Open Conference Systems at Dalhousie, International Association of University Libraries, 2016 Conference

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Collaborating to navigate the sea of change in science and health science librarianship
Heather Cunningham, Patricia Ayala, Erica Lenton, Vincci Lui

Last modified: 2016-03-14


Common trends across academic libraries include partnering with faculty on research teams, engaging dynamically with researchers and providing innovative services to inspire and prepare scholars for an information-centric world. However, a major challenge is having enough librarian capacity to successfully invest in and implement these initiatives. This challenge is being met at the University of Toronto’s Gerstein Science Information Centre (Gerstein Library) through collaboration.

The Gerstein Library is the largest academic science and health science library within Canada and serves a complex dual role; it is not only a medical library, responsive to the evolving needs of evidence-based health science research, but also a general science library that serves the wider university community and beyond. With ten librarians, seven of whom have liaison responsibilities, there is a bandwidth issue with regards to engaging, innovating, and developing services and resources.  Establishing collaborative partnerships, both internal and external, and a team-based project-management style approach have allowed the Gerstein librarians to:

  • Meet increasing demand for librarian involvement on systematic and scoping reviews, and grant-funded research teams
  • Provide an innovative 3D printing makerspace and lightboard studio space within the library through its partnership with the Mobile Application Development Lab (MADLab) .
  • Host Software Carpentry workshops to develop core scientific computing skills required by researchers
  • Connect UofT researchers via Cross Collaboration: Speed Networking for Researchers, an event organised for the national Science Literacy Week

Leadership can be displayed at any level within an organization. By capitalizing on a workplace culture that encourages ‘leading from the middle,’ Gerstein librarians are creating collaborative partnerships which allow the library to offer innovative and dynamic services.