The Library’s Role in the Research Process and Workflow



For some 30 years now, libraries have been refashioning the ways in which they serve their communities. While books and journals are still part and parcel of their services, research libraries also support more complicated channels of information dissemination and engagement. What does this mean for the functions academic libraries serve? After years of library assessment activities, what are the critical services and contributions that libraries bring to their institutions? And how can library service providers best support these?

Confirmed participants in this event (among others) include: G. Sayeed Choudhury, Associate Dean for Research Data Management, Johns Hopkins University; Michael Levine-Clark, Dean and Director at University of Denver Libraries, University of Denver; Judith C. Russell, Dean of University Libraries, University of Florida; and Suzanne Wones, Associate University Librarian for Discovery and Access, Harvard University. 

Event Sessions

Roundtable Discussion


Sayeed Choudhury

Associate Dean for Library Digital Programs
John Hopkins University Libraries

Suzanne Wones

Associate University Librarian for Discovery and Access
Harvard Library

The discussion by participants touched on the following:

Very briefly, for your audience, can you articulate the differences in the role of the Chief Information Officer and the role of the Chief Research Officer at your institution? To what extent is the library engaging with those administrative roles?

Can you describe some of the typical research workflows at your institution? What are some of the challenges associated with research projects (large or small) that staff are being asked to assist with? (Suzanne noted in our conversation how some of their faculty may be studying papyrus while others may be interested in massive data sets. Where are you seeing new demands on staff? Are you being asked to assist faculty and/or grad students in personal knowledge management and organization?)

There are what we might consider to be traditional activities in the library (acquisition of information resources, whether print or electronic, etc) that will continue but are there new or emerging opportunities for partnering with disciplinary associations, partnerships between library and scholarly society that further support the research cycle? (Note: This could allow some conversation about read-and-publish agreements that Judy referenced in our call.)   

In the context of a research institutional library, what are some of the emerging functions or roles that the library might be challenged to take on or assist with? How might that change the expertise that you look for in new hires or describe the staff roles appearing on an organizational chart? 

Looking specifically at existing requirements surrounding research data – that is, cleaning it, organizing it, making it available to other researchers – what support are libraries finding students and faculty need? What are you seeing in terms of the rigor demanded in assigning metadata that make the data findable? Are faculty concerned about assigning it themselves? Is this type of practical training something that should be introduced by advisors at the disciplinary level (those directing work of grad students) or will the library profession be doing this work?

Where should education about data curation, the need for ensuring reproducibility and similar practices for doing ethical science need to start? Is this an educational role that libraries should be asked to assume? Are there the necessary resources or skills in place to do so?

What demands might be emerging in the space of research computing or high performance/quantum computing? What is the role of the library in that context? What skills might be needed to fulfill that role?  (Note: Some of this was addressed in the exchange about allowing an Econ student access to the services in the GIS lab, how the library may be the operational unit best able to connect across the siloed departments that exist in the university. Are there other aspects of high-performance computing, cloud computing that impact library roles/services now or in future?

For new hires, what are the types of skills or knowledge that you are most interested in finding? Should iSchool programs be offering a different set of courses to properly prepare the rising professionals?

Looking ahead to the next 3-5 years, what do you see as the biggest challenge facing the library community in supporting the research workflow or new forms of research? What would you like to see develop in the community? 

Helpful Resources

Shared by Speaker Sayeed Choudhury:

International Image Interoperability Framework: IIIF is an open standard for delivering high-quality, attributed digital objects online at scale. It’s also an international community developing and implementing the IIIF APIs, backed by a consortium of leading academic and cultural institutions.

What Is Strategy? For starters, it’s not the same as operational effectiveness - by Michael E. Porter (Harvard Business Review November - December 1996 issue)

Related Information:

The Role of a Library in a World of Unstructured Data - Miles Conrad Lecture, given by Dr. Patricia Flatley Brennan of the National Library of Medicine during the 2022 NISO Plus Conference

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