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November 7, 2002 Librarians share their ideas at Poster Session



by James Martin

Concordia Libraries held its second annual Poster Session on May 7 at the George P. Vanier Library on the Loyola campus. The event is designed for Concordia’s librarians, who, as members of the faculty association, are expected to engage in research as a condition of workplace promotion — to receive peer feedback on research in progress.

The session began with a half-hour viewing period, during which attendees perused displays describing the presenters’ research. Each presenter was then given 15 minutes to talk about his or her work, then answered questions from the floor.

William Curran, Concordia’s Director of Libraries, ex-plained that the poster session differs from a conference in that participants aren’t only presenting final research results. Rather, the afternoon session offers the opportunity to discuss research methodology at early stages of investigation.

“In a conference, you’re usualy giving a pre-packaged set of goods — ‘This is what I’ve done’ — but we want to stimulate discussion. As important as the findings might be, there are publications for presenting results once research is completed.

The idea behind the poster session was first, to allow colleagues to know what kind of research other librarians were doing; second, to stimulate further research; and third, to encourage others to undertake research.

“We thought that the poster session would be valuable for people who have done res-earch, who are doing research, and who are anticipating doing research. To hear a discussion of methodology for empirical research or historical research is as valuable as hearing a lecture from someone about the research they did last summer.”

This year’s Poster Session was dedicated to the memory of the late Albert Tabah, a professor at the Université de Montréal’s École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’information and a participant in last year’s event.

It featured presentations by Concordia librarians, as well as librarians and Library & Information Studies PhD students from McGill University. Topics included designing software that automatically assigns Library of Congress subject headings to digital documents, an online database of bio-bibliographic information about Canadian women artists, the pros and perils of designing digital handouts for hand-held computers, and measuring information technology competence among LIS graduates.

Joanna Duy, Concordia’s chemistry & physics librarian, presented research from her initial investigation into the popularity of electronic chemistry journals as compared to traditional paper journals. The research was intended as a pilot project for a larger project Duy hopes to work on this summer, and she says the Poster Session’s congenial atmosphere will have a marked influence on her future research.

“I got really good feedback,” she said of her presentation, “especially from the science librarians, who had good suggestions about possible explanations for the trends that I saw. When you’re doing research in this field, it’s easy to keep approaching it from a certain angle.

“But it’s really helpful to get colleague’s opinions about what may be happening, and what elements of the study they think are most interesting.The Poster Session is great because you don’t feel like you have to present something that’s ready to be published. You can present things at an early stage, get your ideas out there and get feedback.”

William Curran says that’s exactly what the event is about. “We want the professionals attending to be able to say, ‘I did some research like that, and we did it this way.’ The person giving the poster session should feel comfortable enough to say, ‘You know, that’s an excellent idea. I’m think I’m going to revise my strategy.’

“Most of us in the profession, no matter what time constraints we live with, have an interest in doing research. We hope the Poster Forum will be an enticement not only for people to learn about their colleagues’ work, but an enticement for people who maybe haven’t done that much research to pursue their own interests.”