Some Thoughts as a Novice Researcher at a New Job

by Matthew Tansek, Head Editor, INALJ Rhode Island

Some Thoughts as a Novice Researcher at a New Job

Matthew TansekOne thing that can be hard to do once you get settled into any new job, is find avenues of research.  Perhaps those fresh from college, with professors words still ringing in their ears will jump onto research projects straight away (especially if one were seeking to be a PHD candidate).  But if your anything like me, you’ve spent some time just settling in and working to meet your daily goals.  But for the betterment of both your institution, and for the greater knowledge for the subject I’m here offering some encouragement to put a project together.

First off, let me say that you don’t need to be involved in a large institution or an academic setting to begin doing a research study.  Perhaps the places that need information the most are the smaller libraries that are feeling the squeeze financially.  Knowing what is working, what people are wanting, and where to allocate those scarce resources is key in building strategies for the future.

For me personally, I began my foray into the world of research when I completed construction of a website, for the library I was working for.  I had done a lot of work collaborating with the various departments throughout the library and built what I thought was a rather solid site, that incorporated all of the various features one typically finds online, with a good deal of interactivity and commonly sought after information sprinkled throughout.  But as I was putting on the finishing touches, it occurred to me that there had not been any input at the user level.  It had been assumed at the various web development meetings that he librarians that worked closely with the public knew what was commonly needed and were fully capable of setting up a site that would be well received.  I however wanted this to be a more professional launching, and so wrote a brief usability study proposal, was approved, and was off.

“The research we do at the local level – collaboratively – is what makes formal, outside research work. Outside research cannot be installed like a car part – it has to be fitted, adjusted, and refined for the contexts we work in.”

Mike Schmoker

It is much easier to accomplish research goals as a team, then on your own.  This simple fact was one that I had to learn the hard way.  Finding the time throughout your day to work on a research project can be frustrating, and the simple fact that you have hundreds of other responsibilities means that the time from inception to fruition is going to be a long one, often far longer than is feasible when you’re on your own.  Send out emails, bring it up at a meeting, and do whatever you need to do to get the word out to get the necessary number of people to keep the thing hitting its milestones on time as you move forward.

Don’t worry about making some changes, but try not to lose site of what you are really trying to accomplish.  I’ve personally found that a robust planning stage can work wonders on this.  By letting people tweak the procedure, the study can benefit from a greater level of investment from its participants.  But with changes can come disagreements, so make sure from the outset that a research leader is chosen that can handle making strong decisions.

Finally, once completed you can start thinking about how to bring your findings to the library community as a whole.  Like most creations it takes an outside perspective to really be able to see its value.  So keep that in mind when looking back and seeing potentially all of the little errors along the way.