Research Proust – Sharon Rankin

Our latest profile of librarian researchers is Sharon Rankin from Rare Books. Learn all about her work on the cultural heritage of our northern peoples.


 Name Sharon RankinSharon Rankin
Job Title  Liaison Librarian
 Library  Rare Books and Special Collections


What research are you currently working on? Since 2008, I have had the great fortune of working with faculty collaborators on a Canadian International Polar Year funded project focusing on the written heritage of Nunavik (northern Quebec) One of the books published was mine – A Bibliography of Canadian Inuit Periodicals – the print equivalent of a web database that I created while on sabbatic leave. This summer, it will be time to update the Caninuit database.I am currently in a “refocusing” stage, deciding which projects to pursue in the coming year. Will I index for the ASTIS database another Inuit magazine? Or finish the indexing of an oral history magazine? Or branch out in a new direction – begin a community-based information project in my neighbourhood, Pointe St. Charles?
Are there any themes to your research projects? If yes, then what are they?  The work I did on Inuit periodicals was so engaging. I was able to learn about Canada’s northern peoples, their history and culture. Providing access to little known important northern Canadian heritage – that’s what I would say is my “theme”. Selecting and coding appropriate metadata, making texts findable on the web, collating little known information and creating digital editions.
What do you enjoy the most about conducting research? I really enjoy working in a group; having ideas build from discussion. Working with collaborators from outside McGill provides real insight into processes that are different from the ones here. Different perspectives on how to answer a question. Different ways to create scholarship. Difference approaches to completing the tasks.
What do you find the most challenging about conducting research? The editorial work is a challenge at times. If only I was an English major!
What is your dream research project? A pan-Canadian project to digitize all the Inuit periodicals in my bibliography, with ample funding to do it right, followed by an assessment of their use in northern communities.
Are you looking for research collaborators? If yes, then what skills or traits would you like those collaborators to have? Definitely. Genuine interest and a sense of humour would be my top picks as the best traits for collaborators.
Where have you published and where would you like to publish? My cv is short on articles in peer-reviewed journals, so this is where I would like to focus my research outcomes over the next couple of years. The specific journal will depend on what I decide to do.
What learning opportunity did you find the most valuable for improving your research skills? In person, seminars have been the best learning experiences for me. I guess I am old-school that way. I plan to do a series of webinars this summer instead of travelling, so I am hoping that these will be informative.
Which research skill(s) would you still like to improve? The writing stage is always the most difficult, so this is where I could use some practice.
What research skill(s) are you the most proud of? I really enjoy supervising student assistants and having them as part of the research team. I have learned a great deal from every student I have worked with. I also have persistence and love to plan, two valuable characteristics that ensure things are finished up in time to meet grant deadlines.
If you had to describe your experiences conducting research in one word, what would it be?  I need three words – “ a rewarding privilege”.


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