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Katie Fraser's blog and website

I'm an academic librarian, working in the UK Higher Educational sector, supporting academics and students. Prior to this, I was a researcher, working with social and learning technologies.

My interests include the application of emerging and traditional technologies, research support in libraries, learning spaces, evidence-based practice and the professional development of library and information workers.

You can find out more about more about me from the links to the left. Note that the views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other individual or organisation.

Communicating with postgraduate research students: some themes from the library literature

January 18th, 2013

I’m currently engaged in a project looking at our communication with postgraduate research students, along with other colleagues in Library and Learning Services at De Montfort University. In order to get an understanding of the literature on this topic, we each took an element to investigate. I was looking at the literature on communication in libraries and thought it might be useful to share an overview and some references.

The literature indicates that communication between librarians and researchers isn’t seen as perfect by either side (Brown and Swan, 2007), and there is some evidence (and some speculation) that face-to-face contact is the most effective method of communication and promotion the Library has (Sadler and Given, 2007; Carter and Seaman, 2011). The most common methods used for communication between liaison librarians and researchers are email, face-to-face, telephone, and web-based subject guides (Arendt and Lotts, 2012; Henry, 2012).

Although web 2.0 is seen as a huge international trend in library communications (Tripathi and Kumar, 2010), most library uses of web 2.0 technologies for communication seem to lack the two-way interaction that defines web 2.0 (Adams, 2011; Aharony, 2012; Gerolimos, 2011). However, using web 2.0 technologies could nonetheless reinforce a library’s innovative brand (Brewerton and Tuersley, 2010) and offer a convenient format for sharing advice and news (Adams, 2011).

If I was to pick one article to read on this topic, I’d strongly recommend Sadler and Given’s (2007) article (although I don’t quite agree with their definition of ‘affordance’). This highlights some of the discrepancies between librarians’ preferred communication channels and the channels to which postgraduate research students pay attention. They found that the library website and teaching sessions were used heavily by librarians to communicate, but the students had ‘tunnel vision’ when it came to reading the library website, and didn’t see library teaching as important or relevant.

Or, if you’re a librarian looking for a good excuse for a knees-up, then Strittmatter’s (2008) article on the use of cocktail parties as liaison tools might be more tempting…


  • ADAMS, R. (2011) Building a User Blog with Evidence: The Health Information Skills Academic Library Blog. Evidence Based Library & Information Practice, 6 (3), 84-89.
  • AHARONY, N. (2012) Facebook use in libraries: an exploratory analysis. Aslib Proceedings, 64 (4), 358-372.
  • ARENDT, J. and LOTTS, M. (2012) What Liaisons Say about Themselves and What Faculty Say about Their Liaisons, a U.S. Survey. Portal: Libraries & the Academy, 12 (2), 155-177.
  • BREWERTON, A. and TUERSLEY, S. (2010) More than just a logo – branding at Warwick. Library & Information Update, 9 (9), 46-48.
  • BROWN, S. and SWAN, (2007) Researchers’ use of academic libraries and their services: a report commissioned by the Research Information Network and the Consortium of Research Libraries [WWW]. Available from: [Accessed 18 January 2013].
  • CARTER, T.M. and SEAMAN, P. (2011) The Management and Support of Outreach in Academic Libraries. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 51 (2), 163-171.
  • GEROLIMOS, M. (2011) Academic Libraries on Facebook: An Analysis of Users’ Comments. D-Lib Magazine, 17 (11), 4.
  • HENRY, J. (2012) Academic library liaison programs: four case studies. Library Review, 61 (7), 485-496.
  • SADLER, E. and GIVEN, L.M. (2007) Affordance theory: A framework for graduate students’ information behavior. Journal of Documentation, 63 (1), 115-141.
  • STRITTMATTER, C. (ed.) (2008) If You Pour It, They Will Come: Hosting a Cocktail Reception to Promote Services to Faculty. Public Services Quarterly, 4 (3), 269-276.
  • TRIPATHI, M. and KUMAR, S. (2010) Use of Web 2.0 tools in academic libraries: a reconnaissance of the international landscape. The International Information & Library Review, 42 (3), 195-207.

What kind of feedback do we need for the journals review?

January 10th, 2013

Stacks at the University of Notitngham

Stacks at the University of Nottingham

I’ve undertaken annual reviews of departmental journal subscriptions in both my most recent jobs, and although they tick over, they always seem to leave me feeling unfulfilled. Regularly reviewing departmental journal subscriptions (outside ‘big deal’ packages) is critical: as departments change, so does their needs for certain titles. Nonetheless, I always seem to feel like we’re making these decisions on half the information we need.

The minimal format for a review usually involves sending out a list of currently subscribed journals to the department for comment. However, the response rate is usually pretty low, and I’m also not sure it elicits the right kind of feedback.

When studying Psychology I learnt that collecting information about people’s actual behaviour is much more useful in predicting their behaviour than collecting information about their attitudes. Instead of asking ‘do you think this is a good journal?’ we should probably be asking whether academics publish in the journal, put it on their reading lists, purchase a personal subscription or sit on the journal’s editorial board. All this, and whether students and staff are actually accessing it, as well.

This fascinating article on journal subscriptions, by Jane Harvell at the University of Sussex, suggests an entirely data-based model of journal evaluation and subscription. However, it’s a step too far for me to go completely data-driven. Although not every academic is in a position to fully contribute to the review process, they like to be involved in the decision-making; the only negative feedback I’ve ever had from these reviews is from academics nervous that the library might make a decision without their input, and I agree that this would be a risky process.

Therefore, the Library needs to do what is does best: manipulate information. We somehow need to provide an easily-digestible breakdown of current journal subscriptions and potential journal subscriptions, and map these against usage data (or turnaways), publication outputs, reading list appearances, impact factors, and anything else we can get our hands on. And we need to condense it down into 2 sides of A4, or a 5 minute Powerpoint presentation.

Oh dear. About an hour I was feeling pretty proud of myself for preparing for the journal review early. Now I’m starting to think some of this might need to wait until 2014. Baby steps…

And breathe….

November 13th, 2011

Victoria Park, Leicester

Victoria Park, Leicester, of which I have been seeing twice as much.

It’s November already? How did that happen? Well, the answer is that I have been working non-stop since the start of October, doing literally twice as much as usual. At the end of the last academic year one of my colleagues at Leicester left us for pastures new, and I have taken on some extra work, covering her post. I’m working full-time on a temporary contract until the end of this calendar year, (we’re currently¬†in the process of recruiting her replacement).

The start of the academic year is notoriously the busiest time for academic librarians, so it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. As well as the usual departments I support (Chemistry, Geography, Geology and Physics and Astronomy) I’ve added on Criminology, Education and Lifelong Learning to give a total of 7 departments. It’s been good to try my hand at social science support again (I used to support Business, and have kept my eye in with Human Geography) but I doubt anyone could to sustain the combination of posts long-term: it’s just too wide a spread of disciplines!

Because the majority of teaching we do is loaded into the first semester, October was packed with sessions. Including one-to-one appointments with students and staff, I taught (or at least talked) for 39 hours 45 minutes. That’s over one week of working hours! Repeated exposure has been a good way of reducing the nerves I have about standing in front of a class, and also has allowed me to experiment a little with how I approach concepts by slightly varying what I cover over several similar repeated sessions. However, I’ve missed the luxury of ‘properly’ planning a session and reflecting back on it!

Things are just starting to calm down in terms of numbers of hours of teaching per week, and I no longer fear losing my voice. But what do I do with myself now? Well, catch up with everything else, of course!