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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.

Whatever happened to 2012?

January 3rd, 2013

Dear much-neglected blog readers

2012 was a bit of a whopper for me! I finally reached my goal of finding a permanent full-time professional post in February, and have spent the months since settling into my new role. Maybe ‘settling’ isn’t quite the word, mind. Quite a few changes in staffing across the year meant I took on additional subject support and activities I wasn’t expecting, and I’ve been kept quite thoroughly on my toes.

Each third of the academic library year has its own character: consolidation, development, and, finally, chaos. In February arrived to a flurry of meetings and orientation activities, and zoomed through what remained of the third that runs from January to April, pretty much skipping consolidation. Then I was up and running for development in the summer third, when academic libraries attempt a vast array of ambitious projects. To pick some significant examples, this year I developed eight subject resource portals from scratch, and helped overhaul the library induction trail, while learning about practice, pedagogy and publishing in umpteen new subject areas, and reworking my teaching approach to fit the new disciplines and systems of a new institution.

However, the first two thirds were (are always!) just an elaborate form of preparation for the autumn term, when chaos rules. This was a flurry of induction, teaching, meetings and, most critically, constant fire-fighting. I defy any subject librarian in a new post to remember this term as anything other than a blur, but overall I’m pretty proud of my work over the last few months, and feel like I’ve laid a good foundation for the academic year ahead. Writing this is the first time I’ve realised this, so yay!

Now here I am in 2013, back in the consolidation third, with an opportunity to actually do some consolidation this time round! There’s plenty more teaching and resource-wrangling to do this term, but I’m starting with greater knowledge of the university and its systems (and a bunch of familiar teaching materials to fall back on when needed).

There’s still a lot to do, however. I’ve got projects which need some attention: some research on learning spaces with an external partner, an internally funded project on our communication with PhD students alongside several colleagues, and my contribution to the development of our online postgraduate research training materials. My main aim for 2013 is to make sure I make the time for these developmental and evidence-based activities, now that I’m acting slightly less like a headless chicken.

I promise to write again, dear readers, when I’ve made good on at least part of that aim.