Re-invigorating LIS research – again?

Biddy Fisher

Biddy Fisher

Biddy Fisher OBE, Past President of CILIP, former Chair of CILIP’s Library and Information Research Group – and one of the movers and shakers behind the establishment of the LIS Research Coalition – has contributed a guest blog post on the sustainability of the Coalition’s efforts to involve LIS practitioners in research. Biddy writes:

When recently reading a thought-piece written in 2010 by Michael Stead (now Chair of the Public Libraries Group of CILIP) I was struck by two things. One was Michael’s implicit recognition of the phenomena that research is seemingly only associated with those in universities or with those who study in such institutions. The second was his ‘epiphanic’ (sic) moment about the value of research to our practice.

Michael is typical of the ‘next generation’ of professionals. Naïvely I would have hoped in 2010 (and now in 2012) that the recognition of the value of research in practice would be a given: that the legacy of the British Library Research and Development Department, which had so influenced my generation, had been carried forward by the intervening decades of practitioner-researchers, and was still providing the foundations of knowledge and experience that combine to develop services, as well as the enthusiasm, of later cohorts of new professionals.

I acknowledge that the academic sector continues to make headway, assisted by the vast research output of JISC and the use of comprehensive statistical data sets from SCONUL, as well as the highly sophisticated network opportunities that are still being enjoyed in that sector.

However, it seems that practice-based research is hard to incorporate other than in academic and health/medical libraries. There is a parallel in the way information literacy is also associated primarily with educational organisations. Research, investigation and information literacy are natural activities in educational environments. However, for a profession that undertakes investigations on behalf of others without a blink it is surprising that there is not a much stronger incentive to ‘do’ and publish across all LIS sectors.

There have been many attempts to make research much more part of our practice. Over the last three years, the Library and Information Science Research Coalition has provided a unique role in bringing together information, people, ideas and innovation, and has contributed enormously to making the profession more research-conscious.

There is still a way to go in ensuring that the work is carried on. As with so many things, it is finance-dependent. It also requires a will to ensure the Coalition’s work develops within the profession. I have witnessed real excitement and passion at the events organised by the Coalition, and in particular the Developing Research Excellence and Methods (DREaM) project workshops. CILIP’s Library and Information Group (LIRG) has similar experiences, and research projects discussed at the Welsh Libraries conference show that the audience is enthusiastic. However, somehow it seems too difficult to transfer the commitment of individuals through to employers and corporate LIS bodies. It is a real conundrum for those with the long view, the vision, and the understanding of the need for an evidence base to back up the work of LIS practitioners.

Like many other delegates, Michael Stead did more than just enjoy the 2010 LIS Research Coalition conference. He determined to become a practitioner-researcher, to keep skills relevant, and to use his experience to inform his practice. He has been a strong advocate of the involvement of public librarians in undertaking, reading and using research in their work. His contribution to the DREaM project testifies to Michael’s on-going determination to be involved and to involve others in such activities (editor’s note – see, for example, his contribution to the Unconference Half Hour at the first DREaM workshop in October 2011). We should follow Michael’s lead – as individuals, as employers, as managers, as thinkers and doers – and recognise that we all have responsibilities to research in LIS, and to the Coalition. There is one more challenge: to get far more authors listed on the LIS Research Coalition’s publications web page.

Some of the issues that Biddy raises above will form part of the discussion at next DREaM event: the conference at the British Library on 9th July. Expert speakers and panelists participating include Jo Alcock, Dr Carla Basili, Dr Louise Cooke, Professor Hazel Hall, Annie Mauger, Professor Charles Oppenheim and Professor Carol Tenopir. Best-selling author, broadcaster, medical doctor and academic Dr Ben Goldacre will deliver the closing keynote paper, as well as make the presentation to the winner of the Library and Information Science Practitioner Researcher Excellence Award. Throughout the day there will be time for networking, and an opportunity for delegates to contribute to a one minute madness session just before lunch. The conference fee is just £95 (inclusive, including all refreshments) and a number of travel bursaries are available. To book your place, please go to the DREaM conference registration page.

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.

LIS Research Coalition conference live blog #lisrc10

Today’s the day of the Library and Information Science Research Coalition conference at the British Library in London. We’re looking forward to welcoming information professionals from:

  • universities and research institutes;
  • the health service;
  • academic, public, national and corporate libraries;
  • information consultancies;
  • the LIS Research Coalition member bodies.

We also have good representation from publishers, and some staff from our conference sponsors will also be with us. A number of delegates are currently studying for higher degrees in LIS, including our six sponsored PhD student rapporteurs.

If you are not able to join us at the British Library for today’s conference, you can still participate in the discussions and give us your views as we explore Evidence, Value and Impact: the LIS Research Landscape in 2010.

Simply follow the live blog and add your comments, or tweet using the event hashtag #lisrc10.

Conference taster: meet our speakers and facilitators

In the run-up to Monday’s conference, we have been interviewing speakers and breakout session facilitators to discover more about what they will be covering in their sessions, the key issues to be discussed by the LIS research community at the event, and their hopes for the day as a whole.

Michael JubbMichael Jubb, Opening speaker

“I’m going to say a little about how the Coalition came to be set up, what it is seeking to achieve, and the challenges it faces.

In terms of the LIS research landscape, the big research challenge is to do some rigorous analysis (not advocacy, though we need that as well) on the value of libraries and information services. That means looking hard at the relationships not just between inputs and outputs (the easy bit, though we need to get better at it) but at outcomes, in terms of learning – formal and informal – and research. That’s difficult, but we need to do it.

I’m looking forward to the chance to meet, discuss, and to find the points of intersection of interests and ideas.”

Andrew Dillon, Opening keynote speaker

“I’ll offer a sweeping view of a field that feels threatened yet promises so much, with suggestions to move us all forward!

I consider people – users, consumers, searchers, readers, and creators – to be the most interesting issue on the LIS research landscape. They are always what it is all about, and we should never forget it. I’m most looking forward to sharing ideas with a UK audience as it’s been a long time.”

Anne BriceAnne Brice, Research evidence – breakout session facilitator

“I think research evidence is important because we need to be able to answer the most important questions that our users, practitioners and funders have, and to be sure that we are doing the best we can with the resources we have. It needs to support decision making, expand our understanding and be seen as an essential tool in how we develop and improve our services.

I am looking forward to meeting delegates from all parts of the LIS community, to sharing ideas and solutions, and to having the time to focus on the issues around research evidence without the usual interruptions! Participants at previous workshops have identified a range of barriers to finding and using good quality research evidence, relating to the nature of the evidence base itself, the skills needed to do and use research, or to the working culture or environment. We hope that the breakout sessions will provide an opportunity to hear from lots of different perspectives, and bring different types of knowledge and experience together.”

Michael SteadMichael Stead, Research impact and value – breakout session facilitator

“In my role as a manager in public libraries, the value of research is in its effect on the decision-making process. Good quality research helps me and my colleagues to make the right decisions. In the current economic climate, it’s vitally important that we are as well-informed as we can possibly be: using the right research helps us to do that.

This a great opportunity to find out about the approach taken to research activities across all sectors of the information professions, and I’m confident that there will be a lot of valuable discussion in the breakout sessions. I would personally like to learn more about sources of research funding and how other professionals make research mesh with the day job.”

Val SkeltonVal Skelton, Research impact and value – breakout session facilitator

“I work as co-editor for Business Information Review, which is an international journal for all those who work within organisations helping them achieve maximum value from information – whether externally sourced information or internal knowledge/information/ records. Our aim is to publish articles of practical relevance to our readership. Our contributors include practitioners who work in all sectors. We also publish articles by academics and students, whose research brings insight into the achievements of other organisations and which we believe can stimulate ideas in our readership. For example, our June issue includes an article on creativity, chaos theory and KM, derived from work undertaken for a masters degree. A second article shares the experience of students who participated in a ‘customer driven knowledge factory’, and demonstrates how our readers can engage with internal customers to build knowledge and expertise.

Our readership is constantly focused on how to demonstrate the value and impact of the services they provide to their organisations. Any developments in this area are of critical importance to the journal and to the profession.”

Professor Charles OppenheimCharles Oppenheim, Closing keynote

In the interests of suspense, you will have to wait and see what Charles is going to say in his closing keynote. We feel that we need to keep some surprises for the day! You will be interested to know, however, that aspects of Charles’ presentation will be driven by delegate contributions at the conference on Monday. He did say: “I think the lack of funding and support is the key issue right now; demonstrating value and worth is the key research area that needs to be addressed. The networking opportunities and brainstorming is what interests me the most about this conference.”

You can find out more about all of our speakers, facilitators and session chairs by reading their profiles.

We look forward to hearing delegate views on these themes at the British Library on Monday. For those attending remotely, look out for tweets with the event hashtag #lisrc10, and we’ll watch out for your ideas coming through as you tweet your own contributions to the conference debates.

Introducing the student rapporteurs

Our sponsors have generously supported six PhD students to attend the LIS Research Coalition conference as student rapporteurs. The rapporteurs will be undertaking various duties on Monday 28th June, including helping to distill the various conversations and debates of the day so that we – as a community – can consider how to tackle the priority issues related to LIS research in practice.

The students are all keen to share their research and to network with experienced LIS researchers throughout the event, so please do try to talk with them if you are attending. Here is a brief introduction to each of them to give you a taste of their wide-ranging interests.

Liz Brewster (Twitter: @lizzyab)
Department of Information Studies, University of SheffieldPhD Title: Strategic aims and service user needs in bibliotherapy schemes in UK public libraries

Liz’s research examines the impact of bibliotherapy schemes in UK public libraries. These schemes use books to help people with mild to moderate mental health problems. Liz’s aim is to focus on user experiences of bibliotherapy schemes, with reference to their strategic aims. The research will identify potential gaps in service provision, with suggestions for service improvement. As part of her research, Liz is examining: cost effective ways in which bibliotherapy can be administered in partnership between health and library sectors; evidence-based librarianship; and efficient methods of evaluating and benchmarking bibliotherapy schemes, in which ‘soft’ outcomes can be difficult to measure.

Liz says “I find working closely with library service users an enriching experience, and appreciate the chance to discuss this type of research with a varied spectrum of the LIS community. The conference seems to focus on a number of issues highly pertinent to a new researcher, and I feel it would be encouraging to participate in discussions concerned with impact, evidence and funding.”

Charlie Inskip
Department of Information Science, City University (Twitter: @CharlieInskip)PhD Title: Communicating meaning and meeting information need within the music industry

Charlie writes a monthly column on music and LIS issues for CILIP’s Update magazine. He is particularly concerned that the LIS research landscape is constantly shifting to accommodate changes in funding and evaluation, which affects those – like himself – who are approaching the end of a AHRC funded PhD and are looking for new opportunities. Charlie believes that attending conferences such as this one provides an excellent opportunity for new researchers to gain inside knowledge of these developments, and enhances their value to the wider LIS community.

Charlie says “The conference agenda themes of evidence, value and impact are highly topical and relevant across today’s research world. I am keen to increase my understanding of the importance of these issues and the impact they may have on the career development of new researchers such as myself.”

Liz Poirier
Department of Information Science, City UniversityPhD Title: Towards a theory of slow information: time, pleasure and consumption in theories of information behaviour

Liz’s research is concerned with human information behaviour, specifically how we cope, both individually and collectively, in a society characterized by increasingly overwhelming information environments. As information channels accelerate and proliferate, she asks how are we to navigate a successful path to relevant resources and how are those paths depicted in existing theories of information behaviour?

Liz’s experience as a librarian in the higher education sector is informing her approach. This made evident that some key assumptions in existing theories – whereby rapid speed and expansive volume are implicitly framed as the pinnacle of information seeking and use – were not always the primary goals for information users. She was prompted to expose this gap in the literature and explore why it exists.

Liz says “I did not embark on this PhD in order to pursue a life of pure academia, and I have always imagined a hybrid career where research and practice share equal billing, and provide fuel for each other in a reciprocal relationship. The Library and Information Science Research Coalition conference seems a perfect opportunity to explore how this might be possible.”

Hannah Spring (Twitter: @hannahspring101)
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, York St John UniversityPhD Title: Barriers to, and priorities for, research development in health librarianship

Hannah’s study takes the concept of evidence-based health practice and considers this in context with the LIS health research landscape. Whilst the Government agenda for health maintains a requirement for accountability and evidence-based health practice, the health librarians that support the research activities that underpin such agendas are not currently noted for placing focus on working to an evidence-based agenda within their own professional practice. Hannah’s research therefore has two strands. The first is an investigation into the reasons for, and barriers to, lack of engagement in research activity within the health-related LIS professions. The second is an investigation into research priority development, with the aim of contributing to the future strategic development of LIS health research.

Hannah says “Although my background and experience is specific to health librarianship, many of the issues I am investigating are entirely transferrable to a general LIS research audience. The areas of focus highlighted on the conference overview – such as techniques for integrating research activities into everyday work and practice (evidence-based practice), identifying research opportunities, collaboration and publication for instance – are all areas with which I closely identify.”

Charlie Major (Twitter: @vkwn)
Department of Information Science, City UniversityPhD Title: Objectivity and the Gene Ontology: how do biologists working within the e-science paradigm classify theoretical entities?

Charlie’s research project is focused on classification in a specific domain: the classification of ideas, objects and data in biology. He is interested in the schema biologists have developed to structure knowledge in biology, and to aid information retrieval. Charlie believes that the boom in bioinformatics and the trend towards e-science-driven methods beg interesting questions such as “Can a machine be a biologist?” or “Should biological classifications be constructed be consensus?” He is a LIS researcher with an active blog, and a belief that LIS research can be communicated to wider audiences in a style that is both interesting and (heaven forbid!) even funny and entertaining.

Charlie says“The LIS Research Coalition conference looks interesting to me because it puts the emphasis on translating research into practice. What’s the point of a bottle of wine if you haven’t got a corkscrew?
Secondly, the conference also cannot fail to get the LIS juices pumping with a session called ‘One minute madness’, although I am suddenly distracted by an idea for ‘Gong Show’-style challenge where researchers are voted off the lectern with a resounding clang should their presentations fail to keep an expectant audience’s interest.”

(One minute madness presenters will be relieved to hear that we will not be following up Charlie’s interesting proposal!)

Hui-Yun Sung
Department of Information Science, Loughborough UniversityPhD Title: Community engagement in public libraries

Hui-Yun’s research interests are located in community engagement and public libraries. Community engagement is an emerging area in the public librarianship literature, and may be one way to help explain how public libraries can effectively involve communities. Her research aim is to investigate the important elements that help make community engagement work in public libraries.

Hui-Yun says “I hope that by attending the conference that I will be able to identify research opportunities in the LIS for my future career from listening to keynote presentations and various speeches by both academics and experienced practitioners in relevant areas. In addition, I will learn how to translate my research outcomes into practice to make them more applicable for public library services.”

Volunteers please!

If you are attending Evidence, Value and Impact: the LIS Research Landscape in 2010 on Monday 28th June, then we need you to read on…

As part of the build-up to (as well as online coverage of) the conference, our event amplifier Kirsty Pitkin (nee McGill) will be looking for volunteers to give short interviews about their interests and expectations/experiences of the conference. During the event Kirsty will be roaming around with her flip cam and audio recorder to document your comments and observations, so please look out for her if you have something you would like to say, or have an idea you want to put to the LIS Research community via this web site.

If you would rather not be filmed, but would still like to tell the community about your work and views, then Kirsty has a set of questions for a written interview that should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.

If you’d like to volunteer to give an interview, please email Kirsty and let her know whether you would be prepared to do a video, audio or written interview.

It would be fantastic to hear as many voices as possible so we can all find out what you are doing and consider your views of the LIS research landscape in 2010. Please do volunteer to offer your perspective.

Why do we still like to attend professional events in person?

In these days of webinars, virtual events and amplified events, there are still lots of reasons why attending a conference in person has its benefits. Here are some of the reasons we are looking forward to actually being there for Evidence, Value and Impact: the LIS Research Landscape in 2010

  • The opportunity to hear speakers of international repute in person: the event programme gives the full details.
  • The potential to engage in discussions, and to ask questions of experts.
  • The chance to hear about live research projects: our one minute madness session gives delegates the opportunity to take the stage.
  • The networking opportunities, including meeting new, like-minded people, as well as renewing established relationships. Based on the delegate list so far, we will be welcoming a great mix of really interesting people on the day. The full range of LIS sectors is represented with: practitioners attending from the academic, public, corporate and medical libraries; representation from members of the Coalition member bodies (British Library, CILIP, JISC, MLA, RIN and SHALL); LIS academics and researchers; PhD students; independent LIS consultants; and publishers. The majority of delegates already registered are UK-based, but we do have some who are travelling quite a distance to be with us on 28th June from the US, Africa and Asia. We are advising those registered to get to know some of the other delegates ahead of the conference by following our tips. Just make sure that you don’t miss out on a conversation with that person whose work is particularly interesting to you.
  • The chance to meet sponsors in person to get a better understanding of their products and services and what they could do for you and the service that you deliver.

In addition, all this stimulation comes without any work distractions. The best way to get all of this, is to be there with us at the British Library on Monday 28th June.

However, we do recognise that there are those who would really benefit from this event, but simply can’t get to us. One such person is Ruth Baxter, who was recently commenting on Jo Alcock’s blog post Librarians as researchers. Unfortunately, Ruth cannot join us at the conference as she is not within a commutable distance: she is based in Australia.

For people like Ruth, we will be amplifying the live event using online media such as Twitter (event hashtag #lisrc10) and this blog. It will be possible to actively participate remotely, as we will be monitoring online comments, and will pass on questions to the speakers, as appropriate. You can get involved in the online discussions whether you are at the British Library with us on the day, or many miles away. The time difference may prevent Ruth getting involved in real time, but she has said that she will definitely be watching the virtual feedback when she is awake, so the discussions could be carried on after the event.

Registration for participation in person closes today, so if you would like to make a booking, please click through to the registration page.