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Day in the life of a virtual researcher

Variety of research assignments

June 27, 2016

Home Blog Day in the life of a virtual researcher

When Kathrine (Kat) Henderson told her librarian friends that she was going to work for LAC Group, some of them joked that she would be sleeping with the enemy.

Of course we don’t like being referred to even jokingly as “the enemy”—after all, we are a company of librarians ourselves! But as the provider of Library as a Service® to law firms and other organizations, we acknowledge that the sentiment does exist in some pockets, so we do what we can to dispel the myths, including regular “Day in the Life” profiles of our people like this one featuring Kat.

We’re happy to report that now, having been with LAC Group for over a year, she might share another popular adage with them: “Jump in, the water is fine!”.

Virtual library researcher


Kat is part of the LAC Group team working “in the cloud” to deliver virtual Library as a Service or LaaS to a number of different clients. She started part-time in April 2015 and went full time in October. Working from her home office, some of the same friends who kidded her were also worried about her ability to work alone. Kat is a gregarious, outgoing person accustomed to the face-to-face interactions commonly enjoyed by librarians working in traditional settings.

But she says she finds balance in the benefits of working from home and the different kind of interactions she now has:

“I have developed great relationships with my regular clients, as well as my fellow researchers. We chat and share ideas on the company’s internal Yammer network and we have regular video conference meetings. So I never feel isolated.”

Not to mention she no longer has the daily commuting grind, the cost and upkeep of a work wardrobe and some of the other less pleasurable aspects of working onsite. That gives her a little more control over her work-life balance and time for other pursuits, like the home-renovation project she just started.

Typical work day for a LAC Group research analyst

As Research Analyst, Kat conducts research as requested by a variety of LAC Group clients. In addition, she is part of a smaller copyright clearance team that is specifically charged with obtaining rights permissions and managing licenses.

Daily research to-do list

While a fair amount of the requests she handles are routine, Kat and the rest of the team never know what kinds of projects they’ll be asked to do, or for which client. Her daily to-do list includes scanning email for new and follow-up requests and providing results via the LaaS Research Management System, which is the portal used to submit and track requests.

New work is triaged by need and date and shared among the team based on everyone’s workload. For clients in North America, the work flows through researchers working coast-to-coast. Some projects involve multiple researchers, requiring organized collaboration to get the request done most efficiently.

Research opportunities and challenges

Many requests are turned around the same day, depending on the complexity, and rarely does an assignment take more than three days, unless it involves rights research. When asked if there is competition for the “juicy” projects, Kat says there are enough interesting requests to go around.

While she enjoys the variety, Kat acknowledges that keeping track of different clients, different logins and different databases can be a juggling act. But the team knows this is critical to meeting the confidentiality needs of clients. Another detail to track is client preferences, but that too is important, to ensure client satisfaction.

From government and academic libraries to library in the cloud

Kat’s career didn’t begin in librarianship. After earning a bachelor’s degree in management from Arizona State University, she worked in marketing, including stints with a restaurant group and a radio station. As someone with a strong sense of curiosity and a love of writing, she decided to pursue a degree in librarianship.

She earned her MLIS degree from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee via distance learning and began her academic library career at her alma mater, Arizona State University. She later moved to Thunderbird School of Global Management, a private college that recently become part of ASU.


Kat with reclining Buddha at Thunderbird’s International Business Information Centre

While working for Thunderbird’s International Business Information Centre (IBIC) as an instructional programs librarian, she was responsible for developing and delivering all course-related library instruction and workshops, as well reference desk and materials-selection responsibilities.

CI background

One of the classes she taught was gathering competitive information on international companies. In addition, she would also help with research requests from Thunderbird’s consulting group. This experience naturally has translated well into the work she does in her current role, which often involves gathering and analyzing competitive intelligence.

Just prior to joining LAC Group, she worked as a research librarian for the Office of the Auditor General for the State of Arizona. Working in state government, Kat became accustomed to financial restraints. In fact, she says she had no formal budget for research resources, which forced her to learn how to find and use reliable free sources or otherwise figure out how to get the information she needed. It was working for the auditing group that Kat’s tenacity—a very useful trait in research—really paid off.

Marketing and writing background

Kat also believes her marketing experience has served her well, particularly for LAC Group, a company that advocates for librarians to be more proactive about promoting the value of their work.

“My marketing experience gave me confidence to communicate and sell my ideas, which was great training for being a librarian.”


Kat getting ready to go out with friends

Writing skills are another important trait for research analysts. Kat believes her deductive writing skills have served her well in her current role. She finds that giving the answer and then providing the supportive background material can be a helpful way to communicate results.

Kat is also a published author. Most recently, she was a contributor to The Library Juice Press Handbook of Intellectual Freedom: Concepts, Cases, and Theories, co-authoring “Hate Speech: Legal and Philosophical Aspects” with her mentor, Tom Lipinski.

Working for LAC Group

Kat believes that LAC Group offers excellent opportunities for researchers and other librarians who want to focus on the work itself.

“Working on a virtual team maximizes the amount of time you get to devote to the research work – the work we do best and enjoy doing. There is less ‘administrivia’ like meetings and budgets, not to mention less office politics. The focus is truly on the reference work.”

Her job is not an entry level opportunity, however. She and her co-workers are skilled researchers who are highly educated and experienced. They’re hired knowing that they must be ready to jump in with both feet.

As for her doubters, she says that whenever she sees a good job opening, she encourages her friends and colleagues to consider and apply.

“It may not be for everyone, but LAC Group is a terrific company with a positive, fun culture, and with the exception of public libraries, I believe Library as a Service is the future of the profession. It’s the way to optimize what librarians do best.”

We believe it’s people like Kat Henderson who are truly the future of the librarian profession.

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