LIS Research Coalition presentation at the SCONUL Autumn Conference

Hazel Hall

Hazel Hall at the podium at the British Library

Hazel Hall was invited to present at the SCONUL Autumn Conference on 17th November 2009 at the British Library. The presentation slides are available from Slideshare.

Hazel’s presentation focused on two aspects of the work of the LIS Research Coalition as relevant to the student experience agenda. These were (1) the Coalition’s mission to promote LIS practitioner research and the translation of research outcomes into practice and (2) the Coalition’s efforts in creating resources to bring together information about LIS research opportunities and results. Hazel’s starting point was the pressing need for an evidence base on which library and information services may draw, not least to prove their worth. She quoted Peter Griffiths, the current President of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), who highlighted in his October 2009 presidential address that “We must prove the value we provide with hard evidence. Start thinking what evidence you offer”. Hazel shares Peter’s view that practitioner research is important, but also recognises a number of challenges that face (potential) practitioner researchers. Hazel referred first to the barriers that LIS practitioner researchers may encounter. These include:

  • Navigating current funding infrastructures, for example due to the number of funding bodies and differing requirements as far as proposal writing and submission are concerned;
  • Negotiating working practices with mentors and partners;
  • Lack of confidence in research skills, especially when this is unfounded;
  • Fitting research work into a demanding job role that includes other competing, and often more obviously pressing, service priorities.

Hazel also pointed out that often individuals carry out work that is, in effect, practitioner research, but fail to recognise it as such.

The focus of the presentation then moved on to barriers associated with the dissemination of practitioner research. Hazel mentioned how research output often becomes trapped within an institution or sector, and thus has limited dissemination channels. This minimises the opportunity for others to take advantage of the research findings, and key messages do not reach the level of strategy development. As a result, individual institutions tend to focus on local research output in their planning activities.

Hazel took the opportunity to suggest a number of research themes related to student experience. She argued that we should look beyond the more “visible” issues related to facilities, such as upgrading library space and extending opening hours. LIS research effort in academic settings should also relate to broader institutional concerns such as student retention and international student fee income. There are also a number of research themes that interest library and information services staff regardless of sector. For example, community engagement, the relationship between library services and learning, and evidence-based practice are worth pursuing. Specifically, Hazel suggested a range of student experience related research questions ripe for consideration:

  • How can library provision be better aligned to broad institutional student experience initiatives?
  • How can we measure the contribution of academic library services to the overall student experience?
  • What are the roles of academic librarians in the learning processes of students?
  • How can we better engage teaching staff with library services?
  • How will scholarly communication develop in the future, and what will be the impact of this on library provision for students?
  • What is the best way to integrate information literacy provision into the curriculum?

Hazel noted that one question that was of particular relevance to her work with the Library and Information Science Research Coalition could be framed as “What is the relationship between awareness of LIS research within the academic community and good practice for the benefit of students?”

Hazel then turned her attention to the second theme of her presentation, i.e. the means by which the LIS Research Coalition is working to bring together information about LIS research opportunities and results. The Coalition has a web presence at http://lisresearch.org, as well as a Twitter feed at @LISResearch. The Twitter feed postings cover a range of topics of relevance to the LIS research community, as Hazel illustrated by displaying some Twitter screen shots. Amongst these she showed a page of alerts that included news of: a research funding opportunity; PhD studentships on offer; an invitation to join in a research-related consultation exercise; two newly published research reports; a link to a web page on a topical debate; a report on an on-going research project; a training event; conference registration opening; the publication of a new journal issue; and a US conference offering funded places. Hazel strongly encouraged audience members to start following @LISResearch, or at least arrange for members of staff in their organisations to take responsibility for keeping up to date with the postings on behalf of others at their home institutions.

Hazel concluded her presentation by reiterating the support that the LIS Research Coalition can offer for practitioner research. First she noted that the agile information provision on LIS research related news through the dedicated Twitter feed saves time of practitioner researchers. Then she spoke about the efforts to raise the profile of practitioner research, making reference to the LIS Research Coalition conference. This will take place on Monday 28th June 2010 at the British Library with the intention of “liberating” of research output that may be trapped within institutions and/or sectors. Hazel explained that in the longer term the Coalition hopes to provide opportunities for research methods training that will extend current UK provision in this area. Hazel’s final point was that she looked forward to the LIS Research Coalition working in partnership with other LIS stakeholders, including SCONUL, in building the evidence base that will contribute to future LIS research strategy, as well as policy development.

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