The Indispensable Role of Today’s Research Librarian
Rarely do today’s research librarians fit the old-fashioned stereotype: bespectacled, severe, and fiercely protective of the silence, found amidst tall stacks of books and journals, and spending days cataloguing and maintaining order in the collection.
Instead, as the researchers whose success they support are well aware, present-day research librarians do far more than curate materials or enable access to information.
Yes, corporate and academic librarians still help their end-users locate archived documents, find articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and navigate their way through a bewilderingly vast—and rapidly-growing—sea of digital scholarship. In fact, they are integral in shortening the research and development lifecycle by translating this over-abundance of information into relevant, useful, and practical adoption.
But that’s just scratching the surface as librarians and information specialists handle a broad range of duties and increased responsibilities.
The Modern-Day Research Librarian Wears Many Hats
In their quest to make knowledge access as effortless and productive as possible, librarians work hard (and often behind the scenes) to achieve a variety of critical objectives, including:
- Simplifying copyright-compliance within the organization
- Ensuring researchers have fast, easy access to peer-reviewed articles
- Negotiating, managing, and optimizing scholarly journal subscriptions
- Empowering research teams to collaborate and share content legally
- Developing a smart acquisition strategy to minimize literature costs
- Creating an efficient article access and invoicing workflow
To meet these goals, librarians often seek out, assess, and help deploy a range of technology solutions. And they do so with a dual focus on providing the best customer experience possible for researchers—and the best ROI for the organization.
As automated tools for literature search and discovery become more sophisticated, stakeholders may be tempted to believe that the research librarian’s role has been taken over by the Internet. It’s more accurate, however, to say that the librarian’s role has shifted—from a gatekeeper for information access to someone who helps researchers locate what’s most important and pertinent as quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively as possible.
This makes the research librarian a vital and indispensable partner in the creation of knowledge. In today’s highly competitive scientific research landscape, a skilled librarian can make the critical difference between success and failure.
Research Librarians Help Speed Scientific Discovery and Reduce Unnecessary Costs
It’s common knowledge that the rate and volume of scientific publications has increased exponentially. But adding to that is a rise in new access venues for disseminating research findings, code, and data. That makes finding the most relevant information that much harder—and the need for efficiency and seamless access all the more pertinent. When researchers are forced to toggle back and forth between various websites to order full-text papers and then wait around for those documents to be delivered, for example, their workflows become fragmented and less productive.
Knowledge management professionals keep a close eye on new and emerging technologies in the world of research publication. According to a 2017 study, there are already over 400 tools and innovations just within the research workflow. Librarians know which search tools and databases are likely to yield the richest results for a particular project, and they understand relevant research performance metrics that can help identify which resources they should continue using or acquire to have the biggest positive impact for their users and the organization.
For instance, when it comes time to access peer-reviewed articles and other scholarly content, research librarians can help their customers locate the right resources—at the best price. If the research solution they have in place includes advanced filtering tools, for example, librarians can ensure the end-users are not paying for content that’s available in an Open Access version or via an existing subscription, or placing a duplicate order for a paper they already own.
In the digital age, where change is constant, research librarians and information specialists provide the stability and security of knowing that when information is needed, it will be there. They play an essential role in delivering the information researchers and organizations need to innovate, flourish, and thrive—all while saving time, money, and frustration.
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