Re-engaging with research: some thoughts from the Library and Information Research Group

Ronan O'Beirne

Ronan O’Beirne

Ronan O’Beirne, Chair of CILIP’s Library and Information Research Group – LIRG and member of the Board of Directors of the LIS Research Coalition – has contributed a guest blog post on the research and librarianship, and the role of LIRG. If you would like to meet Ronan, he will be at the British Library on Monday 9th July to attend the DREaM conference, and to chair the LIRG AGM, which follows the formal sessions of the DREaM conference. Ronan writes:

The Library and Information Research Group – LIRG, a special interest group of CILIP – believes that research, in all its many manifestations, should be an essential dimension of librarianship.

Indeed LIRG believes that research can be an important and powerful weapon in the librarian’s arsenal and, as such, we champion the use of research across all sectors of the profession. More specifically, and through its various activities, LIRG aims to raise the profile and to influence the direction of research within the world of libraries. Founded 35 years ago in 1977, the group continues to be engaged with three main aims:

  1. promoting the dissemination of sound research methodology and results;
  2. assisting in the development of emerging researchers;
  3. enabling networking between researchers.

Of course back in 1977 there was no such thing a tweeting or blogging, but a company called Apple was incorporated in the US and – in response the Commodore PET, with 8kb of RAM – came to be the first “all-in-one” computer. From then on everything changed utterly and the terrible beauty of the Internet was born. The library profession and the substance of what the library does, or is, fundamentally changed.

A necessary question that follows this is how has research changed? Academic and scientific research can be seen, with the notion of mode 2 knowledge production, to have become more context-driven and solution-focused. Knowledge itself has become the product of research and its “transfer”, within an increasingly market-driven higher education, forms the unit of production upon which is based a new “academic capitalism”. Models such as the triple helix see government, academia and private business exploiting research. Where might LIS research fit in with models such as these?

More recently, with the abundance of networked information systems, the ability to disseminate research globally with the press of a button has challenged traditional scarcity models of publishing and given rise to new forms of scholarly communication. Certainly librarians continue to play an important part in innovations such as open access journals and institutional repositories.

Yet, while the impact of the Internet and technology on research approaches has been profound, the nature of LIS research has perhaps not kept pace. Indeed, in his keynote address at the launch of the DREaM project Blaise Cronin lamented the quality of LIS research and noted that very much of what might pass as research is not research that can be usefully applied. He uses the term “theoretical bricolage” to illustrate how the results of the many “cookie cutter” research projects fail to contribute to theory, and seem to take a piece of theory from here and from there in an almost haphazard way.

From a social justice perspective more qualitative research is needed, particularly in relation to the public library, and also with regard to the need for a greater emphasis on digital literacy and citizenship. Public libraries – and for that matter school libraries – so often accused of not engaging with research, may be excused because frequently “the research game” is sold to them from a singularly higher education academic viewpoint. Moreover, as the evidence-based policy-making of today’s neo-liberalism manifests itself in a managerialism intent on counting the cost of everything within the public sector generally, public librarians specifically will tell you that within local authority library departments datasets on, for example, numbers of book loans become the evidence used to justify library closures. Such an approach is a poor advertisement for the research that actually needs to be undertaken in public, school and college libraries. There has to be a hope and expectation that through a range of different research approaches we might get to a deeper, more honest understanding of our profession.

We know from the response to our regularly held events that there are many enthusiastic researchers within our ranks keen to make a positive contribution to the knowledge. If issues such as those mentioned above interest you, then take a look at the LIRG web site or dip into our open access journal Library and Information Research (LIR) to get a better insight into the work of this group. I’m sure you will be surprised.

The 2012 AGM of the The Library and Information Research Group will be held on 9th July at the British Library at the end of the DREaM conference. All-comers are welcome.

LIRG offers opportunity to apply for DREaM conference bursaries to all

The Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) invites applications for two bursaries to attend the DREaM conference. All are eligible to apply, whether or not they hold membership of LIRG. The closing date for applications is Friday 22 June.

LIRG is pleased to provide two bursaries to cover registration at the DREaM conference on 9th July 2012 at the British Library. The awards will cover the conference registration fee (£95).

Applicants should provide a brief statement (up to 50 words) outlining how attendance at DREaM conference will impact on their professional practice. The two best statements (as judged by two LIRG committee members) will receive the bursary.

Closing date for applications: Friday 22 June.

Conditions: applicants will be responsible for meeting their own travel, accommodation and subsistence costs (if required).

To apply for the bursary, please e-mail the following details to the LIRG Awards and Prizes Co-ordinator, Alison Brettle at

  1. name
  2. e-mail address
  3. employer details

Please include a statement on how attendance at the DREaM conference will impact on your professional practice (50 words maximum).

Deadline extended for applications for sponsored places at the DREaM conference

CILIP logoWe recently announced that two CILIP groups are offering sponsored places at the DREaM conference for their members. The deadline for applications has been extended to 5pm on Thursday 14th June for both schemes:

CILIP North West branch and LIRG look forward to receiving all applications by Thursday 5pm at the latest.

LIRG offers two sponsored DREaM conference places

Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi

Eduardo Paolozzi’s Newton at the British Library

CILIP’s Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) has announced that it is offering two bursaries to cover registration at the DREaM Conference on 9th July 2012 at the British Library. The awards will cover the conference registration fee (£95). The two award winners will also be able to attend the LIRG AGM, which takes place immediately after the formal close of the conference.

All LIRG members are eligible to apply for the award. Applicants are asked write a brief statement (up to 50 words) that outlines how attendance at DREaM Conference will impact on their professional practice. Those who submit the two best statements (as judged by two LIRG committee members) will each receive a conference place. (Applicants will be responsible for meeting any travel, accommodation and subsistence costs associated with participation at the conference.)

The closing date for applications is Monday 11 June 2012 5pm Thursday 14th June (new extended deadline), and the names of the award winners will be announced in mid-late June.

To apply for the bursary, please e-mail the following details to the LIRG Awards and Prizes Co-ordinator, Alison Brettle at your name, contact e-mail address, employer details and your application statement.

Further details of the award are provided on the LIRG web pages.

Free LIRG briefing session – London – Tuesday 10th July 2012


  • Tuesday 10th July, 10:00-13:00, CILIP, Ridgmount Street, London
  • A free half-day LIRG event
  • Led by Christine Irving, Peter Cruickshank and Hazel Hall, Edinburgh Napier University
The Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) is pleased to announce a free event in collaboration with the Research in Librarianship Impact Evaluation Study (RiLIES) team.This is a half-day briefing session. Its main aim is to raise awareness amongst librarians of the evidence-base that can be used to support high quality information services delivery, and the tools that can be used to access relevant sources of information. The briefing will also highlight a number of well-established and new resources that can help practitioners in the design, implementation and evaluation of their own research projects. These include training, good practice and community support materials. In addition, the session will provide a forum for librarians to discuss the long-term research support needs of the library and information science research community. There will be opportunities to ask questions, provide feedback and offer suggestions.

Learning outcome

By the end of the session participants will have increased their knowledge and understanding of the range of research resources and training materials available to support (1) the exploitation of the existing library and information science (LIS) evidence base, and (2) the execution of LIS research projects.

Who should attend?

This briefing is aimed at LIS practitioners, academics and students interested in learning about the range of resources available. It is particularly suitable for those who are keen to increase their engagement with research to support their practice.

Cost and booking

There is no charge for this event. However, advance booking is required to secure a place. Visit the LIRG website for further details Please use the online form at to make a booking. Bookings close on 2nd July 2012.

Further information

Enquiries regarding the event can be made to Christine Irving or the LIRG Events Team

Find out more about the RiLIES projects

The Research in Librarianship – Impact Evaluation Study (RiLIES – pronounced “realise”) comprises two linked projects. RiLIES1 explored the extent to which funded librarianship research projects influence library practice in the UK. The goal of RiLIES2 is to produce research resources and training material to support librarians and information scientists in their use of published research in their work, and – where appropriate – to help librarians and information scientists and professionals carry out their own research. To find out more about RiLIES, please see the project web site at

RiLIES is a sister project of Developing Research Excellence and Methods (DREaM), both of which are supported by the LIS Research Coalition. This half day LIRG event on the morning of Tuesday 10th July at CILIP in London has been timed to follow the DREaM conference which takes place at the British Library on Monday 9th July. LIRG is also holding its AGM at the DREaM conference. Thus those with interests in LIS research and who are normally obliged to travel far to reach London have the opportunity to attend three events grouped together at the start of the week beginning 9th July. For further information about the DREaM conference, please see

This event carries the CILIP Seal of Recognition

Introducing RiLIES2

Mary Queen of Scots (Lesley Smith)

Mary Queen of Scots (Lesley Smith) after her presentation at the Edge conference dinner

Regular visitors to these web pages will be familiar with the work of the Research in Librarianship Impact Evaluation Study (RiLIES) that we completed last year.

Using the findings from RiLIES1, the team has just embarked on a second follow-on project. RiLIES2 will produce a series of outputs to support the use and execution of research by librarians and information scientists.

Presented in the form of training, good practice and community support materials, the RiLIES2 outputs will provide practical guidance covering how to: (1) consume extant research (e.g. offer guidance on where to find high quality research output that can be used to improve services delivery); (2) do research; and (3) maximise the impact of research undertaken.

Common to all outputs is the goal of embedding in the LIS community an appreciation of research as essential to high quality services delivery.

At the early stages of the project the team is keen to spread the word of the work in progress. For example, last week Hazel Hall met delegates of the Edge conference in Edinburgh where she was able to introduce the project. A highlight of Hazel’s participation at the event was meeting the after-dinner speaker at the conference dinner. Billed as a “royal visitor”, Mary Queen of Scots (AKA Lesley Smith) gave a very entertaining performance.

Next week we will be discussing with the Library and Information Research Group how we can work together to ensure that the project fits with the needs of the community, and that the work completed will have impact.

RiLIES2 will report in Q3 of 2012.

Christine Irving joins the DREaM project team

Christine Irving

We are pleased to introduce readers of the LIS Research Coalition blog to Christine Irving. Christine has joined Hazel Hall’s team in Edinburgh to help with the forthcoming three linked DREaM project workshops.

Christine has written a few words of introduction:

I’m delighted to be involved in assisting with the organising of the workshops. They are a great opportunity for LIS professionals to develop their research skills and join the LIS research community .

As a person who always likes to ask questions, seek out information and share knowledge, my LIS research skills were developed through an Information Management degree at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. This then led to LIS research project work and a subsequent career. I am currently working freelance and am about to start writing a book about information literacy in the workplace, public libraries and lifelong learning. This is based upon my research work as Researcher/Project Officer on the Scottish Information Literacy Project.

I am a member of several CILIP special interest groups. These include the Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) of which I am the current secretary. I am also part of the events team which organises and delivers a range of research workshops. LIRG fully supports the work of the LIS Research Coalition and it’s great to strengthen that connection with my involvement with the DREaM project.

I look forward to working with the DREaM project, to seeing the workshops take place and to meeting all the workshop participants.

Christine can be contacted at her LIS Research Coalition e-mail address:

Library and Information Research publishes article about the DREaM project

The latest issue of Library and Information Research (the journal of CILIP’s Library and Information Group (LIRG)) includes an article on the DREaM project by Hazel Hall, Stephanie Kenna and Charles Oppenheim. The full text can be downloaded from: