EBLIP6 report: day 1, Tuesday 28th June 2011

Dr Katie Fraser

Dr Katie Fraser

The second of our EBLIP6 reviews is by Dr Katie Fraser, Information Librarian, Leicester University (@katie_fraser. Over to Katie…

The day kicked off with a quick welcome from Tony Warne: Head of the School of Nursing at the University of Salford, talking about information literacy and the teacher-student relationship. He was followed by the first of the conference keynotes, Peter Brophy. Peter took us through the role of narrative in evidence-based practice, from the stories that our users tell about our information services, to its underlying importance in capturing the complexity of our own everyday practice. It was a great start to the day, and by the end of the session I’d already had a conversation on Twitter channel with an envious follower of the feed wishing that they were here!

I attended parallel sessions on academic libraries and information literacy, both everyday strands of my own work. Several of the talks picked up on Peter’s ideas about the complexity inherent in library work, particularly those talks focusing on assessment and the challenges of reducing complex information behaviours to a mark scheme! I’ll definitely be considering some of these ideas in my own teaching. However, my favourite talk looked outside the world of library instruction. Allyson Washburn and Sheila Bibb – who teaches an Applied Anthropology course – had asked anthropology students to conduct a series of ethnographic studies on student use of the library as coursework. It was fascinating to hear how the students had investigated the same topic from a variety of different angles, and there was also food for thought about the untapped opportunities academic librarians have to collaborate with departments in order to gather evidence: recruiting social scientists to help us gather evidence, computer scientists to develop our online services, and so on.

Former colleagues Jenny Craven and Peter Brophy catch up at coffee break

Former colleagues Jenny Craven and Professor Peter Brophy catch up at coffee break

The session I enjoyed most, however, was a little bit more outside my professional comfort zone, the post-lunch discussion on ‘Theory and Models of EBLIP’. I was hoping to get an overview of how researchers and practitioners saw evidence-based practice from this conference, and the talks complemented each other perfectly in answering this question. First Helen Partridge asked us to challenge what constitutes evidence in library and information practice. She suggested that most of our ideas about evidence-based practice were inherited, and that we need to consider what constitutes ‘good’ evidence in our own profession, and demonstrate that its use can transform practice. Denise Koufogiannakis followed this up with a discussion about the non-traditional types of evidence that library and information professionals use: ‘local evidence’, like user feedback, usage data and observations gained in context; and ‘professional knowledge’, which is often tacit (highly contextual and difficult to explain) or produced by reflection on our own practice. Finally, Barbara Sen and Chris Lee spoke about evidence and reflection. Both, they emphasised, are about critically examining everyday practice. Each uses a different approach to examine that practice, but in the end they’re highly complementary: no research could begin without reflection on potential explanations and approaches to studying a problem.

Overall, it’s interesting to hear that the library and information community is only just starting to reach an overview of how it sees and uses evidence-based practice itself. I’m looking forward to hearing more about how the EBLIP community views evidence – and attempts to handle its complexity within the profession – in the next couple of days.

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