BOOK REVIEW / CRITIQUE DE LIVRE: Dynamic Research Support for Academic Libraries


JCHLA / JABSC 38: 32-33 (2017) doi: 10.5596/c17-004

Dynamic Research Support for Academic Libraries

Hoffman S (Ed). Dynamic research support for academic libraries. Chicago: ALA Neal-Schuman; 2016. Paper:  147p. ISBN: 978-0-8389-1469-4. Price: USD $75. Available from:

Academic research librarians are regularly challenged by new and varying approaches to supporting research. The research support path is best paved by innovators and experimenters, hence the premise for Dynamic Research Support for Academic Libraries: a presentation of models and “illustrative examples” (p. 2) of the work librarians do to bridge the many facets of research support. Editor Starr Hoffman, Head of Planning and Assessment at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, places research and instruction services, metadata creation, and data services under the broader term “research support” and through the use of examples, attempts to expand and enrich the concept of research support practice. The purpose and rationale for Dynamic Research Support is not to serve as a “how-to” so much as an aggregation of different approaches that have worked in academic institutions. In this way, the book serves as current awareness for practicing librarians and will serve best as a resource in a masters of information (MI) or library & information science (LIS) context to provide case study discussion. In my professional practice as a liaison and education librarian and later as a research analyst, I have found a high level of value in current awareness with respect to innovation and creativity in project management and understanding diverse information needs. Academic institutions serve diverse populations in a political environment and require stakeholder buy-in and support, even with respect to something as unchanging as research. Having a sound knowledge base of the different iterations of research practices in academia is paramount to professional librarian practice and Dynamic Research Support provides concrete examples for that base.

In terms of topic coverage and level of detail, the layout is comprised of three parts and each part contains three to four case studies. The sections are quite relevant to the current trends of academic librarianship: “Training and Infrastructure” (the role of staff development and library spaces in research support), “Data Services and Data Literacy” (the rise of research data services in universities) and finally, in keeping with the Association of College & Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, “Research as a Conversation” (highlighting how emerging scholars can find, cite and interact with existing research). Each part provides robust case study content, illustrating the practicalities of research support and decision-making processes; this combination of theory and practice should be very useful for LIS and (or) MI students. The individual projects that are highlighted are unique and exemplify the variety early career librarians can expect. In my own capacity as an education and liaison librarian, I served on a Smart Classroom Task Force, creating, investigating and implementing a proposal to support the best layout and instructional technology to support active learning. I was further called upon by graduate level clinical staff to assist with devising a search strategy for a systematic review. Colleagues were asked to serve as data services experts, helping researchers traverse the world of research data management. In my subsequent role as a research analyst I was asked to serve as a conduit linking the divide between datasets and data visualization tools. Truly the sphere of research support is multi-dimensional, and teaching various literacies is an expectation new librarians will need to meet.

The book reads at a fast pace with language that is accessible and not jargon-laden. It is clear that each chapter/article was selected based on a tone of accessibility and description. What this book does extremely well is provide a diverse environmental scan of projects and efforts that have worked both in North America and internationally. There is a chapter on implementing open access (OA) at Edinburgh University Library that explains OA policy in the UK as well as the effects OA has on research outputs. Again the strength of descriptive analysis proves useful in an LIS or MI graduate studies course on project management or information literacy. This is particularly exemplified in Chapter 4, “Training researchers to manage data for better results, re-use, and long term success”. It has been noted in LIS literature that recent graduates experience a crisis of profession when entering the workforce. Expectations of individual universities can be almost impossible to predict. In this chapter Heather Coates clearly states one of the main shortcomings of universities today, something that will help recent LIS and (or) MI graduates in ascertaining their research support expectations: universities “failing to provide graduate students with adequate data management skills for research” (p. 52). This chapter is particularly useful because it argues that the skills gap faced by graduate students and mid- and late-career faculty will be bridged best by librarians using “our most valuable contributions: […] expertise and trust” (p. 52). Research data management is a relatively new knowledge base (what the ACRL Framework refers to as “knowledge practice”) and Coates argues that librarians will be the academics to fill the research literacy gap. They will do so, she argues, by using “information management expertise, teaching ability, ability to facilitate conversation across departmental and disciplinary boundaries and a uniquely holistic understanding of the scholarly record” (p. 54). In addition to this exposé on data management gaps, the final chapter found in the Research as a Conversation section relays the process of implementing an institutional repository for the scholarly output of faculty and students at the University of North Texas. Authors Hannah Tarver and Mark Philips describe and analyze the process of implementing naming authorities and the value of enhancing metadata. From a digital collection and digital asset perspective, the librarian role could not be more essential.

Academic librarian roles require the provision of specialized research support services as well as the creation of tools related to that support. Each chapter provides sound examples of successful and thoughtful implementation. The reference lists also point to seminal works and are very well comprised; they would serve MI and (or) LIS students well for further reading. While the book cannot teach readers how to implement a data repository or become a geographic information system expert, it absolutely serves its intended purpose, which is to inspire creativity and unify the many aspects of research support services. Librarianship is about service and facilitation and Dynamic Research Support presents a dense albeit cursory base set of content illustrating the practicalities of research support and decision-making processes.

Vanessa Kitchin
MD Undergraduate Librarian
Woodward Library
University of British Columbia | Vancouver Campus
2198 Health Sciences Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3


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