LIS Research Coalition conference live blog #lisrc10

Today’s the day of the Library and Information Science Research Coalition conference at the British Library in London. We’re looking forward to welcoming information professionals from:

  • universities and research institutes;
  • the health service;
  • academic, public, national and corporate libraries;
  • information consultancies;
  • the LIS Research Coalition member bodies.

We also have good representation from publishers, and some staff from our conference sponsors will also be with us. A number of delegates are currently studying for higher degrees in LIS, including our six sponsored PhD student rapporteurs.

If you are not able to join us at the British Library for today’s conference, you can still participate in the discussions and give us your views as we explore Evidence, Value and Impact: the LIS Research Landscape in 2010.

Simply follow the live blog and add your comments, or tweet using the event hashtag #lisrc10.

Conference taster: meet our speakers and facilitators

In the run-up to Monday’s conference, we have been interviewing speakers and breakout session facilitators to discover more about what they will be covering in their sessions, the key issues to be discussed by the LIS research community at the event, and their hopes for the day as a whole.

Michael JubbMichael Jubb, Opening speaker

“I’m going to say a little about how the Coalition came to be set up, what it is seeking to achieve, and the challenges it faces.

In terms of the LIS research landscape, the big research challenge is to do some rigorous analysis (not advocacy, though we need that as well) on the value of libraries and information services. That means looking hard at the relationships not just between inputs and outputs (the easy bit, though we need to get better at it) but at outcomes, in terms of learning – formal and informal – and research. That’s difficult, but we need to do it.

I’m looking forward to the chance to meet, discuss, and to find the points of intersection of interests and ideas.”

Andrew Dillon, Opening keynote speaker

“I’ll offer a sweeping view of a field that feels threatened yet promises so much, with suggestions to move us all forward!

I consider people – users, consumers, searchers, readers, and creators – to be the most interesting issue on the LIS research landscape. They are always what it is all about, and we should never forget it. I’m most looking forward to sharing ideas with a UK audience as it’s been a long time.”

Anne BriceAnne Brice, Research evidence – breakout session facilitator

“I think research evidence is important because we need to be able to answer the most important questions that our users, practitioners and funders have, and to be sure that we are doing the best we can with the resources we have. It needs to support decision making, expand our understanding and be seen as an essential tool in how we develop and improve our services.

I am looking forward to meeting delegates from all parts of the LIS community, to sharing ideas and solutions, and to having the time to focus on the issues around research evidence without the usual interruptions! Participants at previous workshops have identified a range of barriers to finding and using good quality research evidence, relating to the nature of the evidence base itself, the skills needed to do and use research, or to the working culture or environment. We hope that the breakout sessions will provide an opportunity to hear from lots of different perspectives, and bring different types of knowledge and experience together.”

Michael SteadMichael Stead, Research impact and value – breakout session facilitator

“In my role as a manager in public libraries, the value of research is in its effect on the decision-making process. Good quality research helps me and my colleagues to make the right decisions. In the current economic climate, it’s vitally important that we are as well-informed as we can possibly be: using the right research helps us to do that.

This a great opportunity to find out about the approach taken to research activities across all sectors of the information professions, and I’m confident that there will be a lot of valuable discussion in the breakout sessions. I would personally like to learn more about sources of research funding and how other professionals make research mesh with the day job.”

Val SkeltonVal Skelton, Research impact and value – breakout session facilitator

“I work as co-editor for Business Information Review, which is an international journal for all those who work within organisations helping them achieve maximum value from information – whether externally sourced information or internal knowledge/information/ records. Our aim is to publish articles of practical relevance to our readership. Our contributors include practitioners who work in all sectors. We also publish articles by academics and students, whose research brings insight into the achievements of other organisations and which we believe can stimulate ideas in our readership. For example, our June issue includes an article on creativity, chaos theory and KM, derived from work undertaken for a masters degree. A second article shares the experience of students who participated in a ‘customer driven knowledge factory’, and demonstrates how our readers can engage with internal customers to build knowledge and expertise.

Our readership is constantly focused on how to demonstrate the value and impact of the services they provide to their organisations. Any developments in this area are of critical importance to the journal and to the profession.”

Professor Charles OppenheimCharles Oppenheim, Closing keynote

In the interests of suspense, you will have to wait and see what Charles is going to say in his closing keynote. We feel that we need to keep some surprises for the day! You will be interested to know, however, that aspects of Charles’ presentation will be driven by delegate contributions at the conference on Monday. He did say: “I think the lack of funding and support is the key issue right now; demonstrating value and worth is the key research area that needs to be addressed. The networking opportunities and brainstorming is what interests me the most about this conference.”

You can find out more about all of our speakers, facilitators and session chairs by reading their profiles.

We look forward to hearing delegate views on these themes at the British Library on Monday. For those attending remotely, look out for tweets with the event hashtag #lisrc10, and we’ll watch out for your ideas coming through as you tweet your own contributions to the conference debates.

Introducing the student rapporteurs

Our sponsors have generously supported six PhD students to attend the LIS Research Coalition conference as student rapporteurs. The rapporteurs will be undertaking various duties on Monday 28th June, including helping to distill the various conversations and debates of the day so that we – as a community – can consider how to tackle the priority issues related to LIS research in practice.

The students are all keen to share their research and to network with experienced LIS researchers throughout the event, so please do try to talk with them if you are attending. Here is a brief introduction to each of them to give you a taste of their wide-ranging interests.

Liz Brewster (Twitter: @lizzyab)
Department of Information Studies, University of SheffieldPhD Title: Strategic aims and service user needs in bibliotherapy schemes in UK public libraries

Liz’s research examines the impact of bibliotherapy schemes in UK public libraries. These schemes use books to help people with mild to moderate mental health problems. Liz’s aim is to focus on user experiences of bibliotherapy schemes, with reference to their strategic aims. The research will identify potential gaps in service provision, with suggestions for service improvement. As part of her research, Liz is examining: cost effective ways in which bibliotherapy can be administered in partnership between health and library sectors; evidence-based librarianship; and efficient methods of evaluating and benchmarking bibliotherapy schemes, in which ‘soft’ outcomes can be difficult to measure.

Liz says “I find working closely with library service users an enriching experience, and appreciate the chance to discuss this type of research with a varied spectrum of the LIS community. The conference seems to focus on a number of issues highly pertinent to a new researcher, and I feel it would be encouraging to participate in discussions concerned with impact, evidence and funding.”

Charlie Inskip
Department of Information Science, City University (Twitter: @CharlieInskip)PhD Title: Communicating meaning and meeting information need within the music industry

Charlie writes a monthly column on music and LIS issues for CILIP’s Update magazine. He is particularly concerned that the LIS research landscape is constantly shifting to accommodate changes in funding and evaluation, which affects those – like himself – who are approaching the end of a AHRC funded PhD and are looking for new opportunities. Charlie believes that attending conferences such as this one provides an excellent opportunity for new researchers to gain inside knowledge of these developments, and enhances their value to the wider LIS community.

Charlie says “The conference agenda themes of evidence, value and impact are highly topical and relevant across today’s research world. I am keen to increase my understanding of the importance of these issues and the impact they may have on the career development of new researchers such as myself.”

Liz Poirier
Department of Information Science, City UniversityPhD Title: Towards a theory of slow information: time, pleasure and consumption in theories of information behaviour

Liz’s research is concerned with human information behaviour, specifically how we cope, both individually and collectively, in a society characterized by increasingly overwhelming information environments. As information channels accelerate and proliferate, she asks how are we to navigate a successful path to relevant resources and how are those paths depicted in existing theories of information behaviour?

Liz’s experience as a librarian in the higher education sector is informing her approach. This made evident that some key assumptions in existing theories – whereby rapid speed and expansive volume are implicitly framed as the pinnacle of information seeking and use – were not always the primary goals for information users. She was prompted to expose this gap in the literature and explore why it exists.

Liz says “I did not embark on this PhD in order to pursue a life of pure academia, and I have always imagined a hybrid career where research and practice share equal billing, and provide fuel for each other in a reciprocal relationship. The Library and Information Science Research Coalition conference seems a perfect opportunity to explore how this might be possible.”

Hannah Spring (Twitter: @hannahspring101)
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, York St John UniversityPhD Title: Barriers to, and priorities for, research development in health librarianship

Hannah’s study takes the concept of evidence-based health practice and considers this in context with the LIS health research landscape. Whilst the Government agenda for health maintains a requirement for accountability and evidence-based health practice, the health librarians that support the research activities that underpin such agendas are not currently noted for placing focus on working to an evidence-based agenda within their own professional practice. Hannah’s research therefore has two strands. The first is an investigation into the reasons for, and barriers to, lack of engagement in research activity within the health-related LIS professions. The second is an investigation into research priority development, with the aim of contributing to the future strategic development of LIS health research.

Hannah says “Although my background and experience is specific to health librarianship, many of the issues I am investigating are entirely transferrable to a general LIS research audience. The areas of focus highlighted on the conference overview – such as techniques for integrating research activities into everyday work and practice (evidence-based practice), identifying research opportunities, collaboration and publication for instance – are all areas with which I closely identify.”

Charlie Major (Twitter: @vkwn)
Department of Information Science, City UniversityPhD Title: Objectivity and the Gene Ontology: how do biologists working within the e-science paradigm classify theoretical entities?

Charlie’s research project is focused on classification in a specific domain: the classification of ideas, objects and data in biology. He is interested in the schema biologists have developed to structure knowledge in biology, and to aid information retrieval. Charlie believes that the boom in bioinformatics and the trend towards e-science-driven methods beg interesting questions such as “Can a machine be a biologist?” or “Should biological classifications be constructed be consensus?” He is a LIS researcher with an active blog, and a belief that LIS research can be communicated to wider audiences in a style that is both interesting and (heaven forbid!) even funny and entertaining.

Charlie says“The LIS Research Coalition conference looks interesting to me because it puts the emphasis on translating research into practice. What’s the point of a bottle of wine if you haven’t got a corkscrew?
Secondly, the conference also cannot fail to get the LIS juices pumping with a session called ‘One minute madness’, although I am suddenly distracted by an idea for ‘Gong Show’-style challenge where researchers are voted off the lectern with a resounding clang should their presentations fail to keep an expectant audience’s interest.”

(One minute madness presenters will be relieved to hear that we will not be following up Charlie’s interesting proposal!)

Hui-Yun Sung
Department of Information Science, Loughborough UniversityPhD Title: Community engagement in public libraries

Hui-Yun’s research interests are located in community engagement and public libraries. Community engagement is an emerging area in the public librarianship literature, and may be one way to help explain how public libraries can effectively involve communities. Her research aim is to investigate the important elements that help make community engagement work in public libraries.

Hui-Yun says “I hope that by attending the conference that I will be able to identify research opportunities in the LIS for my future career from listening to keynote presentations and various speeches by both academics and experienced practitioners in relevant areas. In addition, I will learn how to translate my research outcomes into practice to make them more applicable for public library services.”

Volunteers please!

If you are attending Evidence, Value and Impact: the LIS Research Landscape in 2010 on Monday 28th June, then we need you to read on…

As part of the build-up to (as well as online coverage of) the conference, our event amplifier Kirsty Pitkin (nee McGill) will be looking for volunteers to give short interviews about their interests and expectations/experiences of the conference. During the event Kirsty will be roaming around with her flip cam and audio recorder to document your comments and observations, so please look out for her if you have something you would like to say, or have an idea you want to put to the LIS Research community via this web site.

If you would rather not be filmed, but would still like to tell the community about your work and views, then Kirsty has a set of questions for a written interview that should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.

If you’d like to volunteer to give an interview, please email Kirsty and let her know whether you would be prepared to do a video, audio or written interview.

It would be fantastic to hear as many voices as possible so we can all find out what you are doing and consider your views of the LIS research landscape in 2010. Please do volunteer to offer your perspective.

Why do we still like to attend professional events in person?

In these days of webinars, virtual events and amplified events, there are still lots of reasons why attending a conference in person has its benefits. Here are some of the reasons we are looking forward to actually being there for Evidence, Value and Impact: the LIS Research Landscape in 2010

  • The opportunity to hear speakers of international repute in person: the event programme gives the full details.
  • The potential to engage in discussions, and to ask questions of experts.
  • The chance to hear about live research projects: our one minute madness session gives delegates the opportunity to take the stage.
  • The networking opportunities, including meeting new, like-minded people, as well as renewing established relationships. Based on the delegate list so far, we will be welcoming a great mix of really interesting people on the day. The full range of LIS sectors is represented with: practitioners attending from the academic, public, corporate and medical libraries; representation from members of the Coalition member bodies (British Library, CILIP, JISC, MLA, RIN and SHALL); LIS academics and researchers; PhD students; independent LIS consultants; and publishers. The majority of delegates already registered are UK-based, but we do have some who are travelling quite a distance to be with us on 28th June from the US, Africa and Asia. We are advising those registered to get to know some of the other delegates ahead of the conference by following our tips. Just make sure that you don’t miss out on a conversation with that person whose work is particularly interesting to you.
  • The chance to meet sponsors in person to get a better understanding of their products and services and what they could do for you and the service that you deliver.

In addition, all this stimulation comes without any work distractions. The best way to get all of this, is to be there with us at the British Library on Monday 28th June.

However, we do recognise that there are those who would really benefit from this event, but simply can’t get to us. One such person is Ruth Baxter, who was recently commenting on Jo Alcock’s blog post Librarians as researchers. Unfortunately, Ruth cannot join us at the conference as she is not within a commutable distance: she is based in Australia.

For people like Ruth, we will be amplifying the live event using online media such as Twitter (event hashtag #lisrc10) and this blog. It will be possible to actively participate remotely, as we will be monitoring online comments, and will pass on questions to the speakers, as appropriate. You can get involved in the online discussions whether you are at the British Library with us on the day, or many miles away. The time difference may prevent Ruth getting involved in real time, but she has said that she will definitely be watching the virtual feedback when she is awake, so the discussions could be carried on after the event.

Registration for participation in person closes today, so if you would like to make a booking, please click through to the registration page.

Supporting #LISRC10

We are really pleased to have some fantastic sponsors who have offered their support for our forthcoming event Evidence, Value and Impact: the LIS Research Landscape in 2010 at the British Library Conference Centre on Monday 28th June.

OCLC LogoOCLC Research is one of the world’s leading centres devoted to exploration, innovation, and community building on behalf of libraries, archives, and museums. OCLC Research is dedicated to helping libraries, archives and museums more effectively serve users of information, information systems, and cultural heritage collections.


OUP logo

Oxford University Press is perhaps the most diverse publisher of its type. It publishes in many countries in a variety of different languages, for all levels, and across virtually the whole range of academic disciplines. The main criteria in evaluating a new title are its quality and the contribution it makes to the furtherance of scholarship and education.


Taylor and Francis Group logo

Taylor and Francis are academic publishers providing quality information and knowledge that enable customers to perform their jobs efficiently, continue their education, and help contribute to the advancement of their chosen markets. Their customers are researchers, students, academics and increasingly professionals.


The conference registrations for the six PhD student rapporteurs are provided thanks to the generosity of:

Logos of Glen Recruitment, TFPL and Sue Hill Recruitment

The sponsors of the six PhD student places

Glen Recruitment
Sue Hill Recruitment

The involvement of our sponsors has been invaluable. Their support has enabled us to keep the cost of the event low, to offer sponsored places to some exceptional PhD students, and to bring in our live blogger, who will be helping us to reach a wider audience online so more people can get involved in the conference, and to create a lasting record of the event.

Many of our sponsors will be attending the event or providing literature for display, so you will be able to find out more about their work and talk to them about your needs and interests. The conference provides a great opportunity to meet representatives of these companies in person – whether to renew existing relationships or to forge new ones.

If you haven’t signed up to attend yet – time is running out. Registration closes on Friday 18th June. The full conference programme can be seen on the main conference web page, and you can click here to make a booking.

Getting to know you

coffee cup with spoonThinking about signing up for the LIS Research Coalition Conference Evidence, Value and Impact: The LIS Research Landscape in 2010 and keen to see who else has already done so? Wondering who to grab for a really interesting chat during the breaks?

Social media has now made it possible to get to know your fellow conference delegates prior to the event so you can really make the most out of the networking opportunities at the conference. To make this as easy as possible, we have a few tips….

1. Follow the the lisrc10 Twitter List, which features updates from those who are providing their Twitter details when they sign up. This is a great way of seeing who is attending, finding out about them both professionally and personally, and of getting a conversation going before you arrive at the conference.

2. If you use a Twitter client, set up a permanent search on the conference hashtag #lisrc10 so you can see what everyone else is saying about the event. If you don’t use a Twitter client, read this post to find out why you should.

3. Use the hashtag #lisrc10 when tweeting about the conference. This will help like-minded people find you and your comments, which can lead to some great conversations and connections.

4. Follow @LISResearch for official announcements both in the run up to the conference and during the event.

5. Add your details to the conference LinkedIn page, created by one of our keen delegates.

6. Read the profiles of the speakers, facilitators and session chairs on this web site.

Of course, if you don’t use Twitter or LinkedIn, you can always introduce yourself by commenting on this post… Just make sure you include a link to your blog or web site so we can all find out more.

We hope that connecting online and getting to know each other beforehand will help you to have an even better experience of networking on the day, and help you to target the people of most interest to you for a chat.

A few conference places remain available, but online bookings close on Friday 18th June, so register now to secure your place.

The Professional Librarian and the evidence base

library shelvesMany readers of the LIS Research Coalition blog will have seen (or at least seen reference to) the recent KPMG report. This has generated some controversy within the libraries sector, and beyond. The report criticises the current model for spending on public services and advocates a “Payment for Success” system, which – it claims – will increase productivity and reduce costs across the whole public sector by changing the way services are funded to focus on the delivery of results.

The report singles out libraries as an area of public service facing funding challenges, with library usage declining and the cost per unit for lending a book becoming more expensive than the wholesale price of buying the book. The authors suggest that an appropriate solution would be to follow a North American model, whereby libraries are staffed by community volunteers. The report claims that such a move could save large amounts of money on “over-skilled paid staff”.

Needless to say there has already been a significant reaction to this section of the report. Former poet laureate and current chair of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, Sir Andrew Motion, calls the plans “foolhardy, outlandish and potentially catastrophic” in a response for the Guardian. He goes on to stress that: “Good libraries, like good anythings, need expert people working within them. Maybe there is a role for some aspect of volunteering but all the central stuff must be done by people who are qualified to do it…”

CILIP has also been quick to outline the benefits of public libraries managed by professional staff at their web site and has launched a campaign asking for clear, compelling “one-minute messages” to promote the library and information community’s activities. School librarian Nicola McNee has responded to this call using Twitter and the #CILIP1 hashtag to challenge others to outline what they do and why we need skilled professionals working in our libraries. The response to her call has been analysed by Brian Kelly on the UKOLN Cultural Heritage blog.

Radio 4’s The World This Weekend probed the issue in detail and usefully highlighted the importance of looking at the end result intended by having a library in the community, with libraries described as being the “National Health Service of the mind”. You can hear the debate here.

Whilst the report forms part of the run up to a public consultation it seems to have support from the new government. Once again we are reminded that it is only with a robust evidence base that claims such as those made by KPMG might be refuted. The LIS Research Coalition was established last year to facilitate and strategic and coordinated approach to LIS research. One obvious way of developing the evidence base is for LIS stakeholders from across all sectors – and particularly those involved in practitioner research – is to work with the LIS Research Coalition. At the end of this month there is a great opportunity for us to gather together to achieve this at the forthcoming LIS Research Coalition conference on Monday 28th June at the British Library Conference Centre. Here we will be able to discuss the issues in more detail and set the future agenda for adding to – and exploiting – an evidence base the demonstrates the value and impact of LIS. The deadline for signing up to attend the conference is Friday 18th June, so you will need to be quick to secure one of the remaining places.

The librarian as researcher

Over the past few months the LIS Research Coalition has been involved in a number of conferences and meetings, as can be seen from the listings on the Events web page. Last week attention focused on the Librarian as Researcher event organised by the Yorkshire and Humberside branch of the University, College and Research (UC&R) group of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). As well as those who attended in person, a number of people followed the day’s proceedings on Twitter by watching the hashtag #ucryhres and corresponding with those tweeting, including @LISResearch. Miggie Pickton, who presented at this event, kindly agreed to contribute a guest blog posting on the day for the LIS Research Coalition web site.

Miggie is Research Support Specialist at the University of Northampton. She has been a great supporter of the LIS Research Coalition in the first year of its implementation. Miggie has served on the programme committee for the conference which takes place later in the month on Monday 28th June at the British Library, and is the one behind the organisation of the one minute madness session at this event.

Over to Miggie…

We all enjoyed a fun-filled day on practitioner research in York last Thursday, participating in the ‘Librarians as researchers’ event hosted by UC&R Yorkshire and Humberside. In the morning Jean McNiff of York St John University put us all through our paces as action researchers (yes, we actually did a piece of action research there and then) and then Sheila Corrall from the University of Sheffield’s i-School presented a set of convincing arguments for embarking on a higher degree in LIS. Professional doctorates appeal – a structured programme with lots of relevance to the day job – but, as yet, there not many professional doctorates available for LIS professionals in the UK.

Slightly awed by this exalted company, I was there banging the drum for practitioner research. But why would practitioners want to do research? The group came up with lots of reasons….

Research is good for the individual:

  • It is interesting – an opportunity to explore something in more depth, learn something new, satisfy your curiosity
  • It encourages you to challenge yourself, to move out of that comfort zone, develop new skills, become reflective, stretch yourself
  • It adds variety to the job – research involves a change from routine, an opportunity to do something different, work with new people
  • It involves making a personal connection with work
  • It increases job satisfaction
  • It enables you to do your job better
  • It supports professional development
  • It enhances personal profile and improves career prospects

Research is good for the service and the organisation:

  • It provides evidence of value and demonstrates impact
  • It underpins strategic improvement and other decision-making… and on the way research can help to solve problems and improve service
  • It leads to greater engagement with service users through:
    • Understanding their perspective
    • Showing that you’re interested in their needs
    • Doing what they do (promote the library as ‘academic’ department and the librarian as credible researcher)
  • It increases staff motivation and dynamism
  • It enhances organisational reputation and achieve recognition (within and beyond the institution)
  • It brings financial benefit – by generating income or discovering ways to reduce costs

Research is good for the profession:

  • It provokes conversation and debate (and not just within LIS – with other disciplines too)
  • It creates and disseminates new knowledge and good practice – furthering professional excellence (as CILIP would have us do)
  • It provokes positive change
  • It develops an engaged and vibrant professional community
  • It enhances the profession’s reputation and profile
  • It defines our professional future

And with all that is going for practitioner research, we’d better get on with it, taking advantage of continuing the conversation at other professional events that provide research support and opportunities to consider its context in LIS practice, such as the LIS Research Coalition conference at the end of this month.