Library and Information Studies programmes constantly produce high quality research in the form of dissertations, the majority of which will never be shared with the rest of the Library and Information Science (LIS) community. Jess Haigh, co-organiser of LISDIS, talks about how mutual frustration over this led to a brand new conference being planned.
Distance Learning and Loneliness
Being awarded my MSc in Library and Information Management in September 2014 was one of my proudest achievements. Studying via part time distance learning with Northumbria University whilst working full time had been a really taxing, time consuming and, often, lonely experience. Although I had a great support network of friends and colleagues, being the only person studying at times felt really isolating. I joined the wonderfully sympathetic PostgRAD Study Gang Facebook group, where it is often mentioned just how alone academics can feel. Ironically I was doing my dissertation on Team Work within libraries; yet often it was a solitary and rather tired me sitting up later reading obscure 90s tracts on working better together through shared goals.
This feeling was often exacerbated by knowing that my research was never really going to be of any interest to anyone but myself and my supervisor (or so I thought at the time…). When you do a qualification through distance learning you don’t have the same social feelings of sharing your writing and researching experiences as can be found through the more traditional library school format. You can share your approaches online, though this very much depends on your cohort and their capacity and interest in involvement in social media. Again, friends and colleagues are wonderful things but there is only so many times your boyfriend can sit there with a glazed look over his face whilst you rant on about how great grounded theory is before you start to think that maybe what you are doing is all a little bit…well…pointless.
Inspriation and Anger
Then in March this year I attended the wonderful NLPN’s Get Career Ready event in Sheffield and was utterly inspired by the presentations therein (I blogged about my experience on my Chartership blog). Lyn Denny was presenting on how she had used the findings of her research on the gendering of children’s books led to her making changes within her role in a public library. This was fascinating for me, who has never worked with children’s book or in a public library, because she was a great presenter and made the subject interesting, but also because it sparked off a larger conversation, at first with other librarians at the conference, then more widely online.
Why don’t we talk about our dissertations more? We spend months and months and months thinking about and reading about and writing about something to a standard that produces a (hopefully) high quality piece of Masters level research and then nothing happens to it. There must be reams of challenging and thought provoking work that should be shared with others but isn’t. In my case at least this was because I considered myself a librarian first, researcher second and the idea that my research was worthy of presentation and publications to our wider peer community does not compute.
I think this also massively depends on your sector. I have now moved into working within Higher Education, where research within your job role is not only valued but expected. Further Education libraries do marvellous, life changing things and are serious undervalued for that, but librarians often do not have the remit of being researchers. I am sure the same would go for other sectors, though I have no practical experience of this-please do comment on your experiences below!
There are librarians and information professionals completing LIS dissertations that go off and work in all kinds of environments where they may not consider themselves as active participants in the research community, despite having, in the case of part time distance learning, taken six months or longer immersed in data, ethics forms, analysis and literature.
In my experience as a distance learning student I have never presented my findings to anyone other than in the form of a dissertation, and that only to my supervisor/marker. Presenting for the first time can be a daunting experience, yet I believe that if I had been given the opportunity to present my findings to a wider audience, I would have been a lot more excited about them.
This frustration and also anger on behalf of the forgotten dissertations sitting in the bottom of people’s wardrobes that should be shared and should be talked about was the basis of a conversation that came after Get Career Ready, and has ultimately resulted in LISDIS.
LISDIS aims purely to give Masters level dissertations a voice; to bring forth the forgotten data, and to excite the LIS community. To give library and information professionals working in whatever circumstances an opportunity to present their findings, to be inspired by the presentations of others, and to learn more about how to take this research further. We’ve got a fabulous guest speaker Emma Coonan talking about submitting a journal article for publication, and will also have posters of dissertations for added excitement.
We launched our website and call for papers at the beginning of August and so far we have had applications on topics ranging from addressing the digital divide to the history of private libraries. We’re really excited to see what the LIS community has to offer and the response has been very positive. It really shows the variety of the sector.
If you’ve completed a dissertation in the past couple of years and are thinking “I would LOVE to be able to talk about that again” then dig it out and submit an application to speak! The conference is free and we can offer travel cost help for speakers. It will take place at the University of Huddersfield’s Heritage Quay on Saturday 14 November 2015. Call for Papers is open until the 11 September, and you can book your place for the conference on our Eventbrite page.
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