At the 2019 OCLC RLP Research Retreat we heard many themes that will be familiar to those working in research libraries. As an affiliate group that seeks to return value to our Partners for their investment, this was an opportunity to confirm and reshape our program of work.
The library is one of many stakeholders
As research libraries respond to rapid changes in scholarly outputs and workflows and seek to provide additional support in areas like research data management and research information management, they must increasingly partner with a multitude of stakeholders from across the institution to implement enterprise-wide services to support the entire research life cycle and address multiple, complex institutional challenges. Our RLP members attending the Research Retreat described successful cross-campus collaborations and communication of the library’s value proposition as pressing challenges. And OCLC Research has also surfaced this in several of its recent research reports, which have described the importance of communication and coordination with other internal stakeholders for institutional success.
Libraries need to better understand and be more responsive to campus stakeholders. Librarians are skilled collaborators but frequently lack the knowledge they need of other institutional functional areas to most effectively engage and collaborate with other professionals across the institution. This particularly rings true for units the library may previously have had little interaction with, such as the Research Office, Institutional Research, and Campus Communications.
Beginning later this year, Senior Program Officer Rebecca Bryant will be leading an effort to better understand the operations, goals, and pain points of research university stakeholders to inform library communications and partnership. She will be looking to RLP members for their assistance in identifying articulate informants from numerous campus units, such as:
- Sponsored programs
- Institutional research
- Campus communications
- Information services/data warehouse
- Academic affairs
- Graduate school
RLP members are encouraged to stay tuned via the Announce listserv for more information soon.
Library skills development
At the Research Retreat, we heard that research libraries are challenged to acquire and develop new skills for staff in key areas. We also learned in a post-event survey that RLP members want to learn what colleagues and peer institutions are doing. As a response the need to learn about new areas of practice as well as what others are doing in the many emergent areas of library practice, the OCLC RLP has established the Works in Progress Webinar series as a place to explore and expose new areas of work. The WIP webinars are a lightweight way for library professionals to learn about emergent areas of practice, as well as to learn about work at OCLC Research while it is in a formative state. We have learned that many institutions organize group viewing parties — we love this, because learning is better when done with others.
We have also developed more in depth discussion and study groups for areas like Research Data Management and Library Assessment. And we will be continuing to offer quarterly discussions on research support topics such as how institutions are implementing FAIR practices.
Additionally, our long running communities of practice such as the Metadata Managers Focus Group and SHARES (the resource sharing arm of the RLP) serve as fertile discussion forums. These groups support active dialog to identify shared areas of need and support best practices.
Bringing people together
Although many of our learning opportunities are done virtually, people value the opportunity to come together. We are always trying to improve our in-person events, so here are some of our takeaways on that score.
- People value the opportunity to meet with one another, particularly at gatherings that are held in conjunction with other meetings. We plan to continue to hold RLP events at OCLC Regional Council meetings and alongside other important meetings such as the RLUK Conference. We are considering what other meetings where we might consider having an RLP “pop up” meeting.
- We tried to inject a sense of play into our meeting by supplying Play Doh at all the tables. This was a hit with Research Retreat participants who expressed their creativity in a variety of ways.
- To keep attention focussed on the meeting, we asked attendees to observe a “no device” policy. Not only did meeting participants kindly comply with our request, we received positive feedback.
- We had a suggestion for stretch breaks, as well as to make the role of “host” more clear in our Art of Hosting activities. We’re also trying to be even more mindful of the importance of using the mic.
If you attended the Research Retreat, what were your “lessons learned?” Does your institution have someone at the table for the Metadata Managers Focus Group, or on one of our working groups? Are you taking advantage of our webinars? What are your tips for running a great meeting? Let us know, we love to hear from you!
Merrilee Proffitt is Senior Manager. She provides community development skills and expert support to institutions within the OCLC Research Library Partnership.