Making STEM Research A Pleasure

Liz Grace, Librarian | 7 min read
Liz Grace, Librarian | 7 min read

The Edward G. Miner Library is part of the University of Rochester Medical Center. Currently, library staff are taking steps to make searching for scientific research a more efficient and pleasant experience. We are doing this by preparing our students and researchers to spend less time searching.

This allows them more time doing their lab work, analyzing results, and writing, ultimately in hopes of publishing their findings. We start on the ground level with our students. There are two classes that the librarians teach as part of the medical school and graduate biomedical education curriculum: "Mastering Medical Information" and "Mastering Scientific Information," respectively. These classes cover the different databases and tools available to the students through the library, in addition to best practices and search strategies.

Librarian-Patron Relationship

At the Miner Library, students and departments have a “personal” librarian for as long as they are at the university. This way, their librarian contact remains consistent. A relationship is built over time, so when there is an information need, individuals don’t hesitate to get assistance.

There are many hurdles and barriers throughout the research process — but access to resources within our library isn’t an obstacle to any of our patrons. A lot of information during orientations is front-loaded — offered at the first interactions with the patron. However, most researchers won’t need all that information initially. So, regular library classes and programming are ways to spread the word of library services and keep the researchers informed of what is available.

We always make sure that our patrons know the essentials: that their library is available to help with training, searching, and tools. We at Miner Library can figure out the rest. Data management is a big part of staying organized and creating an efficient workflow in a productive environment. The lab needs to be clean, but so does your data!

STEM Librarians With A Plan

Additionally, many funding bodies, including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all require a data management plan. Students learn the steps to create their own data management plan: outlining the data, both physical and digital, and discussing how it will be handled over the course of their research project and beyond.

Miner Library offers this information to our students, but also to our faculty, staff, and researchers through our data management programming service, available throughout the year. Preparing not only students and researchers, but those that support the research process proves useful and collaborative. Teaching data management best practices helps me, as well.

Reproducibility Key at Library

The library also has reproducibility initiatives in place for our students and researchers. Documenting the research process is extremely important, and our librarians can help. Aside from being generally organized people, librarians maintain a tradition openness and transparency. This is a custom that I would like to see spread to the greater scientific community.

In the library course, “Mastering Scientific Information,” we include a session on reproducibility. This ties into the data management section of the course. Each of these initiatives builds upon the other, and the relationship is truly reciprocal. We are getting students off to a great start; they are at the beginning of their research journey and we want to help instill good habits as early as possible. So, setting the stage for them before they begin their official lab work is key, and the library has access to tools and protocol resources to enable this.

Moving To Video and On

Beyond these efforts, Miner Library is venturing into new fields, enabled by the web and other new technologies. Our users do not always have the time to stop what they are doing — especially when they are performing time-sensitive experiments or when a deadline is quickly approaching. So, to provide services and data in multiple formats, my coworkers and I are extending content on our Libguides beyond traditional text-only formats.

Working at a remote location from the library is challenging for some of our users. To that end, the library is creating video content for our “Data Management Libguide.” These types of formats work for users who only need a short refresher; those restricted by location, or anyone stuck at a workstation can still have access to our instructional services. In the age of YouTube, this video push speaks to most of our patrons, especially the students.

Commitment to Patrons

Miner Library (and all our librarians) strive to provide the best service for everyone. Working with a team of dedicated individuals is inspirational and motivational — I hope our users see this reflected in our work.

As the new head of Collections and Systems, I am currently searching for more ways to link our patrons to the services they need. I hope to provide more of the connective pathways (and formulate new successful organizational theories) to our users through purchasing access to new products (such as JoVE).

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