Online 2010 opens today

Online 2010 opens today at London Olympia, and the LIS Research Coalition will be there. Our formal contribution will be on Thursday 2nd December, 12:30-13:00 in the gallery rooms. Here we will be giving an update on the Coalition’s activities. Our presentation will include news of enhanced features on the Coalition web pages, and the AHRC-funded DReAM project due to start in January 2011. We will also be honouring Stephanie Kenna’s award of honorary fellowship of CILIP at the end of this session.

Hazel Hall is chairing two sessions at the conference: (1) Tuesday track 2 16:00-17:30 Winning hearts and minds! Breaking through social media barriers; (2) Thursday track 2 09:30-11:00 Adding value to library and information services using social media.

We will be tweeting from the event, using the hash tag #online10, so even if you can’t be there in person, you can follow the proceedings remotely.

Remembering Bob McKee

A memorial event is being held today to celebrate the life and achievements of Bob McKee, until recently the Chief Executive of CILIP. All of us at the Library and Information Research Coalition were deeply saddened to hear of Bob’s sudden death while he was attending the IFLA conference in Gothenburg in August 2010.

Bob McKee

Bob McKee (photo credit: CILIP)

Without Bob, the Coalition would not have come into existence. He was in at the beginning, as one of the key speakers (and much more than that) at a workshop organised back in 2006 to celebrate the life of Brian Perry, the former Director of the British Library’s Research and Development Department. Bob was a keen participant in the discussions that led to the conclusion that there was a need for an organisation to stimulate, facilitate and co-ordinate strategic library and information science research.

To get from that conclusion to the setting up of the Coalition took a long time. There were all kinds of discussions about what kind of body was needed, who should sponsor it, what it should do, and how it should be financed. Bob was quietly determined that CILIP should play a key role, and when we were nearly at an impasse over the key question of which organisation should provide the absolutely essential financial and other back-office services, Bob agreed that CILIP would take on that role. His support was unstinting, and we could not have done without him.

So we at the Coalition have a special reason for thanking Bob for his help and support, among all the many other things he did to promote and champion the cause of libraries. We shall miss him.

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.

Guest blog entry: the Modernisation Review of Public Libraries and Research by Guy Daines

Guy Daines, Director, Policy & Advocacy at CILIP (one of the LIS Research Coalition members) has contributed this blog entry on the Modernisation Review of Public libraries. Over to Guy…

Most of you will be aware that DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport) published their Modernisation Review of Public libraries on 22 March. I expect fewer will be aware that there are fifty-four proposals in the report, including a number bearing on research. It was heartening to read an acknowledgement of the need for proper data for management purposes as well as the need for broader evidence of impact for advocacy purposes. “If we are to convince local and national leaders and partner organisations of the value of public libraries” the report notes, “we must produce evidence which connects library use to local and national priorities”.

There are eight proposals relating to research (recommendations 46-54). They include extending the DCMS “Taking Part Survey” to include a wider range of questions on public library use and correlating data from that survey and the CIPFA public library statistics with the Local Government Place Survey (that forms part of the Audit Commission’s comprehensive area assessments) – can any relationship between public library use and the satisfaction of local residents be shown? But even better, it is proposed that a consortium of interested parties is brought together to develop a cross-sectoral approach to research on the impact of public libraries. Another proposal recommends using the Understanding Society Panel study – which explores the socio-economic circumstances and attitudes of 100,000 individuals in 40,000 British households – alongside a longitudinal study of respondents from the Taking Part survey to gain a better understanding of the long-term impact of public libraries. Perhaps at last there is a serious commitment to developing the evidence base needed for public libraries.

All good stuff no doubt. But what if a Labour Government is not re-elected? We can only hope that the seeds of understanding have been sown within the DCMS secretariat and that they will be able to convince a future Minister of the importance of research. Comfort perhaps might be taken from the fact that it is not an area of party political contention.

You can find the DCMS report at: http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/consultations/6752.aspx

LIS Research Coalition “review” of Online 2009

Taken as a whole, the annual Online event at London Olympia each December is a huge gathering of the information industry. Upstairs in the conference centre there are the formal conference sessions, downstairs are the exhibitors and free seminars, and around Olympia smaller satellite events take place in hotels and bars. Hence the use of quotation marks of the title of this blog posting. This is a “review” of Online 2009 from the perspective of Library and Information Science Research Coalition staff: participation was limited by the laws of physics that render it impossible to be simultaneously in more than one place at the same time. Thankfully a number of other participants have also blogged their experiences of Online 2009. These include: Brian Kelly of JISC (@briankelly); Marydee Ojala and colleagues of Information Today (@marydeeo); and Bethan Ruddock, who worked on the Mimas stand at the exhibition (@bethanar). Others have contributed posts about specific conference themes, such as Pete Cranston (@petecranston). In the New Year reviews of Online 2009 will appear in the print media. In the meantime, for a fuller picture of what went on at Olympia in the first week of December this year, please follow the links provided at the end of this entry.

Keynote slide shot

Charlene Li was the opening keynote speaker on the Thursday


From the perspective of the LIS Research Coalition two themes appeared to dominate this year’s conference: (1) social media and (b) the semantic web. In her opening keynote on the Thursday morning Charlene Li, co-author of Groundswell, made sense of much of the discussion of social media of the previous two days that had taken place in formal conference presentations and face-to-face conversations, as well as along the conference’s Twitter back-channel. It is now obvious that the time has come where engagement in social media is not optional for any organisation that hopes to maintain its competitive advantage. We are also now witnessing the impact of social media internally, for example on organisational structures, particularly in terms of communication and reporting.

In contrast the conference sessions on the semantic web gave the impression that those in library and information science related roles are now beginning to consider the exploitation of data to data links, although it is not yet obvious where the greatest commercial benefit will lie in doing so.

The CILIP stand on the exhibition floor


Other sessions of particular interest to the Research Coalition were those related to the future roles of information professionals. Professor Blaise Cronin’s discussion of the paradox of a postmodern profession made some astute observations, not least that long-term predictions on the future of library and information services by experts are often inaccurate. It was interesting to hear that an analysis of citations of LIS research literature shows that researchers from other domains are increasingly drawing on this body of work, thus indicating that its impact is growing in the research mainstream. Bob McKee, Chief Executive of CILIP (a founding member of the LIS Research Coalition) took advantage of the discussion following Professor Cronin’s presentation to refer to CILIP’s forthcoming “big conversation” on the LIS profession in 2010.

Both in the conference sessions and on the exhibition floor there were opportunities to see demonstrations of products and services that could be adopted by library and information services. Ellysa Kroski, for example, gave many examples of how libraries in the US are using social computing applications to their full potential. It was surprising to a few, however, how little mention was made of Google Wave in Online week.

FreePint stand

FreePint is a regular exhibitor at Online

On the Thursday morning Hazel Hall gave an introductory presentation about the LIS Research Coalition to Online 2009 delegates. This covered the background to the formation of the Coalition and its broad mission to provide a formal structure to improve access to LIS research, and to maximise its relevance and impact. Taking each of the five specific goals of the Coalition, she explained the progress so far that the Coaltion has made on each. Hazel encouraged the audience to visit the web site at http://lisresearch.org, as well as follow @LISResearch on Twitter. She hoped that delegates would be able to keep Monday 28th June 2010 free to attend the forthcoming LIS Research Coalition conference. Hazel’s slides Introducing the UK Library and Information Science Research Coalition are available on SlideShare.

Hazel and Ben

Hazel Hall with Ben, the youngest delegate and son of one of the speakers at Online 2009.

Throughout the three days of the conference, as well as on the Monday evening at a lively TFPL Connect event, Hazel met with a number of people interested in and enthused by the work of the Coalition. She accepted a number of speaking and writing invitations, the details of which will be publicised in due course.


Links

Online 2009, London Olympia 1-3 December

It’s almost that time of year again when the international LIS community pays a visit to London Olympia for the annual Online conference and exhibition. This year the LIS Research Coalition will be playing a part in the proceedings. On Thursday 3rd December between 11.00 and 11.30 Hazel Hall will be presenting on the work of the Coalition in Theatre C as part of the free Information Masterclass series. If you are planning a trip to Online this year, do come along to learn more about the Coalition at the presentation next Thursday.

In addition, two of the Coalition member bodies will be at the Exhibition: the British Library on stand 628, and CILIP on stand 208.

Should you wish to find out more about the Coalition at a time other than Thursday 11.00-11.30, or meet up with Hazel in person at Online when you are there, staff at the CILIP stand will be able to point you in the right direction. Alternatively, Hazel will be picking up her e-mail while at the conference, so you may like to contact her at hazel.hall@lisresearch.org to set up a meeting.