Research group librarian – a cooperating partner in research?

Heidi Kristin Olsen


Academic libraries meet many challenges in relation to the services they offer researchers. It is evident that the library’s role in the researcher’s information search has reduced significantly and continues to decrease.

A study in 2007 at Vestfold University College’s library (VUC) in Norway, demonstrated that there is great potential for increasing the faculty staffs use of the digital resources of the library at VUC. These findings led the library to focus attention on the library’s services for this user group.

In 2009, the library at VUC initiated a study to investigate the possible effects of a librarian continuously participating in a research group as the ‘Research Group Librarian’.


The main research project, in which the research group librarian role has been tried out, is called ‘Kindergarten space, materiality, learning and meaning-making’. This is a three year project, funded by the Research Council of Norway. There are eight part time researchers involved in this project, two senior researchers and one research group librarian.

An ethnographic design has been applied in the study. The research group librarian has been a fully participating member of the research group throughout the project.

The empirical sources for the study include:

  • Semi structured interviews with the project management and the participating researchers:
    One short individual interview at the beginning of the project with each of the research group participants
    Several group interviews were held halfway with the majority of the research group participants.
  • Observation and field notes

The results will be presented under the following headings:

  • implications for the researcher, emphasising the information search behaviour and reference management skills
  • communication and information within, and coming out from, the project
  • collaboration in writing a review article
  • implications for the library – internal, and at VUC in general
  • the librarian’s role – a boundary worker?

The study shows that a librarian as a member of a research group can have positive impact on the researchers’ work. Appropriate library services become more distinct. Ideas for, and development of, new library services for the user group evolve naturally during the process.


Although this is a minor study and insufficient to make generalisations about the matter, the findings are interesting and worth taking into consideration in the further work of developing the academic libraries’ services towards faculty staff and researchers.


Research group librarian, academic libraries, library service for research

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