work which include traditional publications, presentation at conferences, open access journals and social media. It is intended that the researcher should be empowered to make an informed choice from the options available. To do this the librarian’s role would be to guide the researcher through the advantages and disadvantages of each method including potential impact factor, financial cost to the researcher and any legal restrictions which may apply to their work. It is not expected that there will be a budget available to fund the cost of open access publication for the researcher, but alternative funders could be explored if that is their desire.

It is not intended to offer a full research support service immediately due to funding restrictions and staff expertise and time. It is, however, hoped to develop the service gradually as budget allows and staff develop their skills. Most researchers who use the library are also affiliated with a university and it is expected that they will utilise the research support services provided by the academic librarians. The role of the special librarians is to have the knowledge and skill to support and assist researchers who have limited or no access to academic libraries and to complement the service currently offered by academic librarians. It is also to offer and provide support to students on fieldwork placement within the organisation to perform the research necessary to complete their fieldwork project.

Reference List

Cooper, I. D. (2015). Bibliometrics basics. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 103(4), 217. Retrieved from http://jmla.mlanet.org/ojs/jmla

Harzing, A., & Alakangas, S. (2016. Google Scholar, Scopus and the Web of Science: A longitudinal and cross-disciplinary comparison. Scientometrics, 106(2), 787-804. doi:10.1007/s11192-015-1798-9


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