EBLIP6 report: day 3, Thursday 30th June 2011

Our final EBLIP6 review is by Paolo Gardois, a PhD student at Sheffield University (@paologardois). Paolo reports on Thursday 30th June…

EBLIP6 tweeters and bloggers

Three of the LIS Research Coalition sponsored delegates eagerly await Thursday's keynote: Dr Katie Fraser, Katrina Dalziel & Paolo Gardois

Professor Hazel Hall opened the final day of EBLIP6 in Salford with a thought-provoking keynote speech on impact. Both patrons and managers demand services that really make a difference, and impact may take different forms: from changing users’ information behaviours to assessing academic impact through bibliometric measures, or evaluating services based on specific outcome measures, especially in the academic sector. Also, impact is very difficult to measure and evaluate. The impact of research on practice, for example, is often dependent on the cumulative and indirect effect of practitioners’ exposure to research output. Impact counts, anyway! In the current economic climate, research must demonstrate that it actually has an impact on practice, and the research–practice gap should be bridged, or at least reduced. Hazel then shared with the audience evidence emerging from the LIS Research Coalition’s RiLIES project which is due to report later this year. Several factors play a key role in increasing research uptake by practitioners: quality, scale and applicability of research itself; means of face-to-face dissemination; availability of accessible textual sources to be used as a reference in daily practice; high profile dissemination partners; and – last but not least – individuals who act as research connectors, as well as social media. Hazel finished her presentation by referring to the question “What difference does it make?” appropriately citing the Smiths, whose Salford Lads’ Club photograph is now one of the most iconic in British music history.

Later in the morning, parallel section 6 focused on a range of topics: (1) web-based services to enhance users’ experience of library services; (2) analysis of electronic resources usage by patrons as a key indicator of value generated by academic library services; (3) the development of evidence-based services in academic and health libraries, and their impact on quality improvement. As budgets shrink and patrons’ expectations rise, all three sessions offered really useful tools to improve service provision and demonstrate value for money.

The session before lunch showed an innovative and interactive format: the LIS Research Coalition organised a panel session involving LIS practitioners and journal editors.

Meet the editors

Panel members at the Meet the Editors session at EBLIP6: Professor Dick Hartley, Val Skelton, Dr Miggie Pickton, Denise Koufogiannakis, Dr Christine Urquhart

The session aimed to improve communication between the two parties and help information professionals plan the publication of their work with a better understanding of the goals and practical steps involved in editorial processes. For example, the editors advised the careful project-management of any potential publication, paying close attention to the information needs of the target journal’s audience, and not to underestimate the value of what professionals have to say to their colleagues and peers. Aiming for a high standard of work is important, but the editors encouraged members of the audience not to be obsessed with perfection: peer reviewers can help improve the quality of work submitted with their feedback. Importantly, the peer review process should be viewed as a dialogue during which both parties have a potential to learn. Also worth emphasising was the difference between research and practice-based articles: there are specific LIS journals for both categories. Even negative results, which are rarely published, are of great interest to audiences.

Poster explanation at EBLIP6

Dr Brian Detlor explains the content of his poster to Val Skelton

After a refreshing lunch and a final look at the posters (of amazing variety and really high quality), delegates were ready for the last two sessions of the conference. Parallel session 7 engaged the audience on a wide array of issues related to innovation and development of services, including the role of libraries in the management of scientific datasets, performance measurement techniques such as activities-based costing, methodological reflections on best practices and the uptake of an evidence-based approach in library services, and the available evidence base for evaluating the effectiveness of web 2.0 services. A specific session gauged the progress of evidence based practice in the health sector. Here topics included the value of services offered by NHS libraries, the efficient use of bibliographic databases and the impact of clinical librarianship on patient care and organizational objectives.

Then the time came for the closing address by Andrew Booth, who underlined the multidimensional and complex nature of “evidence-based library and information practice”. Virtually all the vocabulary used in the label can be discussed and modified, and the EBLIP6 conference had proved a valuable forum for the concepts to be discussed. Andrew also pondered the future of EBLIP. One key development resides in focusing less on research and randomised controlled trials and more on more on what really needs to be done to improve users’ experience in a really messy world. Andrew referred to the concept of “knowledge interaction”, which accounts for the need for genuine partnership between actors. Picking up on previous speakers’ references to music (keynotes Dr Ross Todd and Professor Hazel Hall had cited Bjork and the Smiths respectively) Andrew recited his own version of the lyrics of the Go-Go’s “My lips are sealed” to close the formal programme. Then awards were conferred and votes of thanks given. Mary Dunne was judged to have presented the best poster, and Kate Davies and Zaana Howard the best paper. Finally it was “Goodbye Salford” after a very interesting and stimulating three days.

RiLIES poll – summary of initial findings

As part of the RiLIES project we have just carried out a short initial survey on how LIS professionals find out about research project findings.
LIS RiLIES logo
We hoped to identify (1) the sources that are used by librarians to generate ideas for improvements in library services delivery and (2) any named LIS research projects that have been particularly influential in inspiring changes to practice.

If you took part, we’d like to start by saying thank you!

Here we share some of the results. Please bear in mind, however, that this is a self-selected and relatively small sample so the results cannot be considered to be statistically significant. Instead, we are using the findings to help direct further activities of the project.

Overall, 200 people took the time to complete the poll. Of these 175 have over 5 years experience, 173 are UK-based, and 155 describe themselves holding front-line or managerial roles. So we are pleased to have reached our core target demographic for the poll. However, although we had very good response from academic and health librarians, as the pie chart below shows, the number of public librarians who took part was disappointing. We’re now looking at other options for reaching this important librarian population.

Some findings

Even in this age of social media and e-books, face-to-face contacts (particularly informal networking) are still the key route to learning about new research results.

Even online, ‘traditional’ JISC discussion lists are considered as most useful (even more so amongst managerial and health-sector respondents). In fact they are reported as the leading alternative to face-to-face contact. As far as social media is concerned, practitioner blogs are popular, and in contrast, there is an emphatic lack of interest in virtual reading groups on platforms such as Second Life.

Twitter divided people. A significant number of academic librarian respondents, in particular, reported use of Twitter to both find out about, and report on, research projects. As would be expected, people who use Twitter are also more enthusiastic about it as a source of information. On the other hand, a significant number said that Twitter is blocked by their workplace. This is an issue within the healthcare and government sectors in particular.

Over half the respondents have used mailing lists in their own research work. Conference papers are the most popular route for reporting findings. Academic librarians dominate the more resource-intensive areas of creating peer-reviewed conference papers and writing research project reports. Our relatively high level of activity may, however, simply demonstrate that our poll attracted a more research-active demographic.

Offline, research reports and reading of (printed) news reports in journals are reported as being most useful.

The two graphs below summarise the popularity of sources of information as reported by the academic librarians:

… and healthcare librarians:

Please bear in mind, however, that the limitations of the poll data mean that we cannot do any more than note the variation in sources of information (and this is why we felt that a graph totalling up all the responses would be inappropriate at this stage).

One of the points of this poll was to draw on librarians’ collective inspiration to identify any gaps in our questions, and we were not disappointed! In particular, responses highlighted:

  • The role of professional bodies in networking professionals together.
  • The important role played by intermediaries (such as trainers) in turning research findings into useful information: consultants, trainers, conference speakers etc. and associated artefacts such as books/monographs or training course serve as intermediaries research results to practitioners, even if they are not strictly research-intensive in their own right.
  • The importance of a small number of individuals as information sources, in particular Andrew Booth, Alison Brettle, Phil Bradley, and the LIS Research Coalition’s Hazel Hall.
  • The use of RSS feeds for following multiple sources of information.

Next steps…

The results will contribute to the broad project aim of exploring the extent to which funded librarianship research projects influence library practice.

We have been able to identify some projects which we could potentially use in the case study phase of our work. Also, the results give a direction to potential focus group questions, and who we should involve in our future data collection exercises. For instance, the low number of public librarian contributions at this stage mean that we will have to find other ways to identify their needs and activities.

Finally – 64 people have said they would take part in future research – thank you! We may be in touch later on.

Hazel Hall and Peter Cruickshank

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