Partnering with OCLC Research: A practitioner’s perspective

The following guest post was written by Amanda Rinehart, Life Sciences Librarian at The Ohio State University.

Guest blogger Amanda Rinehart, Life Sciences Librarian, The Ohio State University

I confess, when the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine cited my 2018 work in their consensus study “Open Science by Design: Realizing a Vision for 21st Century Research”, I actually, in real life, did a little happy dance. A national academy! Citing my work!! And in a vision for 21st century research, no less! So happy! I definitely highlighted it in my tenure case as an example of impact. This work, focusing on sustainability for research data, was done in collaboration with the late and deeply missed OCLC Research Senior Program Officer Ricky Erway. So when another opportunity to collaborate with OCLC Research came along, of course I jumped at it! 

This time the project examines Library Collaboration in Research Data Management (RDM) with Brian Lavoie, OCLC Senior Research Scientist and Rebecca Bryant, Senior Program Officer with the OCLC Research Library Partnership. Amid ongoing economic strains and a myriad of disruptions, libraries are always under pressure to provide more support without a proportionate increase in resources. Some libraries are choosing to meet these increasing demands by collaborating with other institutions. This is a strategic choice and as Lorcan Dempsey wrote, it should involve “active, informed decision-making about what needs to be done locally and what would benefit from stronger coordination or consolidation within collaborative organizations.” 

But how do these collaborations come to be? What do institutions have to invest and/or relinquish in order for them to work? This project asks these questions and will result in two reports. Brian Lavoie published the first report late last year that sets the stage: Library Collaboration as a Strategic Choice: Evaluating Options for Acquiring Capacity. He examines collaboration as one sourcing approach among a range of options and offers a framework to support decision making by academic libraries. The second report will be published later this year, and evaluates three real-world, multi-institutional collaborations against this framework: 

Using semi-structured interviews to collect information from collaboration participants, the forthcoming report will examine the formation and maintenance of each of these collaborations. From these perspectives we will extract common themes and lessons learned to examine the strategic choices behind collaboration in general and those that are specific to RDM. 

I have partnered with OCLC Research on the second report, including selecting the case studies for examination, refining interview questions, as well as taking notes and asking follow-up questions in the interviews. As lead author for one of the case studies in the forthcoming report, I continue to meet regularly with Rebecca and Brian to discuss impressions and to synthesize high level findings. I also had the pleasure of reading and providing commentary on the first report by Brian, allowing me to get a sneak-peek of the initial framework! 

In addition to the intellectual engagement and camaraderie of the OCLC Research team, OCLC also provides: 

  • Administrative, editorial, and graphic design support. Someone else scheduled all the interviews!
  • Working in collaboration with non-librarian information professionals expanded my knowledge and research skills. For example, I’ve learned so much about the economic trade-offs of collaboration from Brian Lavoie, because he is trained as an economist! 
  • Distribution and promotion support, resulting in readership beyond the typical academic librarian sphere in the USA. For example, nearly half the citations to my work with Ricky Erway are from non-English resources; this reach is far greater than many of my other publications.  
  • Experience in conducting international research. OCLC can leverage their global library network to get perspectives from all over the world!

What practitioners bring to the table

  • Real-world perspective from the front-lines. It can seem so easy from the outside, but reality is often much more complicated. I’m the valued voice of experience, saying “Yeah, that is actually harder than it sounds because….[researchers don’t respond that way/librarians don’t use that language/it’s not scalable/etc.]”. This makes the final product more robust and useful, and sometimes leads to “ah-ha” moments where we collectively recognize a fundamental insight. For instance, several of our interview participants mentioned that RDM is done “off the side of the desk,” or is a minor part of an otherwise chock-full workload. This impacts their perspective on collaboration and its related costs. 
  • Time. If you can get research leave, this expands the team and, as they say, “many hands make light work!”
  • Contacts in the practitioner world. OCLC often works with library administrators, but may not have the practitioner network. Gaining access to practitioner participation strengthens the applicability of the final recommendations. 

Together our team is putting together a well-rounded, useful examination of collaboration in the context of providing RDM support. This wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of the OCLC Research team and my Special Assignment research leave from The Ohio State University Libraries. If you, or someone you know, is interested in collaborating with OCLC Research, I wholeheartedly endorse the experience.

Collaborate with OCLC Research 

Do you have an idea that fits with any of OCLC’s research areas and that might be an opportunity for collaboration? Are you eligible for a sabbatical or research leave but not sure how you’d accomplish what you want to do, even given the time? Consider that partnering with OCLC Research might be an option to help you make an impact you couldn’t imagine on your own. Contact Rebecca Bryant