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Alice Cann, Research Librarian (Episode 21)

    Alice Cann (Episode 21), Research Librarian | Alice is helping find the right resources to enable research

    Research Adjacent Alice Cann episode 21

    For this episode of the Research Adjacent podcast Sarah is talking to Alice Cann, Academic Liaison Librarian at Brunel University London.

    More about buying books than reading them

    Alice currently works primarily with the Brunel Business School and, despite the stereotype, her role is more about buying books than reading them. She helps to source material, manages the collections, and also trains researchers on how to find, use and organise the right resources to support their investigations.

    Alice has had a fairly straightforward career journey. Careers advisors suggested that library work might be a good fit. This led to a graduate trainee role and then she then took a masters in Librarianship and Information Studies and has been working in university libraries ever since.

    And more about people than publications

    Like many research-adjacent roles, although Alice’s work might seem to be about journals and databases, it’s really about people. Alice explains that her biggest source of job satisfaction is supporting people at just the right point in their research journey when her advice can save them huge amounts of time and frustration.

    “I see so many doctoral researchers who’ve spent six months floundering. And sometimes you need to flounder a bit before you know what you’re looking for. And so they will come and ask questions and I’ll show them these resources. And when it’s at the right time, it’s lovely because you’re answering those questions for them.”

    Although in job title alone Alice has done the ‘same’ job for over 16 years she has found that the never-ending flow of new information and new projects have kept things interesting. She has also found ways to stretch herself professionally through getting involved with projects like introducing plagiarism-detection systems.

    “I got asked to be involved in a major project to do with a plagiarism resource. It included lots of people from many departments, academics at all levels and library staff and other professional services staff. And I was co-leading the working group on that. And a few years ago, the idea of doing that would have been extremely scary and it still was, but it helped me develop so many skills.

    From research-enabler to researcher

    A recent boost to her professional development has come through the opportunity to be involved in the Research Catalyst Cohort programme. This year-long programme of interactive workshops, development sprints, and seminars is co-organised by Research Libraries UK and ARMA. The programme encourages librarians and archivists to think of themselves as researchers and helps them to develop the skills and confidence to lead their own research projects.

    “As a result of that Research Catalyst Cohort, I applied for research funding. I still don’t know if I’ve got it, but it feels a huge achievement, just applying.”

    Alice participated in the programme in 2021/22 and wrote about her experiences in this blog post. At the time of recording was waiting to hear the outcome of her application for a Professional Practice Fellowship. Although she has since heard that her application was unsuccessful, she is still positive about the encouragement to think of herself as a researcher, reframing this setback as an inevitable milestone on her journey. The next round of the Research Catalyst Cohort is currently accepting applications (until 28 July 2023) – if you are interested you can find out more here.

    Support for synthesis

    Brimming with ideas, Alice finds there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things she would like. With our research-adjacent magic wand she would love librarians to be more involved in research and to offer an evidence synthesis service. Both could help researchers spend less time wading through material and more time doing research built on solid foundations.

    “So I suppose my magic wand wouldn’t just be for us in the library. I’m aware that there are so many researchers who do most of their research in their own personal time. And most people might have done some thorough literature reviews when they were doing their PhD, but they don’t always have the time to do that now as they would like to.”

    Find out more

    Theme music by Vitaliy Levkin from Pixabay

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