LIS research resources briefing – workshop evaluation

Last week we blogged about the LIS research resources briefing workshop hosted by LIRG at CILIP headquarters in London on 10th July 2012. In this post we present a profile of the participants, their response to the resources that we presented at the briefing, and the main points from the discussion of future research support requirements of the LIS practitioner research community. We also provide links to a number of resources, including blogged reviews of the event.

Participants at the briefing

Participants at the briefing

There were 38 participants at the workshop. The results of our short ice-breaker exercise at the start revealed that the majority (27) classed themselves as practitioners, or as practitioners who conduct research. The other 11 participants comprised a mix of LIS researchers and consultants. There was a good balance of participants from the private, public and third sectors, with the largest number coming from higher education. However, there was no representation from the public library sector or further education. Most (26) said research is relevant or extremely relevant to their job role and 11 are already members of LIRG. Many of the participants knew one another, not least because a third of them had attended the DREaM project concluding conference the previous day.

Most at the session had learnt about it through e-mail distribution lists. This provides further illustration of the finding from both RiLIES projects that mailing lists are an important source of information for the LIS research community, especially for those based in academic institutions.

Alison Brettle contributes to the discussion

Alison Brettle contributes to the discussion

We were pleased that the evaluation forms completed by the participants showed that they found the session to be useful. The speakers were highly rated, as was the programme. In particular, the delegates appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the resources that the RiLIES project team has assembled to support LIS research. Introduced by Peter Cruickshank in his presentation Research into practice: the present situation, these include the links on the LIS Research Coalition web site to:

  1. Collections of empirical research
  2. Tools to help those who conduct their own research projects
  3. Research centres and networks of relevance to LIS research
  4. Sources of research funding

The sample leaflets that we distributed at the workshop were also well received by the participants. These are also available as PDFs for download:

As well as raising awareness amongst librarians of the evidence-base that can be used to support high quality information services delivery, along with online tools that can be used to access relevant sources of information, the session provided a forum for librarians to discuss the long-term research support needs of the library and information science research community. There were opportunities to ask questions, provide feedback and offer suggestions.

Carolynn Rankin and Miggie Pickton prepare their post-its

Carolynn Rankin and Miggie Pickton prepare their post-its

The RiLIES project team was particularly interested in delegate ideas related to the 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. This was identified as a priority in the results of the RiLIES2 poll. On the basis of work completed to date by summer intern Maja Ilievska (on an LIS Research Linking Prototype), four options were presented for discussion: (1) a community blog; (2) a wiki directory; (3) Google drive; and (4) social bookmarking (using tools such as Delicious, Diigo or even Zotero to identify and group links). A fifth option, presented by Peter Cruickshank in another set of slides proposed the implementation of a community-owned link curation engine such as ALISS. In group discussions the workshop participants identified the strengths and weaknesses of each of the five options. These were recorded on post-its and then gathered together on flip charts.

Comments on the ALISS engine

Comments on the ALISS engine

Two main themes emerged from the discussions. First, it was generally agreed that a key problem with any resource will be its ownership and sustainability. A number of suggestions were made as to which bodies should take a coordination role in the maintenance of any future service. These ranged from professional groups such as LIRG, to major bodies such as publishers and the British Library.  A related issue is the provision of resources for coordination and continuity once project funding ceases. There are a number of examples of short-lived successful tools that have died due to lack of core funding.

The second theme that emerged from discussion was that the issues faced by the LIS practitioner-researcher community in the identification and use of resources to support their research work are not well-understood. This signals that there is a need for community consensus around the problems to be addressed so that those seeking to help with a technical solution do so in full recognition of the fundamental issues.

There was no evidence from the discussions of a strong preference for any of the proposed technical solutions. However, it was clear that any solution would need to address a variety of issues such as:

  • Information overload: this includes issues around quality of contributors, contributions  and findability
  • The clarity of purpose of the tool: including the extent to which the tool should hold content rather than links to existing external content
  • Risks around ownership and continuity of content if “freemium” services such as Mendelay, Zotero or Delicious are used
  • Restricted access imposed by employers, for example due to the legacy of old browsers, or blocking of sites

Several participants mentioned that the planned upgrade to CILIP’s website may provide an opportunity for a new platform to be developed.

We would like to thank everyone who came to the briefing, especially for their constructive and detailed contributions to the discussion. We are particularly pleased that some participants have blogged about the workshop:

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.

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