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Saturday, 18 November 2017

LARK's Treasurer & End Year event

By Suzana Sukovic

As many of you have already found out via other channels, ALIA LARK is organising the end of year event in Sydney. It will be a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and influence our direction for next year. You don't have to be an ALIA member to join us. Colleagues from allied professions are most welcome. I am sure that GLAM professionals, educators and many others will find out that we have a lot in common.

Please register on Eventbrite if you would like to come. I would also like to invite all of you who can't come to this meeting, but want to participate in organising future events (including remote organisation of online events) to get in touch with me (see details below).

LARK looks for a new TREASURER. After five years, Alycia Bailey has decided to pass the mantle. I wish to thank her for all her work and support over the years hoping to see her in LARK's meetings and events. This is the opportunity for another well-organised person to take a lead in this unique group.  

If you are interested, please check information about ALIA's office bearers (ALIA Group FAQ) and get in touch with me by email ( or via Twitter (@suzanasukovic).

Looking forward to hearing from and seeing current and potential LARKs soon.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Five years of LARK, or how birds of the feather flock together

By Suzana Sukovic

Celebrating 5 years of LARK - 22 September 2017, State Library NSW
A version of this post was first published on the Canadian C-EBLIP blog. Some minor changes have been made and additional pictures added to this post.

LARK (Library Applied Research Kollektive), a grass-roots group connecting professionals and academics with interest in practice-based research, celebrates its fifth birthday this year. Having a professional network of people with similar interests may sound quite straightforward, but there are days when I think it’s a miracle that baby LARK reached childhood by the human measure and, probably, teenage years by measure of longevity of a grassroot group. 

With LARK, bird jokes and metaphors are inevitable. We sometimes talk about being birds of the feather. Since C-EBLIP belongs to the same bird species, I’d like to share LARK’s story, a bit of parental pride and some insights from our five-years long flight.

Let's Talk About Research - 20 September 2012, St.Vincent's College
In 2011, I made an unusual job change and, after many years of working at universities, I started working in an independent high school. In 2012, I initiated a research project at work and thought that some collaboration would go a long way in boosting the study. I also felt a strange sense of isolation in this new sector although connections with information worlds in which I worked before seemed obvious. So, I decided to call professionals from different corners of the library, information and educational sectors to come to an informal meeting called Let’s Talk About Research. We gathered after work at St.Vincent’s College (Sydney), had a nibble and a glass of wine, talked about research interests and had a good time. People were enthusiastic about establishing a network and thought we needed to put in place some structures to support our connections. That’s how LARK was born. My library colleagues at St.Vincent’s College and I decided about the name, I started the blog and a mailing list and invited people to join us. The mailing list had a decent number of members pretty quickly. We were ready to fly.

But, we didn’t. Any baby needs a fair bit of attention. Baby LARK needed attention and lots of patience. It kept quiet and slept a lot. Like most first-time parents, I had some misplaced expectations based on examples I saw (Humanist Discussion Group being the prime example). Where I expected chatter and collaboration, the LARK list offered a deafening silence. My messages felt like sending letters to myself. So, I’d let my daily life take over and LARK slide far to the periphery of my (and everyone else’s) attention. But, whenever that happened, there was someone sending a private message saying how much they enjoyed posts about research. Or, my interpretation of the enthusiasm at the first meeting as one-off occurrence would be corrected by people who’d get in touch to ask when we were meeting next.

So, LARK met again. And again. Some people continued from the first meeting (notably, Alycia Bailey), others joined in for a short or long period of time. Some have become regular companions (shout out to Janet Chelliah and Bhuva Narayan from the University of Technology, Sydney - UTS). We usually had around 15, sometimes 20 people in engaging meetings after work, always followed by dinner. Our colleagues were getting in touch afterwards to say how they’d like to join, but couldn’t on that occasion. During the first couple of years, I expected people would either come in bigger numbers or stop coming altogether. Neither happened. Academics, librarians from university, public, school and special libraries, information professionals and teachers kept getting together. The gatherings had never been large, but the group thrived nevertheless. With ongoing activities and a need for some support, we joined ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association) in December 2013.

Culture of curiosity (from LARK's event in 2015)
What also happened over time was that people were getting in touch from various parts of Australia to say how they had research interests, but felt isolated and disconnected from research networks. This is how we initiated regular online events in 2016. Our first online event included presenters from Australia and New Zealand. Like face-to-face meetings, online events attracted a solid audience, but not a huge following. They became, however, an important connection point. The most recent webinar in 2017 was also an opportunity to reach out to other professional groups who talked to us about their research experiences reinforcing a sense of interprofessional networks.

LARK blog: Pageviews by countries 5/11/2017
LARK’s online presence grew in other ways too. This collaboratively written blog  has attracted a fair bit of attention over time. Particularly important were contributions from the ALIA Research Advisory Committee. C-EBLIP’s own Virginia Wilson has become a contributor too. According to the latest statistics, LARK’s blog attracted over 80,000 visits from around the world, well over 700 visits per post.

During a period of a couple of years, Fiona McDonald, Liz Walkley Hall and I ran the first Antipodean LIS reading group on Twitter (#EBLIPRG). We connected with professional groups overseas and even had a session facilitated from Ireland. LARK had an important role in making #EBLIPRG visible.

In May 2017, LARK branched out from online spaces and Sydney to South Australia. Liz Walkley Hall had already led an active research group at Flinders University and decided to initiate LARK group in South Australia to connect with colleagues from other organisations. The group had an initial meeting and has plans for future events.

Happy birthday to us: Krystal Campbell is getting ready to blow candles
Post by post, event by event, LARK has become very visible in the Australian LIS landscape. On 22 September this year we celebrated LARK’s fifth birthday in a research style by organising a seminar titled Holy Evidence! Research in information practice. Yet again, it was a relatively small gathering, but one for which some people travelled significant distances. It was also pleasing that LARK was able for the first time to offer a grant to a LIS student to attend the seminar (congratulations to Krystal Campbell, a student at UTS). 

Seminar Holy Evidence! Research in Information Practice
In the first half of the day, we considered the Australian research environment and heard from a variety of experienced researchers and novices from different sectors and even industries. In the second part of the day, we had a workshop to discuss how to develop a research project from idea to reality, and how to publish research findings. A feeling of connection and genuine engagement in the room was well supported by feedback forms. People greatly enjoyed, not only substantial learning, but also each other’s company. It was particularly rewarding to see that people who came from afar were not disappointed. A sense of a connected research community was palpable in the air.
David Schmidt's reflection on the seminar: 1. Most views were from Russia in the week 18 September 3. Liz Griffits presented a thought-provoking paper comparing research with a swamp 4. Suzanne Lewis presented a paper on search filters

During the seminar, I looked back at the five years of LARK and thought of many dispersed people who are prepared to put effort in making research a reality in LIS practice. Establishing connections between interested people is essential, especially when they don’t even see themselves as researchers. For research, you only need curiosity and tenacity; everything else can be learnt, said David Schmidt at the LARK’s seminar when he talked about research capacity building in health in rural and remote areas. With a network of curios tenacious people, learning is much more likely to happen, and it’s also much more enjoyable. A network also makes practice-based research visible.

Another issue is working with research bubbles formed along academic and professional, hierarchical and sector-based divisions. Distinctions between different types of research and interests are real, but often grossly exaggerated. When it comes to research, there are more connections than non-negotiable barriers. With LARK’s participants and presenters from various LIS sectors and allied fields, it has become evident that we have a lot in common when it comes to sharing research experiences and concerns. Groups like LARK open the lines of conversation and help us pop the bubbles.

In the spirit of interprofessional learning, I looked up what biology says on how birds of the feather flock together. They are known for changing direction, possibly to confuse predators. The change can be led by any bird in the flock and others will follow. How birds of a feather flock together…they are democratic, claims an article in the Daily Mail interpreting a research study. Without looking into the authenticity of this interpretation, I like the idea that any bird can take a leadership position when it picks up important signals from its place in the environment. I like to believe that this is how a loosely organised group like LARK thrives. People come to the group for a short or long period of time, but they keep up the flight and influence the direction. At the end of the seminar, a few young librarians from various parts of Australia offered their help and expressed their willingness to be more involved with LARK. After a very rewarding research celebration, these offers were a real highlight for me. They are saying to me that LARK will keep flying. For all of us, especially new LARKs ready to fly, it is crucial to have the flock. 

Thanks to Virginia Wilson for her kind words and the first post.  

Dr Suzana Sukovic currently works as the Executive Director, Educational Research and Evidence Based Practice at HETI (Health Education and Training Institute), NSW Health

Thursday, 5 October 2017

“Mum, I can’t walk. I am going to fly”

aerial, airliner, airplane

Improvisation on a rural research theme

By Suzana Sukovic

“Mum, I can’t walk. I am going to fly”, Jannine Shepherd enthusiastically announced. In her keynote address at the Rural Health and Research Congress 2017 in Wagga Wagga last week, Janine Shepherd, a champion skier once in training for the Olympics, told us how her love of hills saved her. At the time, she faced the towering obstacle of her broken body and a doctor’s prediction that she would never walk again. The doctor’s prediction didn’t come true because Janine decided to challenge it with the determination and tenacity of a mountain lover. The announcement that she would fly, however, came true, although even mum’s best response was, ‘That’s nice, dear’. As a partially paraplegic woman, Janine learnt to fly an aircraft a year and a half after her accident and proceeded to teach others.

I think we have a powerful research lesson here. It involves a love of hills which, with all the challenges, provide the best route and unexpected views. It also involves a great deal of learning. And some unlearning. 

Looking afield from our customary professional horizons, a lot can be seen. Changing industries is certainly not the momentous alpine range Janine has experienced in her life, but it does provide some challenging and thrilling moments. Last week at the congress I remembered rewards of a meandering career when ordinary things reappear as new. Keynotes, for example, are  cerebral events. I believed they were presented by smart people who talked about something relevant to our work. Our raw life is not the topic of keynotes. Even the firm belief that rational and emotional are part of a human whole, didn’t prepare me for the powerful personal stories I heard from the main congress stage. Or that bodily functions are not to be discussed over the table (unless it’s a research breakfast and the presenter’s study happens to be about the by-products of abdominal functions). 

Along with challenged assumptions, there were some personal and professional lessons. Looking at how the health profession goes about its research and practical work, I thought I’d like to share a few takeaways with colleagues in the library and information sector. They are likely to be applicable in GLAM as well (Galleries-Libraries-Archives-Museums). 

Cartoon by David Schmidt

1. Research in the limelight. Everything we heard in the congress wasn’t about research, but research was a driving force connecting all the parts and showing the way ahead. It had a much more prominent position than in last year’s congress. Hon. Brad Hazzard, in his dual roles as the Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research, stressed that research has become a distinct part of his portfolio signifying its importance in health. With new interest in educational research and even a “medical approach to teaching” described as a cause of “quiet revolution” by media, it is time to re-consider the role of research in other sectors. Seriously, research is in the limelight.

2. Client on the stage and other stories. A big part of library and information work evolves around stories – stocked in our collections and heard over and over again at service points. Maybe there is a bit of story fatigue, but we don’t invite clients’ stories very often. Teachers invite students to talk about their learning in teachers’ conferences or to participate with them in workshops. “We are all learners”, they say. Health professionals invite their patients to the stage to tell them about their experiences in dealing with the health system. “We can all make this better”, they say. Chris Pointon, for example, spoke about the powerful campaign “Hello my name is” initiated by his late wife, Kate Granger. As a doctor who became a terminally ill patient, she saw an opportunity for a simple, but significant improvement for patient-centred care. 

There was a session at the congress dedicated to Aboriginal engagement and research. One of the presenters commented on how Aboriginal people prefer stories instead of Power Point presentations. A few people on Twitter joined in saying “not only Aborigines”. In this session, Jayla Nix, Aboriginal Health Worker, pointed out an app, which uses images and patients’ stories to help Aboriginal people understand medical procedures. She said it was the most useful research outcome she saw. It all made me wonder whether we hear stories of our clients as industry and research partners often enough.  

3. Gathering data through pain spots. Janine Shepherd told us how she recorded data daily as she progressed on her journey from a wheel-chair to walking on her own feet. If you want to fly and, even more importantly, walk on your own, tenacity and systematic improvement based on evidence go a long way – literally. 

Vic McEwan, the Artistic Director of the Cad Factory, discussed his art projects involving patients. In one of these projects, he gathered data about hospital sounds (see Intensive Care: artists in healthcare environments  and Art in the real world: from the hospital ward to the Tate). McEwan talked to patients, and measured vibrations and noises. The research outcomes were diverse: a documentary giving a voice to loud sounds and silent worries, he said, music from a cello bow played on a hospital bed, and recommendations to administrators who were not aware of any concerns about disturbing noises. But, some facts are hard to ignore. When an intensive care door makes the sound as loud as an airplane every 30 seconds and there is a measurement for evidence, someone needs to fix the door. 

A point of difference between regular data-gathering and these examples is the focus on the pain spots. Galleries have a few things to say on the topic, but I wonder whether libraries go far enough when they invite artists in-residence. Can we ask them not only to look, but also to listen to silenced voices, banging doors and beeping machines? Is there an experience of pain to be documented with a harp and trumpet?

4. I didn’t know you can do it that way. Interprofessional learning is mainstream in health and there are fewer places where it is as obvious as in rural settings. Geographically dispersed and with a relatively small number of specialists, professionals in rural areas need to collaborate and to learn from each other to solve a problem. This sort of thinking becomes obvious in a conference where all sorts of health professionals, patients, artists, Indigenous elders and a historian come together with an understanding that there are many ways to keep people healthy. After a year in health, I have no doubt that information professionals have a lot to take from and to contribute to this mix. 

5. Translate that research. Application of research to practice is not a spontaneous process. It takes time, effort and, often, resources. In health, translational research attracts a great deal of attention and funding. It was inspiring to see at the congress that a translational research grant was given to a novice researcher graduating from the Rural Research Capacity Building Program. Two grants were also given to graduates to present papers about their research at international or national conferences. An investment in research education doesn’t have a full impact without opportunities to communicate findings and apply them in practice. Admittedly, health care is much better funded than other industries, but it also has a tradition of connecting basic and applied research (and of putting research in the limelight).

For the library and information sector (and GLAM) which does so well offering substantial and innovative services while struggling to make ends meet, climbing research mountains may feel like an extreme sport. Pointing towards examples from health with all the support that industry has may feel a little insensitive to say the least. In the library and information field, which constantly deals with information overload, pointing out more information elsewhere may not seem very practical or necessary. However, ‘out of the blue’ ideas and painstaking efforts, especially with a data-collection diary in hand, are often what makes us fly when we struggle to walk. 

Libraries know the art of self-recreation well as they have bravely and successfully reinvented themselves in the face of many challenges. But, original research hasn’t been included in a self-reinvention yet. We still don’t have professional conferences devoted to research unless it is about helping others. Research isn’t a regular part of the library professional identity. However, the signs are in the fresh Wagga air that we must think about this carefully.

Janine Shepherd told us how a love of hills made her an Olympic athlete and then saved her life. She also told us that greater than the power of love is the power of choice. You need to choose love, she said. And you can't just choose hills, you need to learn to love hills. As a sector, we need to choose research, not as a hill, but as a whole mountain range. For the ascent, we need the imagination of an artist, the endurance of an Olympic athlete and the wisdom of a librarian. 

Monday, 2 October 2017

2018 Rural Research Capacity Building Program

By Suzana Sukovic

Some of you may have already heard of an excellent capacity building program for health workers in rural and remote areas of New South Wales. The good news is that applications for the 2018 Rural Research Capacity Building Program are now open. Even better, it has been confirmed that the program is not for health staff only. Dr Kerith Duncanson, Program Officer, invites library and information staff to apply:
We have had such wonderful support in the past for RRCBP candidates from Local Health District librarians, and also within the systematic review courses. However, we have never had a librarian in the program and there are many topics that would be useful and applicable for a librarian to investigate. Therefore, if any of the librarians were interested in developing research skills and have a research question to answer, we would encourage an application.
Some of you may have heard about the program in LARK's webinar in February. You may now like to hear or revisit Kerith Duncanson's presentation From experienced health clinician to novice researcher to find out more about the program.

Applications are open till 31 October 2017. Click here for further details. 

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Those research birds: a day with LARK

By Paige Wright

The post was originally published on the blog Paige the Librarian.

Friday I attended the ALIA LARK (Library Applied Research Kollektive) seminar, Holy Evidence! Research in Information Practice. This post will discuss some highlights and tips from the seminar, so if you are a GLAMR professional interested in research, read on! If you are interested in knowing more about LARK, please read their blog (which you are doing now).

The day started out with Dr Suzana Sukovic (‘Mother of LARK’, works at HETI) explaining a bit about LARK itself. She made the point that a lot of research happens in bubbles and LARK is about breaking these bubbles and making connections between LIS researchers. She noted the biggest challenges faced by LIS researchers are time, skills and that it’s not part of their job descriptions. Librarians can be aided by organisational support, communities of practice, grants to free time and interprofessional learning.

It is important to note at this point that research is a complicated topic. There are academics out there doing Research, living in the world of PhDs and peer-reviewing. There are also information practitioners who are doing research, sometimes internally for their own workplace benefit and sometimes presenting their findings at conferences. After this seminar I can see that these two types of researchers can benefit from each other. In fact, Ms Fiona Salisbury and Dr Bhuva Narayan, Co-chairs of the ALIA Research Advisory Committee talked to the group about how the ALIA research grant focused on providing support for projects in which academics and LIS practitioners collaborated.

We also heard a bit from Dr Bhuva Narayan and Dr Mary Anne Kennan about JALIA – ALIA’s journal. I learned that JALIA articles had different levels of articles, including a feature called ‘Information in Practice’ which is sharing what people are doing in the field and not peer-reviewed, although peer-reviewed research articles are also featured. It gives an opportunity for people with different research skill levels to be involved in being published.

One re-occurring theme of the day was interprofessional learning. We heard from David Schmidt of HETI who talked about overcoming barriers to research and being enablers of research. He also noted that often people put research on a pedestal, thinking it is something that people somewhere far away in lab coats do. David says, 'If you have tenacity and curiosity, you have what you need to be a good researcher.' One of my favourite takeaways from David’s talk was the statement that ‘Librarians underestimate their ability to enable research by connecting people’.  Here is a slide from David’s presentation, which shows off his amazing MS Paint illustration skills:

A slide from David Schmidt's presentation

The research in LIS practice panel discussion was amazing and we heard from an academic librarian, a public librarian and a health librarian. They all had interesting projects and unique perspectives. Sally Scholefield talked about her collaboration with academics on writing a research paper on the RFID project at UTS. You can read the paper here. Liz Griffiths from Willoughby City Council Libraries discussed peer-led learning in a public library and I found the public library research perspective fascinating. Suzanne Lewis from the Central Coast Local Health District talked about her collaborative project designing an integrated care search filter. Suzanne’s research amazed me in that there were so many different people involved in the project and she managed to co-ordinate them all.

The second half of the day we heard more from our research experts on skills for research in practice. The biggest takeaways from this were 1) align your research with the strategic goals of your library and get the support of you organisation 2) Follow through all the research steps: planning, acting, observing, reflecting, organisation process, organisation support 3) Share your research, either internally with your colleagues or externally by publishing or even blogging about it.

The overall outcome of the day for me is that I am more interested in research than ever before. From here I’m going to comb the LARK blog for more tips, keep reading peer-reviewed LIS research articles, comb through my notes from the seminar and start forming my research question.  I’m interested in hearing your first-time research stories and tips. If you have any for me, please comment or tweet me at @WrightPaige.

Paige Wright (@WrightPaige) is a Special Collections Librarian at the University of Newcastle Library. Her interests include open access, digital repositories and digital special collections.

Monday, 11 September 2017

LARK’s seminar grants

By Suzana Sukovic

LARK is getting ready to celebrate its fifth birthday in research style next week. With speakers and participants coming from close and afar, it really feels like birds of a feather are flocking together. 

If you haven't secured your place, there is still time to check our program and register. You will be able to claim ALIA PD points. 

LARK's preparations for a whole research day are getting even more exciting now that we can grant some free registrations.  

LARK is inviting full time library and information students and people from rural and remote areas to apply for a seminar grant. We have 3 free registrations available for suitable candidates. 

If you are interested, you need to apply quickly as applications close this week, on Friday 15 September
Click here for further instructions and to apply online.

Seminar audience: primarily LIS professionals, but it is suitable for educators and anyone who wants to learn about research in practice.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Cultivating a Culture of Curiosity? The Benefits of Doing So if Research is on Your Mind


By Virginia Wilson

Many information organizations strive to create a culture of research for different reasons. Some, like many Canadian academic libraries, do so to encourage their librarians who are required to conduct and disseminate research for professional advancement, i.e. tenure, permanent status. Others have embraced evidence based library and information practice (EBLIP) where research alongside professional expertise and what the users want/need is prevalent. Still others see research as an important part of librarianship where research can inform practice. And then there are combinations of the above. Indeed, our own University Library has spent the last 10 years developing a robust culture of research, where research and scholarly activity are supported and encouraged, as librarians are faculty members and on the tenure track. We also consider the tenets of EBLIP in our practice of professional skills. 

However, many librarians do not have extensive training in the research enterprise. Library schools offer the obligatory research methods survey class and unless the librarian also has another graduate degree or opts for the thesis route in library school, research experience is not a given. So, when a librarian comes into a culture of research, it can be daunting and frustrating no matter what supports are offered and a common difficulty for new librarians is trying to think of or decide on a research topic. It seems to look (simplistically1 ) like this:

Even though we ask candidates about their research interests, often the idea of the actual doing of research doesn’t hit home until the candidate is faced with the realities and requirements of the tenure process. 
The research life cycle looks something like this:

"Research Life Cycle" image from UC Irvine Library Digital Scholarship Services 

Found on University of Michigan Scientific Discovery Path of Excellence - An Information Resource Starter Kit.This seems to be a robust and thorough depiction of the research process (although I might use the term “data” instead of “assets” in the Implementation box). I like how this process encourages open access publishing and includes social media as a source of impact metrics. It’s good stuff. But nowhere in this process is there a description of coming up with a research topic. It presumes that the topic is there and the research question is already at hand. 

I wonder then if the idea of a “culture of research” is too late in the game. There are many different cultures an information organization can strive to create: culture of learning, culture of excellence, culture of success, but what about a culture of curiosity?  
1:  desire to know:b:  interest leading to inquiry - intellectual curiosity - Her natural curiosity led her to ask more questions.

A culture of curiosity is in line with encouraging research amongst librarians as researchers. As defined by Merriam-Webster, curiosity is interest leading to inquiry. Fostering a culture of curiosity with the implicit and explicit aim of curiosity leading to research allows the research piece to be part of the natural process of having a question and seeking an answer. A culture of curiosity would look something like this:

Research, therefore, would be part of the process – just not the starting point. 
But if the organization requires research and indeed it is part of a librarian’s job, that fact cannot be ignored. Can a librarian put that requirement to the back of their mind and go into their job all wide-eyed and curious? Surely there will be the looming spectre of research outputs and then the pressure to be curious in the right way – a way that will lead to an answerable research question. I don’t deny that the scenario could happen, and I’m not trying to institute tricking your employees into doing research as an active strategy. I believe we can have both a culture of curiosity and a culture of research, and that they will build on one another moving forward. Curiosity leads to questions which lead to research which can lead to innovation. An added bonus of working within a culture of curiosity is that curiosity will also increase employee engagement and provide the continuous impetus to examine and reflect on the work so to be open to innovation. 

How does one develop a culture of curiosity? Obviously, having management that is on board with such a culture is important. However, in browsing around about this topic, I compiled four ways to encourage curiosity that anyone can try:
1. Write agendas as questions: using the premise that employees are more engaged when they feel like they can influence the outcome, set up meetings that are as participatory as possible and encourage interest by structuring agendas in the form of questions.
2. Encourage collaboration: because great ideas don’t generally happen in a vacuum, have employees work together often and in different groupings. They will be exposed to the talents of their co-workers and can take advantage of cross-unit ideas and inspiration.
3. Get rid of fear by embracing failure: research and publishing can be a hot bed of disappointment. Harsh peer reviews, rejection letters, uncooperative methodologies – there are many ways to find yourself down the wrong path. An organization that calmly accepts that failure is a part of progress will enable employees to move on to the next thing faster and with confidence.
4. Encourage questioning: while it is true that constant questioning has the risk of causing defensiveness, realistic questioning of policy and processes can help to stimulate new ways of thinking and new ways of doing the work. This is also the place where research topics are born. 

A culture of curiosity will benefit not only the librarians who have research as a mandate, but also all the library employees who are working in the information organization and the organization itself. Encouraging curiosity, creativity, and innovation can help in a sea of constant change. And in our fast-paced work world, keeping pace with or ahead of change will serve us all better. And if a research mandate is on the table, curiosity is a must to achieve something relevant and useful.

Works consulted
Goodman, R. (2016, June 1). How to build a culture of curiosity [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Kalra, A.S. (2015, October 23). 10 ways to build a culture of curiosity. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from 

Karl, A. (2013, November). Create a culture of curiosity: guest blog by Allan Karl. [Blog post]. Retrieved from 

Milway, K.S. and Goldmark, A. (2013, September 18). Four ways of cultivating a culture of curiosity [Blog post]. Retrieved from 

1 I say simplistically up above because of course candidates at our library know prior to being hired that they must do research. We focus on it specifically during the hiring process to avoid blindsiding someone coming in.

Virginia Wilson is Director of the
Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP)
University of Saskatchewan, Canada

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Seminar Holy Evidence: Research in Information Practice

By Suzana Sukovic

On 22 September LARK is celebrating its 5th anniversary in its signature style - by organising a seminar dedicated to research in practice. We are delighted to announce that the full program is now ready.

The seminar will be presented in two parts. In the first half of the day, we will consider issues of research in practice, learn from experiences in other professional fields and consider some examples of successful practice-based research projects in different types of libraries. The second half of the day will be dedicated to learning how to put research ideas into action. We will finish the day by discussing communication of research from Twitter to peer-reviewed journal articles. 

The seminar will be presented by experienced researchers from the profession and academia, and we will hear from young professionals who are at the beginning of their research journey.


Audience: primarily LIS professionals, but it is suitable for educators and anyone who wants to learn about research in practice.

ALIA PD points can be claimed.


See the full program with details about the sessions and presenters.

9-9.30 am
9.30-10 am
Welcome & Introductions

10-10.30 am
LARK on the research horizon: developing research in practice
Dr Suzana Sukovic, HETI (Health Education & Training Institute)
Learning from other professional fields: research in rural health
David Schmidt, NSW Health
11-11.30 am
Morning break

11.30-11.45 am
RFID project at UTS: collaborating with academics
Sally Scholfield, University of Technology, Sydney Library
11.45 am-12 pm
Peer-led learning in a public library
Liz Griffiths, Willoughby City Council Libraries
12-12.15 pm
Developing a validated integrated care search filter:
a practice-based research project
Suzanne Lewis, Central Coast Local Health District
12.15-12.45 pm
Panel discussion
12.45-1.30 pm

1.30-3 pm
Doing research in practice
Dr Suzana Sukovic and Fiona Salisbury, La Trobe University Library
3-3.15 pm
Afternoon break
3.15-4 pm
Doing research in practice: Planning a project (group work)
4-4.50 pm
Communicating research: from Twitter to peer-reviewed article
Dr Mary Anne Kennan, Charles Sturt University
Dr Bhuva Narayan, University of Technology, Sydney
4.50-5 pm
Feedback and close

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

LARK branches out

By Liz Walkley Hall

Last Wednesday 10 May, LARK held its first face to face meeting in South Australia! This was an informal gathering over lunch, facilitated by me, but with an emphasis on working as a collective.

There were 13 attendees, including PhD students, academics, and practitioner-researchers; most of whom are actively working on current projects, with others are very interested in doing so, or have done so in the past.

Research topics ranged from preservation of collections, including digital preservation, through to librarian salaries, engagement with researchers, and information behaviour.

 Over our discussion, it emerged that we are most interested in

  • networking and collaboration opportunities
  • presentation and dissemination opportunities
  • case studies of research practice from which to learn from.
All in all it was a very successful first meeting. We look forward to planning our next steps, please do be in touch if you'd like to join us!

Many thanks to ALIA SA Manager Emily Wilson for coordinating this event, and thanks to ALIA for providing lunch.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Thoughts on attending an academic writing retreat for the first time

By Virginia Wilson

I recently returned home from a week-long academic women's writing retreat in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Academic women from the University of Saskatchewan (U of S; my home institution) and elsewhere in Canada came together for 6 days (arrived Monday; returned Saturday) to write/work/think. Our days were unstructured although we did have a permanent writing room that was ours for the week, open daily from 7am to 11pm. With it being at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, smack dab in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, there were fitness facilities, good food, and amazing views/walks. I had never attended a writing retreat before and I found it to be an amazingly productive experience. Not only did I get a ton of work done, I was actually able to slow my brain down enough to do some revelatory thinking. I feel calm, focused, and energized. I’ve got some confidence back. The retreat occurred at the perfect time in my work life. I would go again in a minute. In fact at this point, I would spend my professional development funds on this kind of activity rather than a conference.

Town of Banff
I was inspired to attend the writing retreat because I had been unhappy with my progress during the first months of my 6-month sabbatical. It was difficult to motivate myself, and with the lack of motivation and lack of productivity, I became lackluster! I wasn’t happy with myself or where I was at. The Academic Women’s Writing Retreat was organized by a U of S faculty member and she spread the word to other female academics. Space was limited to about 16 people. I registered and awaited the time when I could fly west and start to regroup. 

When I first arrived, I was somewhat discombobulated. I had been to Banff before, many times, but not to the Banff Centre. There was the inevitable finding-my-way-around time, getting settled in my room, finding out where to eat, and generally developing a sense of direction in a new place. The first evening, 6 of us made our way down the mountain to the town of Banff and got acquainted over dinner. The trip back up the mountain (okay, it was only partially down and up a mountain, but it was steep in places!) made me know that I was out of my usual space (flat prairies) and that there was potential here for a different perspective. 

During the week, I wrote in the Banff Centre library, the shared writing retreat room, and my hotel room. I found great inspiration to silently work with other people. I had known about this possibility from attending the bi-weekly writing circle that the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice runs at our Library. It was maybe even more intense because I was with women faculty members from different disciplines. During off times, I talked about research and writing with women from the English Department, the College of Education, the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, and the Department of Sociology. We shared with great interest our different perspectives and our goals for the week. And at the end of the week, we compared notes and celebrated accomplishments. I went away with a feeling of determination. I would recreate this feeling again! I would be as productive in my usual environment as I had been at the writing retreat! 

I’ve come back home all jazzed up about my experience. I looked around for some articles on writing retreats and found that this is not an uncommon part of academic writing and that it’s conducive to getting results. Writing retreats come in many shapes and colours: unstructured retreats that provide space and time (like the one I attended), retreats with structure/workshops/mentorship (Murray & Newton 2009), in-house writing retreats (Casey, Barron, & Gordon 2013), and retreats anywhere from a weekend to two-three weeks or more. The gist of it all seems to be that time away for writing is time well spent. I can see this approach working for all types of writing or other creative endeavors. A change in location can manifest in a change of perspective, a change in thought patterns, and even a change in self-identity. When I was at the writing retreat with other academic women, in addition to getting actual writing done, I felt like a researcher and writer, I felt like an academic, and I felt productive and confident. And for a practicing librarian with a research mandate to feel all these things…well, this was an unanticipated result and one that I hope to pass along to others who are struggling with writing or contemplating a writing retreat. If you get the chance, do it!

Casey, B., Barron, C.M., & Gordon, E. (2009). Reflections on an in-house academic writing retreat. AISHE-J: The All Ireland Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 5(1). 1041-1054.

Murray, R. & Newton, M. (2013). Writing retreat as structured intervention: margin or mainstream? Higher Education Research & Development, 28(5). 541–553

Virginia Wilson is Director, Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP), University Library, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Twitter: @VirginiaPrimary

Image Town of Banff