DREaM event 5: Panel Discussion


Charles Oppenheim

Professor Charles Oppenheim

Professor Charles Oppenheim chaired a panel discussion between Jo Alcock, John Dolan, Dr Louise Cooke and Professor Carol Tenopir at the final DREaM conference exploring the topic: “…and so the DREaM goes on: means of sustaining the UK network of LIS researchers.”

With the exception John Dolan, who stepped in to cover for Carla Basili who was unable to attend the conference on the day, each of the panelists provided a preview of this session from their own perspectives in a series of short interviews: Jo, Louise, Carol.




This video is also available on Vimeo.

Session Summary

As chair of the panel discussion, Professor Charles Oppenheim invited each of the panelists to give some brief reflections on the importance of sustaining a UK network of LIS researchers, before opening the discussion up to the floor.

Carol Tenopir provided a US perspective, identifying some of the key factors influencing the development of networks, such as accreditation to enforce a tie between research, teaching and practice, the iSchool movement, and the way in which the funding agencies drive research. She noted that funding agencies in the US have a strong focus on collaboration across libraries, museums and other organisations, which has made a real difference to the networks that exists between researchers.

Jo Alcock, a member of the DREaM workshop cadre, described her transition from a practitioner role as an academic librarian to that of a researcher, when she discovered a volume of LIS research that she was simply not aware of as a practitioner. She presented results from a survey of other cadre members, which showed that the DREaM project has helped them to be more reflective, increase their networks and strengthen their knowledge of research methods. Alcock noted that many in the network really valued the regular face-to-face interactions, which were supported by the social networking elements of the project, but would not be as strong without physical meetings. She argued that whilst the tools exist to network online, in terms of sustainability the LIS community needs more face-to-face events to bring researchers and practitioners together to network in person.

John Dolan from CILIP made the point that a sustainable network of LIS research is a multi-sector issue. He argued that such a network could potentially address the issue of the life-long library, breaking down the research barriers where people are put into boxes based on their library usage at any one time. He also highlighted the need for more longitudinal research.

Finally, Louise Cooke noted that many of her colleagues responded with doom and gloom when asked about the current state of LIS research. However, when she considered what we think of as LIS research, she noted that there is a broad agenda with lots of opportunities for interdisciplinary research and new areas for research. She argued that LIS researchers cannot shut themselves away from this wider world, which is prompting new research and promoting the idea of researcher and practitioner collaboration. Cooke feels that the latter will really be the key to sustainability for a LIS research network.

The panel invited questions and comments from the floor, including…

Are we in danger of building silos for LIS research?

Tenopir responded by noting that we have been really good at building silos in the past, and we’re currently tearing them down. She expressed concern that we don’t go too far and forget what is unique about LIS research.

In times of challenge for public services, how can we link the valuable work DREaM is doing into the public library sector?

Cooke noted that research into public libraries is not dead, and the media attention given to closures of public libraries is making people think more about their libraries. She suggested that may be we should be seizing this opportunity to integrate more research.

Dolan noted what concerns him most is where budgets are being cut, but library buildings are being kept open. This has a negative impact on training and innovation in public libraries. He also observed that many of the supporters of public libraries come from the literary world, rather than from the educational world. We need to be more proactive in getting research to underpin the future development of library service delivery.

Managers don’t see the value of research. Is there anything the profession can do about that?

Dolan argued that this is a leadership issue. In the case of public library staff, he suggested that people like Mike Clarke could feed this back to organisations such as the Society of Chief Librarians. He also suggested that the various LIS sectors could learn a lot from each other about research, and that may be this should be covered at the 2013 CILIP Umbrella conference.

Jo Alcock responded to this question by stressing that we should be doing more research to help make sure that budget decisions are based on evidence. She also emphasised that dissemination is the real issue, as there is no central place for practitioners to access information about LIS research.
If you would like to comment on this presentation, please join the discussion in the DREaM online community.

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