6 tips for librarians to engage with their research community

Graduation hat

Library and information staff are always looking for new ideas, inspiration and techniques to engage with their research community and to facilitate the research process. Here are a few short, practical examples from all kinds of libraries around the world - small ideas, specific examples and tips which have worked for other people.

Tip 1: Host research events in the Library

The library is a neutral space in the organisation and can be an ideal venue for events held by and for researchers. These events don’t necessarily have to be specifically linked to library resources and services, it’s more about the research community developing a sense of ownership of library spaces and seeing them as part of the research environment.

Tip 2: Liaise with other sections of the organisation who also work with researchers

Identify other teams who may be engaging with researchers, albeit for different reasons. You might simply start to discuss ways in which you can collaborate on areas of common interest or start to share workflows and reduce duplication. Keeping the dialogue going is vital, so consider inviting members of different teams to be regular attendees at appropriate library team meetings; a standing item of a report from the University Research Office, for example, ensures an ongoing conversation. In return, offer to attend or send a regular library report to any relevant team meetings held elsewhere.

Tip 3 Celebrate research output

Look for innovative ways to celebrate the completion and deposition of PhD theses. Ask supervisors to recommend a a “thesis of the month”, tweet about new theses deposited, simply list new theses on the Library’s website or new books feed. 

Tip 4: Become an author yourself

It’s much easier to engage with researchers over their experiences if you’re able to empathise with them and to demonstrate that you have struggled with similar issues. This doesn’t mean that we all need to complete a piece of doctoral research or write an article for Nature, but in small ways it is still possible to replicate some of a researcher’s experiences. Writing for publication doesn’t have to imply writing a journal article; you can start in a small way by writing book reviews, or starting a blog. These are all useful activities for research students to undertake too and shared experiences will give you a common platform on which to develop a stronger relationship.

Tip 5: Video personal stories

Personal stories can bring learning to life and hearing another researcher talk about the value of an approach or the usefulness of a resource can be much more powerful than a librarian demonstrating it. Keep videos very short, delivering concise snippets of information and don’t worry too much about creating formal, scripted recordings. 

Tip 6: Use appropriate terminology

Too often, librarians become caught up in the language of the profession and offer services to researchers using inappropriate wording. Stop thinking about what you are offering and what you are going to do and start thinking about what the research community are going to gain and how they might use it. For example, you can change a workshop originally titled “Journal impact factors and citation counting” to “How to identify the key journals in your discipline”, or “How to discover who is reading your work”.

About "Practical Tips for Facilitating Research"

Practical Tips for Facilitating Research

Practical Tips for Facilitating Research, by Moira J. Bent, offers innovative tips and reliable best practice to enable new and experienced library and information professionals to evaluate their current provision and develop their service to meet the evolving needs of the research community.


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