Invitation to complete the RiLIES2 project poll

Which freely available online resources do you consult to find relevant library and information science (LIS) research to help with your job? Where would you go if you wanted to access advice online on how to set up a new research project of your own?

The RiLIES2 project research team is currently working on the production of some new research resources and training materials. These are intended to support librarians and information scientists in the use of published LIS research in their work. Additionally they will serve as reference tools for librarians and information scientists interested in conducting research projects of their own.

We are keen to ensure that we do not replicate existing provision of resources, and to identify the best format and “home” for the resources that we produce. To this end we invite you to complete this short poll. Its purpose is to find out which of the existing resources that support librarians and information scientists use and/or conduct research are (a) well used and/or (b) respected.

The poll is aimed at LIS professionals who are based in the UK, but if you live in another country, we would still be interested in your answers.

Please follow this link to take part. The poll will remain open until the end of April.

RiLIES2 project is a follow-on project from RiLIES1. RiLIES1 explored the extent to which funded librarianship research projects influence library practice in the UK. Download the RiLIES1 project report Enhancing the impact of LIS research projects.

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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.

Congratulation to the winners of sponsored places at EBLIP6

The LIS Research Coalition is delighted to announce that its four sponsored places at the Sixth Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP6) Conference have been awarded to:

  • Katrina Dalziel, Deputy Subject Librarian (Medicine), Swansea University (@Dalziel1)
  • Katie Fraser, Information Librarian, Leicester University (@katie_fraser)
  • Paolo Gardois, PhD Research Student, Sheffield University (@paologardois)
  • Alison Millis, Training and Outreach Manager, Library and Knowledge Services, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (@alisonmillis)

Winners EBLIP6

The conference takes place in Salford from 27th to 30th June 2011. The award winners will play an active role as members of the LIS Research Coalition rapporteur team at EBLIP6 and contribute reviews of some of the conference sessions that they attend to the LIS Research Coalition blog.

For further information about EBLIP6, please see the conference web site.

Apply for a Coalition-sponsored place at EBLIP6, Salford, 28-30 June 2011

The LIS Research Coalition is pleased to sponsor four places at the Sixth Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP6) Conference, which takes place in Salford from 27th to 30th June 2011. The places will be awarded to PhD students registered for their doctoral studies at a UK university and LIS practitioners based within the UK.

In exchange for the sponsored places, the award winners will play an active role as members of the LIS Research Coalition rapporteur team at EBLIP6, and contribute reviews of some of the conference sessions that they attend. Hazel Hall, who will be at the conference with her laptop, will add the reviews to the Coalition’s blog over the course of the event.

To apply for a place, please complete an application form (see below), ensuring that you select the one appropriate to your main status: PhD student or LIS practitioner. (If you are studying part-time while working, please use the LIS practitioner form and note your part-time student status on it.) We are interested in receiving applications from candidates who combine a keen interest in LIS research with an ability to grasp the key points of a discussion quickly. Members of our rapporteur team need to be able to synthesise points concisely in writing in order to communicate them effectively to a wider audience. Thus how you express yourself in your application for a sponsored place is as important as your reasons for wishing to attend the conference itself.

NB the awards cover the conference registration fee only. Therefore successful candidates will need to access funding from elsewhere to cover additional expenses such as travel, subsistence and accommodation. Suggested funding sources include the award winners’ home institutions/employers, and the support offered by professional bodies. For example, students will be encouraged to apply for a UKeIG Student Conference Grant. The registration page on the EBLIP6 web site lists a number of other sources of funding that are of relevance to students and practitioners alike.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 2nd May 2011. Applications will be judged soon afterwards and winners notified by the end of May.

Any queries about the awards should be addressed to Hazel Hall.

Application forms

EBLIP6 Conference Award – PhD student application form
EBLIP6 Conference Award – practitioner application form

RiLIES poll – summary of initial findings

As part of the RiLIES project we have just carried out a short initial survey on how LIS professionals find out about research project findings.
LIS RiLIES logo
We hoped to identify (1) the sources that are used by librarians to generate ideas for improvements in library services delivery and (2) any named LIS research projects that have been particularly influential in inspiring changes to practice.

If you took part, we’d like to start by saying thank you!

Here we share some of the results. Please bear in mind, however, that this is a self-selected and relatively small sample so the results cannot be considered to be statistically significant. Instead, we are using the findings to help direct further activities of the project.

Overall, 200 people took the time to complete the poll. Of these 175 have over 5 years experience, 173 are UK-based, and 155 describe themselves holding front-line or managerial roles. So we are pleased to have reached our core target demographic for the poll. However, although we had very good response from academic and health librarians, as the pie chart below shows, the number of public librarians who took part was disappointing. We’re now looking at other options for reaching this important librarian population.

Some findings

Even in this age of social media and e-books, face-to-face contacts (particularly informal networking) are still the key route to learning about new research results.

Even online, ‘traditional’ JISC discussion lists are considered as most useful (even more so amongst managerial and health-sector respondents). In fact they are reported as the leading alternative to face-to-face contact. As far as social media is concerned, practitioner blogs are popular, and in contrast, there is an emphatic lack of interest in virtual reading groups on platforms such as Second Life.

Twitter divided people. A significant number of academic librarian respondents, in particular, reported use of Twitter to both find out about, and report on, research projects. As would be expected, people who use Twitter are also more enthusiastic about it as a source of information. On the other hand, a significant number said that Twitter is blocked by their workplace. This is an issue within the healthcare and government sectors in particular.

Over half the respondents have used mailing lists in their own research work. Conference papers are the most popular route for reporting findings. Academic librarians dominate the more resource-intensive areas of creating peer-reviewed conference papers and writing research project reports. Our relatively high level of activity may, however, simply demonstrate that our poll attracted a more research-active demographic.

Offline, research reports and reading of (printed) news reports in journals are reported as being most useful.

The two graphs below summarise the popularity of sources of information as reported by the academic librarians:

… and healthcare librarians:

Please bear in mind, however, that the limitations of the poll data mean that we cannot do any more than note the variation in sources of information (and this is why we felt that a graph totalling up all the responses would be inappropriate at this stage).

One of the points of this poll was to draw on librarians’ collective inspiration to identify any gaps in our questions, and we were not disappointed! In particular, responses highlighted:

  • The role of professional bodies in networking professionals together.
  • The important role played by intermediaries (such as trainers) in turning research findings into useful information: consultants, trainers, conference speakers etc. and associated artefacts such as books/monographs or training course serve as intermediaries research results to practitioners, even if they are not strictly research-intensive in their own right.
  • The importance of a small number of individuals as information sources, in particular Andrew Booth, Alison Brettle, Phil Bradley, and the LIS Research Coalition’s Hazel Hall.
  • The use of RSS feeds for following multiple sources of information.

Next steps…

The results will contribute to the broad project aim of exploring the extent to which funded librarianship research projects influence library practice.

We have been able to identify some projects which we could potentially use in the case study phase of our work. Also, the results give a direction to potential focus group questions, and who we should involve in our future data collection exercises. For instance, the low number of public librarian contributions at this stage mean that we will have to find other ways to identify their needs and activities.

Finally – 64 people have said they would take part in future research – thank you! We may be in touch later on.

Hazel Hall and Peter Cruickshank

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.

Six months into the implementation and priorities for future work

Six months have passed since work began in earnest on the implementation of the plans of the LIS Research Coalition. In this time we’ve made progress in meeting the goals related to establishing a structure to facilitate a co-ordinated and strategic approach to LIS research across the UK. For example, the Coalition web site grows steadily as a source of information about LIS research. Equally the Twitter account, @LISResearch, provides regular news feeds on research projects from proposal to publication of results, as well as research opportunities ranging from advertised PhD places to vacancies on high level research-related bodies and committees.

The Coalition has also taken the opportunity to present to external audiences. This has been achieved both at a general
level – as at Online 2009, and in the Coalition response to the consultation on the Research Excellence Framework (REF) – and with reference to concerns of particular user groups, such as the “student experience” focus of the autumn 2009 SCONUL conference. Further conference and meeting contributions are planned for a variety of audiences. We are also looking forward to the LIS Research Coalition’s own conference on Monday 28th June 2010 at the British Library Conference Centre in London. Events – both Coalition and externally organised – are noted on the Coalition web site Events page. We’ve also been busy engaging with the media, attracting coverage of our activities in both the LIS and general press (for example, we’ve had two mentions in Times Higher Education to date). Details of such publishing activity are given on the Media coverage page. It is hoped that these efforts will succeed in the goal of pushing LIS research further up the agenda of the UK LIS community, particularly amongst practitioner colleagues. Longer term it is anticipated that they might result in an improvement in the volume and quality of practitioner research, and the translation of this future research output into practice. Ultimately the research completed should also inform the development of future UK LIS research strategy.

One of the Coalition’s goals is to address current gaps in LIS research activity in the UK. The need to develop a strong evidence base that can be used to demonstrate the value and impact of library and information services has been identified as a priority area. We intend to put resources into addressing this ahead all of other possible research themes. This is on the basis that without easy access to an evidence base that can be used to assess and publicise impact and value, library and information services are rendered vulnerable to cost-cutting exercises. Funders will protect units where contributions to organisational objectives and the bottom line are more clearly artciulated, not least as demonstration of accountability for their own decisions. A second priority is to consider how to provide research methods training opportunities, primarily for the (potentially enlarged) practitioner researcher audience. Currently work is on-going on a funding bid for the provision of a series of events focused on research methods. A further possibile initiative is to run smaller-scale one-off sessions on specific themes of interest to those starting to engage in research activities.

In forthcoming meetings of the Board of Directors of the LIS Research Coalition we will be discussing how we can build on
our initial work to progress it further: there is clearly much more that could be done! The focus of these discussions will be how to ensure that we channel the resources available to the Coalition into activities that deliver real value to the LIS research community in the UK. There will be opportunities for greater participation in the debate on the direction of the Coalition at the LIS Research Coalition conference at the British Library Conference Centre on June 28th 2010. In the meantime members of the UK LIS research community – from established researchers to aspiring new professionals – are invited to respond to the proposals made in this blog posting. Of particular interest would be suggestions on how the work of the Coalition could be developed to meet the needs of practitioner researchers. Responses can be made by leaving comments below, or by e-mailing Hazel Hall directly at hazel.hall@lisresearch.org.