Event report: Professor Connaway, OCLC Senior Research Scientist speaks at HKU

Thank you Prof Connaway for sharing your slides with us! 

On March 31st 2017, mentor and mentee Jo and Joey attended a talk presented by the Faculty of Education at the University of Hong Kong. The speaker was Professor Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Senior Research Scientist and Director of User Research at OCLC Research.

In this blog post, Jo and Joey share their experience of attending this professional development activity.

Joey [Mentee]

The first activity done with my mentor, Jo, is attending the talk, "Research Methods in Library and Information Science: Trends and Tips for Researchers, Students and Professionals." To be honest, I did not know what the talk was about. I just thought that "Well, because I am a student at HKU, I don't have to move around. That's great!" As it turns out, the talk has introduced a lot of research methods, mostly new to me, and something that relates to my study, how to boost productivity.

Talking about those research methods, I heard some of them from my class. I think the sharing of interviewing experience by the speaker, Prof Connaway, was eye-opening. As a library and information management student, I have done interviews in my projects for several times. Even in this semester, I did two interviews. However, as Prof Connaway reminded us, interviews are not as easy as we think, especially in coding, transcribing and analysis. It didn’t mean that she is discouraging, but these issues appear all the time. Even in other data collecting or research methods, there are challenges that arise. Therefore, choosing a method that helps to answer the research question is important. A challenge that most researchers face is that the process of data collection is time-consuming. So what should we do?

The answer is to boost our productivities. But then, how to do so? Prof Connaway suggested several ways, which I think “knowing what works best for you” is crucial. For me, I prefer working focused in a short period rather than spending a half day browsing Facebook on one side of your computer screen and typing a couple of words on the other side of the screen. Surprisingly, Prof Lynn said she love working at the midnight since no one disturbs her. Find what ways work best for you, and then the productivity will improve.

It is a fascinating talk (although I felt nervous realizing that I might be the only undergraduate student in the room). Thank you very much to Jo for inviting me to this talk to know much more about research methods. We also had a tea meeting before the talk. It was relaxing, funny and joyful sharing some recent issue happened around me. I am looking forward to the next meeting :)

Jo [Mentor]

In 2015 I was fortunate enough to attend the 8th International Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Conference. It was a seminal conference for me, in that in introduced me to the concept of evidence-based practice, a strategy I have tried to adopt in many of my daily tasks as well as larger projects. However, I have never felt fully equipped in a diverse range of research methods, and have always felt I needed some kind of ‘crash course’ in research methods for library practice. Well - this presentation was just that!

Prof Connaway shared some of the most commonly used research methods based on an analysis of a number of highly ranked Library and Information Science (LIS) journals. Common among all the analyses were methods quite familiar to library professionals, such as surveys, content analysis, interviews and focus groups. Prof Connaway went on to share current trends in LIS research: assessment, ethnographic methods, behavioural analytics, text mining and log analyses. Prof Connaway also mentioned Usability testing, which is an area I am particularly interested in after hearing Andy Priestner, originator and chair of UXLibs speak at the Academic Librarian 4 conference in June 2016. This is definitely a topic I want to learn more about, and I hope to have the opportunity to practice some of these methods in future.

While I am always curious about research methods I have not tried to improve my own research design, I also found the talk useful in my role as a Subject Librarian. Being up to date with a range of research methods is important for me to be able to support students and researchers. Prof Connaway also mentioned the role of librarians in terms of data management. She views this not just as a support role, but a role in which librarians can be involved in research design as a member of research teams. Therefore, conducting and participating in research is not only valuable for personal professional development, but also for providing authentic and targeted research support to our research communities.

I am very happy I was able to attend this presentation with my mentee, Joey. Not only was it fun to to catch up, but it was great to attend a presentation together as student and librarian; to see which parts of the talk were relevant to us at different stages in our professional development.

Thank you Prof Connaway for this excellent presentation, and thank you to the HKU Faculty of Education for hosting the presentation. You can learn more about the research methods mentioned in this post in Professor Connaway’s new book Research Methods in Library and Information Science, co authored with Marie L. Radford.