Frances Breslin Davda is a doctoral researcher at the University of Strathclyde. That’s her on the left with her poster, which won the prize at Strathclyde’s Research Day. Frances also won best student paper at ISIC 2014 (The Information Behaviour Conference).
Books and libraries were central to my childhood: as a child I was regularly taken to my local library and one of my earliest memories is being in fancy dress enjoying stories on a mobile library. As a voracious teen reader, I was amazed that Glasgow Libraries allowed me to borrow (via my aunt’s ticket) more than the four books my local library allowed, opening up a new world of books.
When I finished school, I undertook a degree in Film and Media Studies at the University of Stirling as I wanted to work in public relations. During my degree I worked part-time in East Dunbartonshire’s public libraries; it was a fantastic job, the staff were (and still are) amazing and it was a lovely place to work. I enjoyed many aspects from staffing the mobile library (similar to the one which featured in my earliest memories) – driving out to country farms so members could swap books, to working in a busy reference department, dealing with the rush of the children’s summer reading scheme and entertaining groups of nursery children with my animal impressions. I absolutely loved the work and when I finished my degree I was at a crossroads – should I study for a librarian qualification or try for a public relations role? I went for the latter, reasoning librarian jobs would always be available – how amusing that seems now!
I worked in public relations for a few years, in-house for the Scottish Claymores American football team (once you have travelled to Amsterdam with an American football team nothing can ever faze you) and then for Beattie Communications corporate clients. In these roles I enjoyed the pressures/demands of the corporate world, but began to long for a role where I felt I was making a more worthwhile contribution to the world.
It was time to return to libraries! I studied for my Masters in Information and Library Studies at the University of Strathclyde, working part-time in Strathclyde University’s Law and Andersonian Libraries and Glasgow Caledonian University Library. After qualifying I worked as Librarian at Dollar Academy and as Children and Young People’s Services Officer for Fife Council. I found my Film and Media degree and business/public relations experience to be very useful in these roles, as more and more librarians need to fight for resources and promote and justify services’ existence.
Now, 10 years after completing my Masters, I am back at Strathclyde undertaking doctoral research. I am exploring child information poverty, looking at children’s access (or lack of) to information, in particular children living in poverty. I was awarded an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) studentship (advertised on LIS lists), which pays my university fees and provides a stipend. I had always been keen to undertake doctoral research and changes in my personal circumstances (bouncing baby) meant now seemed a great time. My role with Fife Council offered flexible working, but I had a long commute which, while pre-baby was no issue, meant I wanted something closer to home for the first few years of my baby’s life. Fife Council (now Fife Cultural Trust) have kindly allowed me a career break to undertake my research.
I treat my doctoral research like any other job. I am completing it part-time and am at my desk at the university Monday to Wednesday 9am till 5pm(ish), but have the flexibility to swap days/times should a bug or some other child related issue occur or equally if conferences/events take place at the latter half of the week.
It did require a short transition to re-engage with academia after a ten-year hiatus. Things such as Harvard Referencing, once second nature, had to be relearned. There were other changes too. Other doctoral students looked amazed that I had never heard of Turnitin (plagiarism prevention system) – anything submitted to the university must now go through this. I found this fascinating but it was old news to other students. Twitter has also proved a revelation. I had minimal knowledge of Twitter prior to starting my research but it has proved to be an extremely helpful resource, almost too helpful leaning towards information overload. This is because you can tailor updates so tweets are almost always of interest/use so it can be difficult to stay on top of it. It has also been really interesting to use public/academic libraries as ‘Joe Public’. I regularly use a number of public/university libraries and the different service provided is interesting and sometimes frustrating!
I am currently undertaking my literature review in which I justify my research, set parameters and seek information to assist my research. This stage feels like a personal treasure hunt, I am looking to know more about certain topics and have to navigate a sea of information to track down what is pertinent. The next stage will involve deciding on the best research methodologies, then actually undertaking the research. At this stage I enjoy a lot of control over my day/workload, as opposed to previous library roles where I never knew what could happen (one day I might end up being a dragon for Julia Donaldson as part of a Room on the Broom event or have to remove a live sheep from a library!)
Although doctoral research is quite solitary (particularly at this stage), I share an office with other researchers who support and inspire. I also enjoy attending training/events and meeting students from other countries and learning about their lives. I have heard first hand about life in Libya pre and post Gaddafi and the differences of involvement in Ramadan when in Scotland, where long summer days can make fasting a greater challenge.
To sum up, I find it a real luxury to be able to research a topic I am so passionate about and I am thankful for this opportunity.
Thanks to Frances for an interesting post. Frances is happy to discuss any of the topics raised above, so please leave questions and comments below, or contact her on Twitter at @FBreslinDavda.