Links between research and practice: the health and medical librarians’ perspectives

The last of our three RiLIES projects focus groups took place at The Sixth International Evidence Based Library and Information Practice conference (EBLIP6) in Salford on Tuesday last week. This was kindly organised with the help of Alison Brettle and Maria Grant, the conference chairs of EBLIP6.

Jenny Gebel and Ella Taylor-Smith

RiLIES project team members Jenny Gebel and Ella Taylor-Smith

Once again the RiLIES project team members enjoyed the conversations with LIS practitioners, this time with those working in the health and medical sectors. On this occasion Ella Taylor-Smith facilitated the discussion, with Jenny Gebel and Hazel Hall in attendance.

As has been the case with the other focus groups, the conversation kicked off with initial reactions to the broad research question of the RiLIES project: “To what extent does the output of UK funded librarianship research projects influence the practice of librarianship?” The main themes that emerged from the discussion were: the levels of engagement with research that this community enjoys; the comparative value of traditional textual publications in librarianship and medicine/healthcare as sources of information on research of relevance to the practice of librarianship; the use of electronic sources to raise awareness of research; and opportunities for face-to-face information and knowledge sharing.

The data collected will be analysed in full with that collected from the focus groups earlier this month with public librarians in Perth and academic librarians in London.

The focus group gathering also provided an opportunity to raise awareness of the work of the LIS Research Coalition in general, and to encourage participation in the Developing Research Excellence and Methods (DREaM) project. (The DREaM project launch conference takes place on Tuesday 19th July at the British Library Conference Centre in London. There are still places available, but hurry – registrations close on Monday 11th July.)

Further updates about the RiLIES project will continue to be tweeted from @LIS_RiLIES. There is still an opportunity for LIS practitioners across all sectors to contribute further by telling us if, and how, they have used the output of any of the five case study projects identified for this study. We will also be distributing a final survey in the next few days, so please look out for this.

RiLIES focus group, Salford

Discussions at the RiLIES focus group in Salford

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RiLIES project: update on data collection activities

Work continues on the RiLIES project, in which we are exploring the extent to which funded librarianship research projects influence library practice in the UK. Of particular interest are the factors that increase or hinder the impact of project outcomes on practice. We have now reached the stage of gathering data and experiences from the perspectives of (1) LIS project researchers, and (2) practitioners.

The project perspective: Case studies

We have selected six research projects which reported in the last 10 years to act as case studies for further investigation. We’ve aimed to cover a range of project size and sector, including academic, medical/health, and public libraries. We are now in the process of gathering detailed data based on questionnaires supported by telephone interviews, with specific questions for each of the case study projects. At the same time, we are planning to carry out a citation analysis to understand further the impact of the outputs of these projects on the wider community of researchers and practitioners.

As well as looking at the supply of information from research projects, we are also looking at the factors behind the demand (or lack of it) for research project findings from practitioners in different areas.

The practitioner perspective: Focus groups

We realise that is essential to understand practitioners’ experiences of research, and are planning a series of focus groups where we can explore how they access research results. We have identified three conferences and meetings in the near future which will allow us to work with specific key practitioner groups identified from our initial survey. They are:

  • Public Librarians: through Slainte (which combines the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) and the CILIP Scotland (CILIPS)) on Thursday 2nd June in Perth
  • Academic Librarians: University College & Research Group meeting – at Regent’s College London on Monday 20th June
  • Healthcare librarians: At EBLIP6 in Salford on Tuesday 28th June.

The focus groups will be facilitated by Ella Taylor-Smith and Peter Cruickshank, assisted by our intern Jenny Gebel. Hazel Hall will also be at two of the sessions.

In terms of practical outcomes, it is already apparent that some LIS professionals, such as medical/health librarians, have more experience of using research outcomes to inform practice, both in supporting their customers (clinicians), and also in their own work. It is also possible that that outside academia and medical/health librarianship, practitioners generally absorb research findings indirectly from a number of sources including books, blogs and well-known practitioners, or through training courses and conferences.

The focus groups will help us to understand how researchers can best to work with practitioners’ actual patterns of work and learning. We are also aiming to find some examples how practitioners have successfully used research projects to help in their work.