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Dr Rachael Clemens, Adjunct Instructor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, talks about her research and teaching visit at UCL Qatar in October 2017

Dr Rachael Clemens

20 December 2017

Dr Rachael Clemens, Adjunct Instructor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel 

Hill, was at UCL Qatar for the month of October as a visiting researcher and lecturer. During her time in Qatar she initiated the research project "'I've only been here for two days, how do you…?': WhatsApp group as a social and collaborative information seeking virtual platform for Muslim women living abroad in the Middle East" with UCL Qatar's Lecturer in Library and Information Studies, Dr Sumayya Ahmed and had the chance to teach some classes. She shares with us insights on her research and her experience with UCL Qatar, its students and Qatari life and institutions.

"My month in Doha as a visiting researcher and lecturer at UCL Qatar was a wonderful opportunity to launch an exciting new research project, work with amazing graduate students, and engage with the local community in the midst of constructing new visions for libraries in Qatar and beyond. This was my first trip to the Middle East and the warm welcome I received made my experience extremely memorable, a treasure trove of sights, sounds, food, and scents.

Dr. Sumayya Ahmed and I presented the beginning stages of our research entitled, "'I've only been here for two days, how do you…?': WhatsApp group as a social and collaborative information seeking virtual platform for Muslim women living abroad in the Middle East". Our study explores the information seeking behavior of expatriate women as they move into and acclimate to life in the Middle East. Using the communication and information exchanges amongst an existing, user-initiated WhatsApp group whose sole purpose is to support women moving into the capital city of Doha, Qatar, this study examines the unique information needs expressed through group chat as well as the dynamic roles members play alternating between information seekers, providers, collaborators, and supporters. We hope to better understand how the group functions as a tool for women as they seek information and make sense of their new environment with the help and support of virtual strangers. As a woman arriving for the first time in Doha myself, I quickly realized the relevance and value of social networking tools like WhatsApp in helping me navigate and acclimate to new surroundings and processes of life in Qatar.

While at UCL Qatar, I taught three reference classes focusing on the role librarians play as educators in terms of library instruction and information literacy. In almost any library setting, from academic to public to school and even corporate settings, librarians are educating and empowering people to use information retrieval systems effectively, evaluate information for trustworthiness and relevance, and ultimately use information appropriately and ethically to meet their own needs. We explored specific tools such as Web of Science and other bibliographic databases commonly used in meeting the information needs of patrons; each student examined and reported in class on a resource of their choice. We also had the opportunity for a few students to prepare and conduct an "instruction session" on a resource; as a class we then used the Critical Friends Tuning Protocol to provide constructive feedback on what worked well and suggestions for improvement. Learning how to participate in effective and ongoing assessment endeavors is not often taught outside a traditional, education-focused program; but these are critical skills for student-focused librarians to engage with in order to create authentic learning libraries.

I also worked with the research methods class in expanding their methods toolkit. We focused on human information behavior and existing frameworks and models used in our field to explore various information contexts including Savolainen's Everyday Life Information Seeking. I shared methods relating to phenomenological approaches including my own research into human information behavior in contexts of personal crisis. I hope students found this useful as they contemplate, plan, and launch their own research: the methods of data collection and analysis you select depend upon and must be appropriate in addressing the question(s) you are asking.

Most enjoyable during my time in Doha were the many conversations with UCL Qatar students around and even off campus. Graduate students in our field of library and information science come from many different backgrounds and life experiences but they are universally invested in the importance and value that information plays in creating a better world.  I so appreciate the diversity of voices and high ambitions clearly evident in the students I met at UCL Qatar; I have extremely high expectations for each of them as they move forward in developing a more user-focused "libraryland".

My time in Doha coincided with the final preparations for the opening of the Qatar National Library so I was fortunate to attend a few tours, meet with library leaders, and get a feel for the exciting things happening there. I was particularly impressed with the dual effort toward supporting the local and modern community while also investing in the preservation and access to historical and national memory. Clearly UCL Qatar is playing a significant role in educating and supporting the staff of this national treasure.

I hope to continue my relationship with UCL Qatar and to return to work even short term with the faculty and students there. Thank you for the warm welcome and experience.

Dr. Rachael Clemens
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
Website: https://rachaelclemens.com/