“You don’t need a PhD to this job”: in conversation with Dr Katherine Howard

by | Nov 6, 2021 | Uncategorized | 0 comments


Online via Zoom

LARK is finishing this challenging year on a high note. Our last event this year will be an opportunity to participate in interesting discussions with our excellent guest speakers, and celebrate the re-launch of LARK’s South Australian Chapter. You will also have a chance to meet Dr Katherine Howard, LARK’s new Treasurer and Chair of SA Chapter, who will facilitate this event. Warming up for the webinar, we invited Katherine for a chat to introduce herself and tell us something about her plans.

Katherine, please tell us something about yourself.

Like many people in librarianship, I came to the sector needing a career change after being a Business Analyst for 7 years. I liked the idea that after completing my qualification I could work in archives or records management, as well as libraries. I was lucky enough to have amazing lecturers who were inclusive of many of the information professions, and that has really shaped how I see the field – that librarianship is just one part of the broader information professions. I strongly believe we need to join forces with all the other information professions – including the computer scientists! – in order for us to gain a more holistic understanding of the field. And the computer scientists could learn a thing or two about us!

Why did you decide to join LARK?

It was another opportunity for me to highlight and promote the importance of research to the profession. I have been on the ALIA Research Advisory Committee for a number of years, and have presented workshops with other committee members at ALIA National conferences.

Working on the LISRA project, a phrase kept coming up again and again – “You don’t need a PhD to do this job.” I thought it was just me on the receiving end of such comments, but apparently not – it’s common the world over! There appears to be limited recognition of the value of research or a research degree to library practice. This doesn’t mean that I think every librarian needs a PhD, or even a research masters, but having one certainly brings another level of skill and insight to the way you approach your role. Those skills and insights are largely intangible, so it was only when I started reading the literature in this space that I realised I wasn’t alone. But how do we change that mindset? It’s for this reason that I wanted to explore why library practitioners do PhDs, which is the topic of our next webinar.

Another phrase I came across in my LISRA work was from Juznic and Urbanija (2003) –

“If research is absent […] there is no profession, but only an occupation[…]”*

I think that bears reflecting on …

You are relaunching LARK’s SA Chapter. Could you tell us more about your hopes and plans?

I hope to create a community of practice amongst South Australian librarians – and anyone else who is interested – to recognise the importance of research to our profession, and to learn from each other what it means to do research. “Research” in this sense is more than a lit review or a systematic review – although they are both aspects of research. I think that is also a common misperception – what do we mean when we say “research”? (a view that is also supported by the literature!). So hopefully these ideas will go some way to ensuring that we don’t become “only an occupation.”

*Juznic, P. and Urbanija, J. (2003), Developing research skills in library and information science studies, Library Management, 24 (6/7), pp. 324-331. https://doi.org/10.1108/01435120310486048

Dr Katherine Howard currently works as Research Fellow, Swinburne University of Technology


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