Understanding Academics at York

Vanya Gallimore’s presentation to LIBER 2018 on the York University UX project that she led with Michelle Blake fitted well with the theme of cultural change for the research community.  Rather than focussing specifically on researchers’ relationship with library services the project looked at how academics at York approach their research and teaching activities.  The library was then able to consider how is its services currently facilitated and supported those activities and how to integrate the ‘academic voice’ into future service planning and development of support.

York librarians selected as their ethnographic methodologies two techniques that put academics at the centre of the process: cognitive mapping followed by semi-structured interviews.  The resulting data was coded and analysed in NVivo qualitative software against a set of key themes.

Researchers talked about their motivations around research and teaching, frustrations and pressures, and aspiration, shedding light not only on their own ways of working but also on the changing nature of students and how they were adjusting to teaching them.  Largely unprompted, they also described how their interactions with the library have changed.

The research results have fed into both some ‘quick-wins’ for the library and a series of longer-term recommendations, captured in the new Library Strategy for 2018-21.

The presentation will be available shortly but the research has been written up in an article for the New Review of Academic Librarianship.  Understanding academics: a UX ethnographic research project at the University of York is available on open access at https://doi.org/101080/13614533.208.1466716



LIBER 2018: Leading the Transition to Open Science

Paul Ayris, Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services), and Tiberius Ignat (Scientific Knowledge Services) addressed the need for wider cultural change in universities to deliver the transition to Open Science.  They argued that this starts with university leadership and with Open Science being embedded in university vision and strategy.  It should be implemented transparently, with accountability and monitoring, having agreed targeted measures, and the vision should be shared.

The cultural change is about moving researchers from the purely competitive mindset to recognising the value of combining competition and collaboration, e.g. shared infrastructure.  The key to this is leadership: Paul argued for a national co-ordinator of Open Science, echoing the French national strategy, for national task forces, for the HR Strategy for Researchers to reflect Open Science principles, and for universities to embark on cultural change programmes with designated leaders at senior level and advocacy programmes.

Their presentation can be found at https://zenodo.org/record/1306140#.W1jtVthKjVp

Maastricht University, which aims to become a “FAIR University” by 2025 or 2023, made the case for Open Science on the basis greatly improved research data management and the ability to gain data-driven insights, accelerating scientific discoveries.

Their Community for Data-Driven Insights (CDDI) brings together researchers, the University Library, the Institute for Data Science, the DataHub, and the ICT Service Center, in a partnership to deliver Open Science.  The Library’s roles included linking open access from data to different publications (FAIR), training “data stewards”, running the CRIS system (PURE in this case), and managing smaller datasets.

Their approach appeared to be based on the “if we build it the researchers will come” principle but they embarked on a community engagement programme, looked at the potential benefits of combining RDM and e-science in different disciplines, and are running a number of pilots which they plan to extend into the humanities and areas of qualitative data.

It will be instructive to look at the progress of the two institutions taking contrasting approaches.

Henk Van den Hoogen’s presentation on Maastricht: Towards a “FAIR” university is at https://zenodo.org/record/1306148#.W1jt8thKjVp



Open Science at LIBER 2018: “a Paradigm, not a fashion”

The LIBER 2018 conference hosted by the Université de Lille began with an impressive commitment from the French government on Open Science.  Frédérique Vidal, Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation  launched a national Open Science policy in a speech that reaffirmed the ethical basis of Open Science. She argued for the role of wider access to scientific publications in combatting fake news and giving access to the public through citations in Wikipedia.  Open Science is seen as an opportunity for France to be part of

Madame Vidal demonstrated that, as a former professor of biochemistry, she understood the temptation to keep research data in particular for oneself but argued that this is unacceptable in view of the public investment in creating it, the potential public good, and the deterioration of older datasets.  Ensuring that researchers develop a structured approach to preserving their data and comply with the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) is one of her objectives as a minister.

The new policy moves France from voluntary policies to a comprehensive approach that integrates all facets of scientific activity.  Its commitments are:

  1. Mandatory OA for the dissemination of research articles and books resulting from publicly funded calls for projects.  To be supported by a new open science fund.
  2. Structure research data and make it available through OA. Researchers will be obliged to disseminate their research data on an OA basis if funded publicly.  To be support by creating the position of Chief Data Officer at the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation.
  3. Be part of a sustainable European and international open science dynamic.  France is participating in the European Commission’s Open Science Cloud and in GO Fair, a joint initiative of the Netherlands, German and France to make all science data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Resuable (FAIR)

LIBER launched its own Open Science Roadmap during the conference, setting out ways in which libraries can support the research process towards openness in their organisations.  There are detailed recommendations under seven focus areas:

  • Scholarly Publishing
  • FAIR Data
  • Research Infrastructure & the European Open Science Cloud
  • Metrics & Rewards
  • Open Science Skills
  • Research Integrity
  • Citizen Science

LIBER libraries have made significant commitments already towards supporting Open Science through rethinking library team structures to focus on research support, launching new university presses, and investing heavily in research data management.  There is a recognition that Open Science is not a technical but a social issue and that making the case for it to the academic community involves wider cultural change in universities and recognising that researchers are both collaborating and competing.  More on that in the next post.

All at once … a lesson in transformation from the National Library of Greece

Keynote addresses at library conferences are often thought-provoking but rarely jaw-dropping.  Dr Filippos Tsimpoglou’s address to the LIBER 2017 conference fell into the latter category after a deceptively quiet start.   He described bravely and honestly the parlous state of the National Library of Greece when he took charge in 2014 and the staggering scale of changes achieved or planned in just over a year.

Until 2016 the National Library managed with only 67 permanent staff, aided by secondments from other organisations such as museums and schools.  It was estimated by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation that the organisation required around 320 staff in 2017.  The budget had varied over previous years from €243,000-€600,000, much of which was used to repay a loan for the building. No books had been bought for 15 years, no ICT equipment for 12 years, no new staff had joined the library for 14 years.  The post of Library Director was vacant from 2005-2014.

This year for the first time they have received significant funding from the government (€ 6.7 million) and matching funding from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

The work that followed Dr Tsimpoglou’s appointment is a lesson in what can be achieved within a short time span when an organisation is clear about its focus:

New library building

The National Library will this year leave its old classical premises for a new building in the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center designed by Renzo Piano.  A human chain is being used to move 1.2 million books to the new site.


  • An inventory of 5,429 manuscripts has been created.  The library has 4,500 Greek manuscripts, including 300 New Testament, 300+ Byzantine, and 50 Homeric manuscripts. All have been transferred to acid-free boxes (the library has acquired its own box-making machine), and 1,800 have been digitised.
  • 15,000 rare books have been identified
  • 80,000 books have received “first-aid treatment”

There are also plans to fill over the next fifteen years collecting gaps from the period when no book funds were available.

Digital developments

  • The library catalogue has been moved from MySQL to Koha
  • Digital collections are being moved from Koha to Fedora
  • An e-platform has been built for legal deposit publications
  • A new web site has been created on WordPress
  • A new discovery system is being implemented
  • Single Sign-On for users of electronic publications has been implemented with the Greek Universities Network
  • A Web archiving programme is being developed using Heretrix and a WayBack machine

Staff development  Staff skills are being updated in a training programme that makes use of 25 internal self-teaching course that run every Friday.

The energy and dedication required from the library director and his staff to plan and deliver these developments is both awe-inspiring and humbling.  Apart of the speed of transformation, which gives pause for thought for anyone involved in long-term projects, two things seem particularly notable: the first is that the National Library, in spite of past constraints, aims to serve the research community, the wider audience of Greek citizens, and fulfill its international role.  It was closely involved in the foundation of the Hellenic Libraries Network and with the University of Patras in organising the LIBER 2017 conference.  Audience development has been extremely important to it. The library has built a new audience identity with a new brand, new digital identity, a summer campaign, and surveys of users and non-users.  The human chain to move the library is part of that engagement with its users.  The new building with its attractive setting and public spaces will be an opportunity to continue this work. The second striking thing is its ambition with respect to standards and quality.  In making up for lost time the National Library is making use of the best technologies available to it, skipping several generations of systems used in research libraries elsewhere.


Re-shaping the Library around Research Support 1: Professional Skills

LIBER2017 offered a number of different perspectives on re-shaping the library around research support in the widest sense.

Ancient Olympias

Leeds University Library has taken the route followed by a number of RLUK libraries in moving away from a team of subject specialists to a functionally based model in which staff focus on either research or teaching and learning support. Feedback on the success of this approach is mixed so it was useful to hear the perspective of Dr Eleanor Warren from the Leeds University Library research support team, who looked at the skill sets needed for research support and how well LiS qualifications prepared library staff for this role in comparison with a research degree.  Eleanor compared the skill sets of professional library staff in the White Rose Libraries (Leeds, Sheffield York) and those researchers who, like her, had joined a library team after completing a PhD, and their relative levels of confidence in supporting researchers.  She found a surprisingly high level of match between the skills identified in the Vitae Researcher Development Framework and those needed by librarians: they included

  • Enthusiasm/commitment to research
  • Project planning and delivery
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving, creativity and the ability to seek solutions
  • Ability to work under pressure/perseverance
  • Ease with the developing digital environment
  • Teaching
  • Leadership and influence

Surprisingly, just 59% in White Rose Libraries had LIS qualifications.  46% were in their first job in the sector and 87% had been in their current role for fewer than five years, suggesting a relatively young staff profile with a high turnover.

Only 9% of library professionals felt that their qualifications had fully equipped them to work with researchers and 27% not at all, compared with 29% of PhD graduates feeling fully equipped and 14% unequipped.  There was still a good deal of middle ground in the two groups and I wondered whether this was a case of researchers generally having more confidence in their abilities.

However, when asked about a specific information skills set that included Information Seeking, Information Literacy,  IPR and Copyright, Teamwork and Collaboration, Public Engagement and Fundraising, those with LiS qualifications overwhelming reported that they had formed part of their qualification training while the PhD graduates were less likely to do so.

On a second set of skills relating to research support and roughly matching the Vitae Researcher Framework, it was the PhD graduates who reported that they were well covered within their training.

Much of this is unsurprising, given the focus of library professional education but it points to areas where the core LiS skills need to be supplemented to enable library staff to support researchers with confidence, either by providing staff with the experience of working within research teams, perhaps in embedded librarian roles, or having mixed teams of LiS professionals and recent PhD graduates.

Eleanor Warren’s presentation slides can be found at http://liber2017.lis.upatras.gr/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2017/04/12.1.pdf

How Libraries can get Started with Impact Metrics: workshop report

In spite of the excitement over the past few years over bibliometrics it has taken some time for research libraries to develop sustainable services around them. Impact metrics is a major focus for LIBER this year, which set up a working group, led by LIBER president, Kristiina Hormia-Poulainen (National Library of Finland), to help deliver its strategic priority “Enabling Open Science”.  One of the key issues is what the Leiden Manifesto on research metrics means for libraries.

The LIBER 2017 workshop on impact metrics began by presenting developments in four libraries as a pointer to getting started on started on the four areas identified as priorities for libraries: Discoverability, Showcasing achievements, Research(er) assessments, and Service development.   Each set me thinking about Cambridge implications: is the Library the right place for impact metrics (yes), do we have all the competencies required (some but we need to grow them), where would they sit in the structure, and would a distributed model involving affiliated libraries but with a centralised infrastructure work?  And of course, how would it be resourced?

In the discoverability strand Peter Kraker (Open Knowledge Maps) outlined his use of Mendeley as a database to create interactive maps of publication use that relate co-readers and allow the viewer to drill down by research topic. The maps were created through looking at clickstreams of users. He turned this into the basis of Open Knowledge Maps to visualise research topics. Kraker is also using visualisations for Project Lending History to show most borrowed (i.e. downloaded) papers.

The Universitätsbibliothek Wien has been developing services around bibliometrics since 2006, starting out with a working group and maturing into a dedicated department with a staff equivalent of 3.5 people and occasional interns. Their initial challenge was to convince the university that the library was the right place for this activity and that it had the competencies. In the course of development the team name changed from “bibliometrics” to “bibliometrics and strategies”, underlining the fact that it is not just about assessment. Departments were concerned about potential misuse of metrics.

Bibliometric services are offered to three audiences: research departments and individuals, research management, and the library itself.

Departmental services are always tailored to researchers themselves, who are offered basic training, individual consultations, personal bibliometric profiles, and bibliometrics reports for individuals.

Research managers are provided with reports for individual institutions within the university, reports for faculty evaluations, and reports to support professorial appointments, e.g. for faculty administrators to analyse applications for vacant chairs.

The main service to the Library is data to drive decisions, which I take to relate to collection development, particularly journal cancellations.

Framework requirements are based on the selection of appropriate data sources, the use of multiple databases, and of subject-specific databases.

Feedback from researchers and departments has been good. It has increased the service portfolio of the library and the visibility of library services. The department has capacity to get involved in a number of national and international OA projects., runs the OA journal BibCal and is running a (sold-out) summer school on bibliometrics in Berlin in 2017.

The Universitätsbibliothek Duisburg-Essen (Anja Lopez) library has automated bibliometric reports based on the University bibliography and Scopus, building their own tool to do so. Why build their own tool? 17% of Duisberg-Essen professors and a large number of researchers are in Engineering but the subject is not well represented in WoS, especially civil engineering. Engineering also uses a wider range of publication media than just articles: conference proceedings in particular.

Other factors are the strong resistance to evaluation in Germany. There is therefore no central control, no centralised data structure, and a lack of CRIS systems, although may be about to change as German universities become more aware of the value of research rankings.

Why the UL? They run the Bibliography of the university and the university publication service/repository, and license databases such as Scopus and WoS. The Bibliography of the university is automatically fed from Scopus etc., publication lists, the EVALuna bibliography, and a web front end where researchers can add their own publications.

The service on offer from the library consists currently of database training, bibliometrics consultations, project-based further analysis, and bibliometric reports for individual researchers.  UB Duisberg-Essen has a Bibliometrics team of three but this equates to 1 FTE.

They want to add further databases into the service such as IEEE and are developing the web front end so that researchers can run their own bibliometric analysis. This is going live in summer and comes with warnings about the scope of the data and the Leiden Manifesto principles, i.e. “data needs interpretation”.  It also recognises the fifth principle: “Allow those evaluated to verify data and analysis”.

Univ- und Staatsbibliothek Göttingen (Najko Jahn) has a new Scholarly Communication Analytics post, both to support researchers and guide decision-making in university. The university supported it since it was interested in increasing rankings. Researchers are not using addresses in a helpful way so lots of data work is involved.

The library is extending its existing data infrastructure for the study of scholarly communications, especially in providing analytics. Jahn sees analytics as a data science practice, discovering and communicating meaningful patterns in data to produce actionable recommendations rather than measuring, which is metrics.

His work includes:

  • Exploring collaborations, e.g. European and US universities, using Web of Science etc. to identify co-authors and their institutions. Disaggregating author fields was the main task. Mapping took one day out of the two weeks for the project.
  • Monitoring the transition to Open Access – analysed research groups to produce a chart of OA proportion by PI.
  • Creating open and reproducible tools.

LIBER 2017 in Patras: Research libraries in the era of Open Science

Rio-Antirio bridge
Rio-Antirio bridge
creator: Heide Bauer
CC-BY-SA 2.5

Returning to the LIBER conference every summer is a great chance to catch up with the direction of travel for research libraries. A glance at the spread of presentations is a way of seeing where the focus has shifted over the last 12 months and conversations around the conference add to the sense of energy with which LIBER libraries are grasping new roles in the context of Open Science, Open Data, and Open Access.

In 2017 the conference title “Libraries Powering Sustainable Knowledge in the Digital Age” reflected both confidence that libraries still have a key role in supporting research and the need to ensure that we work with the research community to sustain repositories, open data, and born digital and digitised content. Major themes this year included:

  • Impact metrics/altmetrics
  • Research data management
  • Digital humanities
  • The future role for libraries
  • Text and data mining and the legal context for digital libraries
  • Organisational change and re-skilling staff to support research
  • Open infrastructures
  • Sustainability

The wide range of topics is also an opportunity to get a sense of where Cambridge library services stand in relation to our peers, look at initiatives and projects elsewhere and how they might work our context (or not), and think about priorities.  The list doesn’t reflect everything that is going on in European research libraries but it is clear that some subjects have simply disappeared from the agenda.  It is taken as read that nearly all new acquisitions are digital, that ‘Open’ is normal (no longer the ‘new normal’), that services are at least on a par with content in terms of priorities, and that therefore libraries have re-invented and re-organised themselves or are currently thinking about the organisational changes need to support new and emerging priorities.

There was a thread in many presentations about library alignment with University priorities, e.g. “we are delivering a bibliometrics service because the University is concerned about its research ranking …”, and that funding follows where this is the case.  More on bibliometrics later.