Congratulations to international award winner Colm Talbot

LIS DREaM project

In May we announced that we were offering a bursary to an international delegate at the DREaM project launch conference in London on Tuesday 19th July 2011 (please see the blog announcement).

We are pleased to announce the name of the winner of this award as:

Colm TalbotColm Talbot
Information/Library Assistant – Richview Architecture Library
University College Dublin

Colm is interested in how we can adopt and adapt approaches used in other disciplines to provide greater insight in LIS research. He recently wrote up a dissertation entitled What are MLIS students’ needs, motivations and expectations? Developing MLIS student personas for his Masters degree in Library and Information Studies (MLIS) at University College Dublin (UCD). This research stemmed from an interest in how student goals were being met by the School of Library and Information Studies (SILS) at UCD. Colm is currently developing an article for publication based on this work.

Colm is especially interested in hearing the address by Professor Blaise Cronin at the DREaM project launch conference. He is also looking forward to the one minute madness session. He is keen to meet other LIS researchers from beyond his home country of the Republic of Ireland so that he can develop an international network of contacts who share his interests in LIS research.

The DREaM project launch conference takes place on Tuesday 19th July 2011 at the Conference Centre of the British Library in London. For further information about the DREaM project launch conference and registration, please see the DREaM project launch conference web site.

Discussions of the impact of librarianship research with librarians in Perth

Hazel Hall introduces the focus group

Hazel Hall introduces the focus group

Today team members of the Research in Librarianship Impact Evaluation Study (RiLIES) Hazel Hall, Ella Taylor-Smith and Jenny Gebel travelled to Perth to run a focus group at the AK Bell Library.

The focus group was kindly organised by Elaine Fulton and Rhona Arthur of SLIC (the most recent associate member of the LIS Research Coalition) to take place before a meeting of the Scottish heads of public library services in the afternoon.

Jenny Gebel at the meeting

Jenny Gebel at the meeting

We enjoyed a lively discussion of the impact of UK funded librarianship projects on librarianship practice, with interesting points raised on ease of access (or not) to research output, roles of the librarian, the importance of context to the production and consumption of research, and the value of different dissemination routes. The data collected today will be analysed in full with that collected from the other two focus groups taking place in London on 20th June (with academic librarians) and Salford on 28th June (with medical/health librarians).

The visit to Perth also provided an opportunity to raise awareness of the work of the LIS Research Coalition amongst public librarians, and to encourage participation in the Developing Research Excellence and Methods (DREaM) project.

Focus group members discuss how research findings are disseminated

Focus group members discuss how research findings are disseminated

It is hoped that there will be good representation from the public library community at the DREaM project launch conference at the British Library in London on Tuesday 19th July.

We would like to thank everyone for their participation at the RiLIES project focus group in Perth, especially those who travelled from as far away as the Outer Hebrides and Shetland to contribute to the discussion.

Catching up with Coalition colleagues in Ireland

The Annual General Meeting of the Library and Information Services Council of Northern Ireland was held on Wednesday 29 September in the Antrim Library. Hazel Hall was delighted to attend as the guest keynote speaker, particularly because it gave her the chance to meet colleagues in Ireland who are now connected to the work of the Coalition through COLICO’s associate membership (as reported here on the Coalition blog in July). The venue for the meeting was also of interest: although the new Antrim Library has been open to the public since February 2010, it was only officially opened last week, as reported by Libraries NI.

Antrim Library

Antrim Library

As part of the formal business of the day some important announcements related to the support of LIS research by LISC in Northern Ireland were made. First, a bursary of £650 to support a Masters student at the University of Ulster has been offered. Secondly, a new prize of £150 will be awarded to an excellent dissertation from the Ulster course. Further details of these awards are available on the LISC NI blog posting about the AGM. Dr Jessica Bates also took the opportunity to update meeting participants on CPD courses for librarians to be held at the University of Ulster in November 2010. These are on demonstrating the impact of library services (8 November) and the use of social media (25 November). Further details are available on the leaflet about the courses.

As well as the business of the AGM, during which LISC NI’s annual report was accepted, the meeting was timetabled to include presentations by four students who are currently completing their Masters dissertations in Library and Information Management at the University of Ulster. Three of the presentations are now available on Slideshare:

Students and staff of the University of Ulster

Ulster student presenters Rita, Anthony, Jackie and Francesca with their tutor Dr Jessica Bates

A fourth student, Francesca Fodale, presented her case study work on the role of the school library in the personal development of pupils. We wish all the students on the course the best for their submissions in December 2010.

The last formal presentation of the day was given by Hazel Hall. It was entitled “The research landscape: the wider context and the LIS Research Coalition Response”. The text below summarises Hazel’s main points. The presentation slides are available on Slideshare.

Hazel began her presentation by explaining how the LIS Research Coalition was set up in 2009 to address a number of concerns expressed by a range of UK LIS research stakeholders. These include: difficulties experienced in identifying sources of funding for new projects, as well as accessing published output of completed projects; the need for improved communication between research funders; and problems that derive when not all members of a professional group recognise the value of research to their work, nor their own skills in conducting research. She then referred to the five main goals of the LIS Research Coalition:

  1. to bring together information about LIS research opportunities and results
  2. to encourage dialogue between research funders
  3. to promote LIS research practitioner research and translation of research outcomes into practice
  4. to articulate a strategic approach to LIS research
  5. to promote the development of research capacity in LIS

Hazel gave a number of reasons why librarians should engage in research-led practice. Of these, she argued that the most important are: (1) to exploit the existing knowledge base for services improvement so that future decisions are made on the basis of real evidence; and (2) to enhance the value of prior research work by capitalising on the investment made in earlier research studies.

Hazel Hall

Hazel Hall makes her presentation

In addition, Hazel highlighted the value of encouraging librarians to undertake practitioner-led research. Of particular significance here is the pressing need for library practitioners to contribute to efforts to enlarge the evidence base that demonstrates the value and impact of library and information services delivery. This is crucial to convince politically important stakeholders of the need for further investment in services provision. Such work needs to extend beyond advocacy (the indisputable “libraries are a good thing” mantra) and the simple measurement of tangibles (for example, transactional data such as issue numbers). What is needed here are demonstrations of actual benefit, for example: how the service has contributed to the reduction of anti-social behaviour or the improvement of literacy amongst the community in a public library setting; how academic library services make a difference to research assessment ratings or improved student experience; or how innovations in information services delivery within a school have contributed to better exam results amongst the pupils.

The drive towards research-led practice, and associated ambitions to enlarge the body of research-active librarians, faces a number of challenges. It was to these that Hazel then turned her attention. Whilst librarians recognise that in theory it is worthwhile to consult the output of earlier research studies as part of decision-making processes, for example in the development of a new service, few would do so as a matter of course. Rather than conduct a formal literature search to access a set of relevant research papers, often they would rely on first-hand experience and professional judgement in an action-orientated approach to their work. Here is interesting to note the irony that specialists in accessing published evidence to help other professionals plan a systematic approach to professional practice fail to do this themselves.

Lack of time is often cited to justify an approach that ignores earlier studies. Hazel argued that this is with good reason. The multidisciplinary nature of librarianship research means that relevant papers are scattered across various domains. In addition, often the most significant source material comprises grey literature, such as unpublished internal studies and summaries of discussions on listservs. This is near impossible to locate, let alone access. In some cases, the most valuable research has not been published at all.

The dearth of accessible published research studies emphasises why practising librarians themselves need to acknowledge their role in contributing to research efforts in librarianship as part of the larger research community that also includes academics, students and other researchers. Currently many librarians simply do not consider research as part of their professional role. This holds true even in cases where they play a lead in the design and implementation of projects which – to an outsider – represent research activity. Much valuable knowledge is lost when such projects end, and their outcomes are disseminated only as far as a local audience, often when they would be of interest to professional colleagues beyond the home authority. Hazel explained how the LIS Research Coalition is therefore working to encourage librarians to reflect on how they may actively contribute to research efforts across the profession, as well as exploit the existing evidence base in their regular work.

The efforts of the LIS Research Coalition acknowledge that the circumstances in which librarians work are often not ideal for the budding practitioner researcher. Time constraints of the practitioner role, low internal support of research activity and poor access to external research support, for example in the form of funding or research mentors, are all relevant external factors here. Individuals may also lack confidence in their own research competence due to limited knowledge of research approaches, coupled with a general failure to recognise their current research activity and skills as such. Hazel explained how the LIS Research Coalition has made publicly accessible a set of resources to save researchers’ time to address these concerns, principally through the web site and the Twitter feed at @LISResearch. She also mentioned how the LIS Research Coalition is involved in advocacy to persuade services managers of the need to support research initiatives; points to resources, as well as supports, events to extend the repertoire of research approaches in library and information science; and leads efforts to improve recognition of research knowledge within the profession. In short, the LIS Research Coalition is a focus for external research support in librarianship and information science.

Hazel also acknowledged that individuals’ engagement in research also meets the personal priorities of staff as professionals. Intellectual stimulation, enjoyment of learning and pride in observing how the integration of research findings into work practice enhance services delivery all contribute to job satisfaction (and, from a manager’s point of view, the retention of talented individuals). Associated with this are career benefits. For example, profiles and reputations may grow on the basis of submissions to the journal and conference literature, and the skills of individuals increase through both formal and informal professional development activity undertaken in practitioner researcher roles. At the same time actual research output supports claims of the value of library and information services to individuals (for example, their social mobility, their educational opportunities), to citizens and society (for example, contributions to the enhancement of local communities, culture and heritage) and specialist user groups (for example, information provision to business to support economic development). A further role of research in this domain is to raise the profile of librarianship as a profession that is evidence-based across all sectors. For all these reasons the LIS Research Coalition facilitates a coordinated and strategic approach to Library and Information Science Research in the UK.

Hazel Hall, Linda Houston and Anne Peoples

Hazel Hall with Linda Houston (Director of LISC NI) and Anne Peoples (lecturer at University of Ulster)

Photo acknowledgements: Dr Jessica Bates

Conference review, thanks and resources

Thank you to everyone for their participation in the LIS Research Coalition conference on Monday.

Conference review

The analysis of the conference evaluation forms (49 returned from 81 participants) shows that the event was very well received as a valuable, stimulating and enjoyable day, particularly for making contact with other LIS researchers, learning about on-going projects, and inspiring individuals’ commitment to pursuing their own research objectives. From the LIS Research Coalition’s perspective, the event provided a great opportunity to address its aims related to bringing together information about LIS research in the UK and encouraging dialogue across the members of the LIS research community. Added to this, discussions during the day – particularly in the breakout sessions – have helped identify priority areas for investment of Coalition resources in the coming months.

The majority of delegates who completed the conference evaluation forms rated the conference as a whole as “excellent” or “very good”. The most popular sessions were Andrew Dillon’s opening keynote speech and the set of one minute madness presentations, both of which were rated “excellent” by the majority. Andrew’s presentation attracted comments such as “great keynote” and “excellent – really interesting and fascinating speaker”. There was much enthusiasm in the comments on the one minute madness session which, in a way, reflected the gusto with which the delegates participated in this activity: “One minute madness worked really well – enjoyed this very much. There should be one at every conference!” “One minute madness was brill. How amazing that it actually worked!” Michael Jubb’s introductory presentation was also well received, with the majority rating this session either “excellent” or “very good”. The most common rating for the breakout sessions was “very good”, and for Charles Oppenheim’s closing keynote, described as a “great finale” in a delegate tweet, it was “excellent”.

The choice of venue was also very popular with the delegates: the majority rated the convenience of the location, its comfort and facilities and the catering as “excellent”: “I was very impressed – plush, great air-con, gorgeous food and handy for King’s Cross. Perfect.”

Those who were involved in the conference administration were pleased that most delegates rated the arrangements as “excellent”, both prior to the conference and on the day itself. Particularly appreciated was the additional “social” information provided in advance of the conference which, it is believed, contributed to the friendly atmosphere of the event.

Feedback from our virtual participants, of which there were at least 29 actively following the conference by watching #lisrc10 on Twitter or interacting with the CoverItLive site, also showed enthusiasm for the proceedings of the day.

Conference thanks

Of course, an enormous amount of effort goes into planning a conference such as this, and we owe thanks to all involved. First we are very grateful to the conference sponsors. A special vote thanks is due to our speakers, facilitators, chairs, student rapporteurs, and the brave one minute madness speakers for their contributions on the day, as well as the hard work devoted to preparing for their roles. We should also recognise that without the commitment of the conference programme committee, we would not have enjoyed a range of sessions that was – as one delegate remarked – so “well-designed from the point of view of the flow of different events/formats and from the point of view of engagement/participation”. There are also two individuals whose work behind the scenes deserves special recognition. Stephanie Kenna, amongst other things, contributed much to the marketing of the event. Stella Wisdom managed communications between Event Logistics and the British Library. Stella also liaised with the AV team to ensure that all the speaker presentations were in order, and prepared the tailored handouts that helped guide us through the process of accessing the British Library’s wireless network.

Conference resources

We have spent the past couple of days writing up the conference sessions and posting materials to the Coalition web site. Our live blogger Kirsty Pitkin of T-Consult Ltd worked at amazing speed to edit the video footage and provide the drafts of session reports for Hazel Hall to edit. Those who have agreed to write their own reports of the event, for example for colleagues or for publication, will be particularly pleased to see the full list of resources now available below (also accessible from the conference web page). We will add links to other conference outputs, for example reviews in the professional press and individual participants’ blogs, as these are published.

All the PowerPoint presentations from the conference are also available from the LIS Research Coalition’s Slideshare site. Video footage from the day, including delegate interviews and the one minute madness session, is available from the LIS Research Coalition’s Vimeo site.

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.

Coalition calls at FUMSI

A new article on the work of the LIS Research Coalition entitled “Coalition calling: focusing the research efforts in the LIS industry” by Joanna Ptolomey features in the current edition of FreePint’s FUMSI. FUMSI is well-known in the UK business information community for publishing tips and features that provide practical insight for finding, using, managing and sharing information. This feature is based on an interview with Hazel Hall at Online 2009 at London Olympia last December.

The article’s starting point is the question:

  • What ‘use’ do we make of information and when does this information join together and start to build an evidence base?

Joanna argues that the use of real evidence (or knowledge assets) is key to the delivery of effective and efficient information services, as well as prompts the generation of future ideas for influencing change and changing practice. In her article she considers the role of the LIS Research Coalition in co-ordinating and facilitating the research process and outcomes for the library and information sector. Read the full text at: http://web.fumsi.com/go/article/use/4575.

For a full listing of media coverage of the work of the LIS Research Coalition, please see the Media Coverage page. Included in the listing are links to the full-text of two other articles based on interviews with Hazel Hall, and a podcast interview:

  1. Elspeth Hyams interviews Hazel Hall about social computing, practitioner research and the LIS Research Coalition in Research in practice: a living example in the March 2010 issue of Library and Information Update (pp. 24-26).
  2. Archana Venkatraman interviews Hazel Hall about the work of the LIS Research Coalition for Information World Review in the article A decade for mobiles, social media and research, published on 5th February 2010.
  3. On 15th September 2009 in a Talking with Talis podcast Hazel Hall is interviewed about the plans of the LIS Research Coalition.

Coalition conference newsflash 7

Logos of Glen Recruitment, TFPL and Sue Hill Recruitment

The sponsors of the six PhD student places

Thanks to the generosity of three of the leading LIS recruitment firms – Glen Recruitment, TFPL and Sue Hill Recruitment – the LIS Research Coalition is able to offer six sponsored places at its conference at the British Library Conference Centre on Monday 28th June 2010. These will be for PhD students currently engaged in LIS research. Sponsorship will cover the conference fee for each of the six students who win an award.

For further information about the awards, and how to apply, please see the page that details the sponsored conference places for PhD students.