This was originally written as my reflective piece for July for the CPD/revalidation wiki, where @jaffne is prodding me into various forms of reflection. If you want a few more facts and a bit less rambling, there’s some background to the day, and a list of great write-ups over on the LIS Research Coalition website. I must say that the day itself was fantastic, everyone involved was lovely, and any mutterings of inferiority come entirely from my own twisted psyche.
Why did I attend?
Erm, is ‘because Hazel Hall said I should’ a valid answer? I do also want to make the most of being at an organisation where research is counted as very much part of what you do. I also promised to do my best to help amplify the event – I did a lot of tweeting on the day (no surprise there!), but have been putting off blogging about it.
Why am I reluctant to blog about it?
Because it was full of proper academic-y types, who are doing PhDs and know about theorists and quote philosophers in their event reviews. I can be that kind of person if I have to, but naturally I’m much more of a flitter. I don’t (generally) read non-fiction for fun. I don’t (generally) care about theories for the sake of theories, and I feel that they can sometimes get in the way of Getting Things Done (oddly enough, this was echoed (in a way) by opening keynote Blaise Cronin). I have to admit that, even while part of the VftL team, I (generally) never got involved with the academic debates about the ‘value of the public library to a democratic society’ etc. I’m not denying that it can be important – it’s just Not My Bag, Baby.
But is this maybe why I should be blogging about it? One of the aims of the project is to encourage practitioner-research – and I bet many practitioners don’t research because, like me, they don’t feel that they fit in with this rarefied atmosphere.
Of course, there are other constraints as well – time, funding etc – but it makes me wonder if all the practitioner-research landscape has been waiting for is someone to stand up and say:
YOU CAN DO IT! This stuff, that you’re doing every day, finding out what your users need, finding out what the profession needs, choosing one database over another, finding innovative ways to make your budget stretch that bit further – that’s research! You already do it! And sharing your results through informal methods, like blogging and twitter – that’s fine too! And if you want to learn how to put things a bit more formally, bring in methodologies etc, that’s great! We can help!
Or, to put it even more simply:
Research does not need to contain big words.
So how do we encourage people to research without churning out more of the badly-prepared, cookie-cutter research that Blaise Cronin was so eloquently scathing about?
- Encourage people to treat what they do every day as research – we all do different things, as #libday7 is showing right now.
- Encourage people to research what they love. We all have different passions.
- Encourage people to love their research. Research being fun doesn’t make it invalid! And who’s to say that the Great Toast Survey might not have far-reaching implications for us as a profession? Seriously, the professions which are traditionally strong and happy at research are also comfortable enough to have fun with it (Yes, that was published in the BMJ. Deal with it.)
- Build ourselves that ‘cadre’ – support and encourage other researchers. Build informal mentoring and reviewing networks. Allow each other the courtesy of acknowledging the validity of research conducted and disseminated through non-traditional paths. Remember that ‘peer-review’ can also be blog comments and RTs. Give a little, gain a lot (yes, I am trying to sell you informal peer support as a pyramid scheme. I can make you professionally rich! Honest!)
What did I gain from the day?
What, besides a crushing sense of intellectual inferiority? A desire, quite frankly, to prove that LIS researchers can be just as valid, just as innovative, just as downright good as those in other professions. A desire to make the whole bloomin profession into a set of connected, CPD-driven, generous, reflective researchers. Who wants to help make this DREaM come true?