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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.

Project Update

February 21st, 2013

About a month and a half into the new calendar year, and I’m definitely making better progress on my project work than during the autumn term.

The first big thing is that I’ve put together a proposal for a student Frontrunner to gather data on use of learning spaces around our campus. Frontrunners is a DMU employability initiative which recruits students to work on projects around the university (see the Frontrunners site). Fingers crossed that I’ll get the role approved: feedback on the application has been good so far. Either way, putting together the proposal has given me a much better overview of how the project will work, and putting together the role description and outline of skills which the student would learn was an interesting exercise, digging up some of my recruitment and selection skills from my old Occupational Psychology degree.

Our Library and Learning Services project on communication with PhD students is also moving along nicely: the focus groups are due to run over the next two weeks. I’m going to act as the notetaker for the first group, so I’ll get to see a colleague in the facilitator role. I’ve only ever acted as the facilitator before, so will be interesting to have a more detached perspective on the group. I’m sure I’ll be scribbling lots of notes! Next month we’re planning to go on some visits to other universities and see what we can learn from colleagues in the sector too.

This term has definitely seen me flip round from focusing on teaching, delivering a lot of sessions for the first time, to focusing on project work. However, the teaching hasn’t reduced much – I’ve just got a better portfolio of knowledge and resources to draw upon, and I’m delivering more familiar materials. It’s good to feel that everything’s starting to get a little bit easier, though!

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.

CPD23 Thing 14: Referencing Software

August 29th, 2011

Mendeley screenshot

My publications in Mendeley

This blog is part of 23 Things for Professional Development, a course encouraging information professionals to explore online tools.

Thing 14 is referencing tools, and we’ve been specifically encouraged to try the free tools Zotero, Mendeley and CiteULike. I’ve had varying degrees of experience with these different tools, as an ex-researcher and academic librarian. Zotero, I tried when it first came out, but didn’t really take to managing my references in my browser. I watched a video about the updates it’s had, and it’s still not really appealing to me. CiteULike, well, I use it for collections of references occasionally, but find it a little basic in its referencing functionality for ‘proper’ writing. I have a personal and a work account, but I don’t really exploit its social networking features very much.

For my day-to-day referencing needs I use Endnote, having started with this during my early PhD (in about 2003/4) and stuck with it since. I’ve usually been a student or a member of staff at one academic institution or another which supported Endnote since then, so I’ve never been forced to explore free alternatives in any depth.

However, in the spirit of trying new things, I decided to give Mendeley a go. I’ve seen this in action in sessions at work, but I’ve never experimented with it myself in any depth. I’m actually revisiting a past project currently, so I had a genuine purpose for using it (which I’ve found really helps you get to grips with a referencing system) and you can import your Endnote Library into it, so it allowed me to build on what I already had. Here’s my main thoughts:

  • The pdf import (drag and drop into the Mendeley interface) is a really great function. It doesn’t always work perfectly, though, and I found one of my own publications in the online catalogue in a massively inaccurate format.
  • If you have any publications, then you can ‘claim’ them, which is a function that I really like (CiteULike lets you do something similar).
  • As a copyright-aware librarian type I really liked that I could use the desktop version to organise my pdfs locally, but didn’t have to share these online.
  • There’s an active Mendeley userbase in my institution, so I found brilliant instructions from an academic and one of our library systems team on setting it up to search our electronic holdings.
  • It looks much slicker than Endnote, and works much more smoothly; even despite Endnote 15’s recent addition of pdf annotation, it makes Endnote look clunky.
  • Like so many of the free tools described in CPD23, I can’t actually use the desktop tool at work, as it requires local software installation, and I don’t have the rights.
  • I’ve heard that it’s reliability isn’t always brilliant, which makes me a bit nervous. Reliability is something that I really want from a referencing solution (even if it’s something I never really get!)
All in all, so far I love Mendeley. I’m going to stick with it for the time being and test its Word plug-in thoroughly before I decide whether to keep it for life, but I can actually see this replacing my beloved Endnote.