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#blogjune - Guest post by Catherine New - Is it time for a rethink?

 David Sifry (flickr)

For the past eight months I have been on secondment, moving from the library to the research office of a large university. My role in the Library had been to investigate new services to support researchers at the university. Therefore a significant motivating factor in applying for the role within the research office had been to gain a new perspective on the work of researchers and a broader understanding of the entire research life-cycle.

The role has certainly provided this new perspective. It has made me question how libraries see themselves, how this impacts on how we present ourselves and our services to our community, and how in turn our community sees us. Without seeking to be deliberately controversial, it has made me wonder if we may overestimate our role and/or significance to the client.

Now, don't get me wrong. I actually believe that the library, staff and services are undervalued and under appreciated by our client group. I think that libraries play an essential role in any institution and the provision of information to our users is vital. However, I wonder if sometimes we have blinkers on, and confuse an important aspect with thinking it is the only aspect. And then wonder why our message doesn’t get through.

To use an example - I lived and breathed all things open access, spending a good deal of my working week investigating and promoting open access issues in academia. In my world view, open access was a major issue. We did what we could to promote the benefits of open access to our researchers, but would be lucky to get 10 or 15 academics to any events we held. We would then wonder what we could do to get our message through.

Since working in the research office, I have a much greater understanding of the demands of researchers. Publishing is only one stage of the research life-cycle; the decision as to where to publish is only part of the process and the choice around open access an even smaller proportion. We shouldn't be surprised then that the message isn't getting through. Even if researchers acknowledge that open access is important, in the scheme of things, it is unlikely to ever be high in their priorities.

It has made me wonder whether this might apply to many aspects of our services, across all sectors. It is not that what we offer isn't important, but perhaps we need to re-position or re-frame our message. Acknowledging that we are not the only thing, we need to be doing more to think like our clients, and less trying to tell our clients what to think.

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