RiLIES2 project poll: findings

This post is an update on our progress with the RiLIES2 project. We highlight the pressing need for a centrally-funded community-maintained directory of LIS research resources, held in a known location, with (crucially) a long-term commitment to maintenance.

Knowledge is required before action. To this end we carried out a survey in April, the purpose of which was to find out which of the existing resources that support librarians and information scientists when they consume and/or conduct research are (a) well used and/or (b) respected. We also asked respondents where they would go to access advice online on how to set up a new research project of their own.

Summary of responses

We are not claiming that the survey is representative: just 87 people responded, and the majority were librarians working in academia and healthcare. However, the data can be treated as a source of new ideas for evaluation, and can be used to feed into project plans. This blog post summarises some of the more interesting findings from the survey related to practitioners’ knowledge of resources, the creation of legacy resources by the project team, and dissemination options for RiLIES2.

More information about the project will be made available between now and its conclusion at the end of July. In the meantime, please contribute your thoughts, knowledge and ideas. It’s not too late to make an impact on our results!

Practitioners’ knowledge of resources

The first main section of the poll listed 19 electronic resources. These were identified in the first RiLIES project completed last year, and through additional desk research undertaken in early 2012. We asked about respondents’ knowledge and experience of the resources listed.

As has been identified elsewhere, mailing lists (particularly operated by JISC) continue to be the main source of information for many who are interested in LIS research. In addition, several blogs and Twitter feeds were cited by poll respondents. Other popular resources included the Library and Information Research journal (LIR), the resources assembled by the Library and Information Research Group (LIRG), and the Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP) journal. The resources developed over the course of the DREaM project also merited mention.

A common response, even from experienced researchers, shows that completing the survey was a useful exercise in itself, as illustrated in tweets such as this:

“Just completed the @LIS_RiLIES poll & learnt about new resources to support my research in the process”

We discovered that a number of resources have low visibility to the LIS community. For example, few respondents had heard of KnowledgeHub (a relatively new resource) and/or the BAILER resource links (a resource aimed at a specific sector of LIS researchers). There was an indication that other resources – though known – face a challenge in transforming a potential audience into an active user-base. This finding applies to the DREaM project resources, the Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP) journal, and the Library and Information Research journal (LIR).

Another issue is that some of the resources identified have been found to be wanting. A large proportion of respondents reported that they had accessed particular resources, but not found them useful. This applied to two sets of resources which rely on volunteer effort for their maintenance: the web pages of the Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) and BAILER resource links. Long-term commitment to resource curation is a key issue here.

These findings illustrate how often what may understood as lack of access to resources is something different. It is a combination lack of practitioner awareness of existing resources, and a poor match of resources to user expectations, particularly in cases where the resources depend on sustained effort by volunteer committee members to keep them up to date.

Creating legacy resources

The aim of the second group of questions in our poll was to establish priorities for the RiLIES2 project’s suggested outputs. A supplementary aim was to identify any other types of material that could be considered by the project team.

Preferences for legacy resources

As the chart shows, the core proposals for output suggested by the project team generally attracted positive responses. There was little enthusiasm, however, for the production of poster material, although some comments implied that a flyer/leaflet that conveyed the same information may be useful.

Other ideas for RiLIES2 project outputs included:

  • Tip sheets and brief, practical best/good practice guidelines on a broad range of topics: we believe that this will work best so long as content is created in a form that can be kept up to date, long-term commitment by a resource “host” would be required for this.
  • Discussion space for questions and answers related to LIS research: since the LIS community routinely uses mailing-lists to ask questions about research, it would be best to use a JISC LIS-* list for this purpose (at least for the time being, until the conversation moves elsewhere) – a key question is which mailing list should be the focus, or whether a new one should be created.
  • Link lists to resources held outside the UK – obviously their relevance would need to be considered carefully.

A further point made in poll feedback was the need to maintain awareness of the distinct groups in LIS practice and the separate needs of each. For instance, library management is a very different subject area from information retrieval. Similarly, although some information sources are general, different sectors have their own requirements.

Dissemination options

The final group of questions in the poll asked for feedback on means of publicising the RiLIES2 project’s work. Perhaps predictably – given that the majority of respondents were from the academic sector – conventional routes were the most popular. Thus a project report and associated academic papers must remain core to the project’s output. Preference was frequently expressed for papers to be published in open access journals. This may partly reflect a finding from RiLIES1 that many LIS practitioners are not aware that CILIP membership gives access to many journal titles free of charge.

What is to be done?

This survey has generally supported the assumptions that drove us to conduct this follow-up project to RiLIES1. With evidence of a low level of awareness of existing resources that support LIS research, we now intend to focus our efforts in two directions. First, we need to raise awareness of under-used extant materials. Second, we need to set in motion a strategy to address the issue of long-term commitment to resource curation. The Internet is already littered with abandoned or poorly-maintained directories and out-of-date resources. In the current environment the only realistic approach is to coordinate a community response to enhancing existing provision. This requires tools that permit a joint approach to the curation and sharing of resources.

A centrally-funded community-maintained directory of resources in a known location with (crucially) a long-term commitment to maintenance would be the most useful outcome of this project.

(The heading from this last main section of our post comes from a question «Что делать?» Lenin asked this before arguing for the need for a dedicated vanguard to spread his message of revolution. We feel that this same question may also be relevant in our search for improved research-practice linkages. It also ties up nicely with the notion of the DREaM workshop cadre developed in our sister project to RiLIES.)

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank individual practitioners for publicising and taking part in the poll. We are also grateful to Information Today Europe for helping to publicise our study.

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About Peter Cruickshank
Lecturer in the School of Computing and a member of the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. Interested in information systems, learning, politics, society, security and where they intersect. My attempts at rounding out my character include food, cinema, running, history and, together with my lovely wife, bringing up a cat and a couple of kids.

2 Responses to RiLIES2 project poll: findings

  1. Gary Green says:

    Re “A centrally-funded community-maintained directory of resources in a known location with (crucially) a long-term commitment to maintenance would be the most useful outcome of this project.”

    It seems that the most successful community based resources like this are wikis that allow people to join and add their own information, but also clearly state that you don’t need to be a member of any organisation/group to get involved. The Library Day In The Life wiki (http://librarydayinthelife.pbworks.com/w/page/16941198/FrontPage) seems to be a good example of a successfully maintained wiki. Maybe its success is down to the fact that librarians/library staff are asked to contribute only twice a year if they want to – it has a flurry of activity for a period around January and July and is relatively quiet for the rest of the year. However, it serves its purpose, as the information is collated quickly and is available for everyone to see all year round. If a resource for research was developed (or an existing resource was adapted to achieve the same thing) could it be maintained in a similar way – actively sending out a call & a number of reminders to all librarians or information professionals via the main communication channels/networks (all relevant email/JISC lists; Twitter; LinkedIn; Facebook; etc) to populate details of any research they are currently undertaking or have recently undertaken since the last call to update the wiki? Basically “blitzing it” a couple of times a year.

  2. Great suggestion Gary. We may well explore this…

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