RiLIES report highlights 5: Research, CPD and the role of professional bodies

This is the fifth of the RiLIES1 highlights postings based on the full report which is freely available to download. Here, we summarise our findings when to comes to creating a receptive audience for research results.

The broad aim of our first RiLIES project was to investigate the extent to which funded research projects in the domain of library and information science (LIS) influence practice in the UK. It focused particularly on identifying factors that increase or hinder the impact of research findings on those who deliver library and information services.

The weak link between LIS research and LIS practice (and, in particular, changes to practice) has previously been explained with reference to a number of factors. One explanation is that practitioners struggle with the research literature because of the way that it is presented. Another is that practitioners perhaps lack confidence in their own skills in consuming academic research output, even though they are actually well-equipped to use the research literature to help inform their work.

The RiLIES1 project confirmed previous research findings which identified how LIS sector and career stage are factors when it comes to how practitioners access research.  In particular, we found those working in academic and healthcare environments are more aware than others of:

  • the routes available for accessing research results;
  • the benefits that practitioners can gain through direct participation in research projects.

An obvious solution to improving the situation in other sectors is to offer directed training about research. The could be combined with support for practitioner-researchers from academic researchers (as, for instance, Dr Alison Brettle has recently demonstrated). Training needs to be tailored to particular communities. A model that may be useful here is that of self-efficacy, to arm practitioners with both skills and motivations. This model can also ensure that positive experiences are reinforced.

However, RiLIES1 recognised that there are wider issues to be resolved when it comes to the question of practitioner interest and involvement in research. In short, how do you motivate practitioners to engage in activities which many do not see as being obviously relevant to either their roles or their professional development?

The role of employers

“Most research on LIS matters is not difficult to locate. What’s missing is a culture of exploiting research to develop and improve services.”  Experienced consultant

Academic and healthcare librarians feel rewarded for engaging with research

“Engagement with research (participating in projects or using results) is rewarded in the formal career review process at my workplace”

The RiLIES1 project found that practitioners, particularly in the public library sector, reported that engagement with research is simply not rewarded at work (see chart, right). Research is often seen as a distraction from the day-to-day pressures of an environment beset by cost-cutting.

A possible implication of this is that practitioners who do not have time to consult research miss opportunities for significant efficiency savings or service enhancements through exploitation of research results. When this is associated with workplace blocking of important social media routes for keeping in touch with other practitioners, many feel excluded from the wider professional community.

This question is part of a wider debate, and it is clear that for these issues to be addressed there would need to be joint action by the professional bodies and employers.

The role of CILIP and CPD

Unlike the case in many other professions, there has historically been no compulsion for practitioners in library and information services to engage in continuing professional development (CPD), whether or not it includes content related to research engagement. The RiLIES1 report included in its recommendations that CILIP should require on-going CPD to encourage practitioners to engage with research. We are happy to note that there have been recent developments in this area.

The RiLIES1 report also recommended that the LIS research community should:

  • explore ways in which practitioners in sectors that are more receptive to research may share good practice with others;
  • provide training to support practitioners’ interest in research.

Our second project – RiLIES2 – can be seen a step towards meeting these needs.

Conclusion

To date the motivation for LIS practitioners to stay up to date with developments in their field has depended on individual interest rather than a requirement imposed by a professional body or employer. Taking into account that practitioners work within a time-pressured environment where research may appear to be at best a low-priority activity, motivation to follow-up training opportunities related to research engagement is likely to be low.

Any response to this is likely to require a mixture of organisational and personal approaches. For example, those running research projects have a role to play in providing accessible opportunities for face-to-face interaction at all stages in the research life cycle, for example, by creating accessible events based around the research project. Equally employing organisations should sponsor access to conferences.

This requires a joint approach where practitioners (supported by their professional bodies and employers in engagement with research) and research projects (that produce results than are seen to be relevant and useful for practitioners and the organisations that employ them) intersect. The responsibility does not lie with a single set of actors. When all the factors are in alignment, impact is maximised.

To read further details of the study please see the full RiLIES1 report, freely available to download.

CILIP’s Library and Information Research Group is running a free half day event on LIS research resources at CILIP, Ridgmount Street, London on the morning of Tuesday 10th July (the day after the DREaM conference at the British Library on Monday 9th July). The findings of both RiLIES projects will be covered at this event by members of the RiLIES project team. For full details please see the programme and booking information for the Research into practice: LIS research resources briefing.

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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.

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

Online 2010: “the one when it snowed”

Snow!

By the end of the annual Online conference and exhibition each year a couple of themes emerge as dominant. Last year, for example, in the LIS Research Coalition’s review of the Online 2009, we reported that social media and the semantic web had been the key areas of interest. At Online 2010 conversations centered on a range of themes including linked data, the social web, the value and impact of information professionals, and mobile and cloud computing. However, at the forefront of many minds was the UK weather as it deteriorated over the course of the week. In the future we may well be remembering this event as “the one when it snowed”.

Online 2010 exhibition hall at London Olympia

Online 2010 exhibition hall at London Olympia

For visitors to Online from both the UK and beyond snow caused much disruption. There were few people at Olympia whose travel plans were not subject to delay or change for their outward and/or return journeys, and many who had hoped to attend Online 2010 simply did not make it to London at all. As a consequence there were some substitutions on the programme, both in terms of presenters and session chairs. Hazel Hall, for example, expected to deliver her own paper on news from the LIS Research Coalition and chair two others: (1) Winning hearts and minds! Breaking through social media barriers with presentations by Phil Bradley (now on Slideshare), Ulla de Stricker and Bonnie Cheuk; (2) Adding value to library and information services using social media with presentations by Kim Holmberg, Mervi Ahola and Janika Asplund, and Hervé Basset.
Presenters Angela Ashenden, Helen Clegg and Gordon Vala-Webb

Presenters Angela Ashenden, Helen Clegg and Gordon Vala-Webb

In the event, she chaired an additional session – Social media in action: driving forward IM and KM with presentations by Gordon Vala Webb (now on Slideshare), Helen Clegg and Hugo Evans, and Angela Ashenden – and was on standby for other duties should they have arisen. This session has been reviewed by VIP in a posting entitled “Infopros and social media 1: culture or toolkit?“.

Twitter

Those who follow @LISResearch on Twitter will have watched our tweeting from sessions where Hazel was a member of the audience. If you would like to see the full archive of conference tweets, it is available from the Online10 Twapperkeeper set up by Karen Blakeman.

A session tweet on the tweet wall

A session tweet on the tweet wall

From here you can get a flavour of the event, as well as links through to speakers’ slides and some blogged reviews of individual sessions and the conference as a whole. At the event itself there were a number of screens around the conference that displayed the Twitter activity in real time. Tweets referred to the sessions, exhibitors and – inevitably – the snow. As well as hosting the screens, UltraKnowledge kept a record who was most active on Twitter. @LISResearch topped the chart.

Paper highlights

Of the sessions that Hazel attended she particularly enjoyed the discussion of “Web squared” as the successor to Web 2.0, illustrated neatly by Dion Hinchcliffe in the opening keynote paper. Here Dion used a table to compare Web squared’s characteristics with those of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.

Conference chair Stephen Dale and keynote speaker Dion Hinchcliffe

Conference chair Stephen Dale and keynote speaker Dion Hinchcliffe

Bonnie Cheuk’s efforts with social media to protect staff from information overload generated by the “e-mail high five” were entertaining and illustrated the challenges of culture change when implementing social media in the work place. There were three strong presentations from Euan Semple, Lee Bryant and Brian Kelly in the Social media and leadership session on the Tuesday morning, with Euan’s focus on how to move people away from po-faced attitudes to social media, and Lee’s discussion of how information professionals should have a stronger involvement in an area where corporate communications staff often have a hold. Librarians working in higher education are advised to review the video of Brian Kelly’s presentation on the value of cloud services, accessible from his UK Web Focus site. The conference sessions also gave access to many case studies from which librarians and information scientists could learn about good (and sometimes less than optimal) practice in information services delivery.

Ake Nygren spoke about social media and public libraries

Ake Nygren spoke about social media and public libraries

Some of the free sessions were of particular interest, not least because the presentations drew heavily on research evidence. For example, the content of Wednesday afternoon’s Social media spotlight papers by Jakob Harnesk, Hervé Basset, Stephane Goldstein, Geoff Walton, Ake Nygren, and Tomas Baiget derived largely from the results of research projects.

The two papers that followed in the gallery area of the exhibition hall by Annie Mauger of CILIP and Anne Caputo of SLA were also based on the output of research projects. We were particularly pleased when Annie restated in her presentation CILIP’s recognition of the importance of evidence-based research to library and information science.

Congratulations

Hazel was pleased to join in celebrations of success at Online 2010. On the Tuesday afternoon, and just before he was due to take the stage, it was announced that Phil Bradley had been elected Vice President of CILIP for 2011.

Phil Bradley (photo credit Dave Pattern)

Since Hazel was chairing the session in which Phil spoke, she had the honour and pleasure of making the first face-to-face public announcement of Phil’s success.

Later in the afternoon she attended the presentation of the award of Information World Review Information Professional of the Year 2010. Unfortunately the recipient Dave Pattern had been unable to make the journey to London due to the snow, so Karen Blakeman accepted the award on his behalf. For further information on Dave’s well-deserved success, please see the blog post by Brian Kelly. On the Thursday lunchtime we were also pleased to see Stephanie Kenna receive her honorary fellowship of CILIP.

Other reviews

This review of Online 2010 can only reflect the perspective of one participant and, as such, it is limited. For a fuller picture it is worth checking the reviews of others who have reported in detail on individual sessions, as well as the conference as a whole. The blogs postings from the Conference Circuit by Donald T Hawkins provide a good overview starting with Welcome to Live from London – Online Information 2010, as do the posts by Val Skelton and Kat Allen at InfoToday.eu. Val’s summary of What we learnt at Online Information 2010 is particularly interesting. Individuals who have blogged their own experiences of the conference include Mareike Guy and Onlineability. Nancy Davis Kho’s review for VIP focuses on the exhibition, and FreePint’s photos from Online are worth browsing. There are also links to blog postings and photographs from the conference and exhibition on the SLA Europe web site. We look forward to seeing further reviews of the conference in the print media in early 2011.

The Professional Librarian and the evidence base

library shelvesMany readers of the LIS Research Coalition blog will have seen (or at least seen reference to) the recent KPMG report. This has generated some controversy within the libraries sector, and beyond. The report criticises the current model for spending on public services and advocates a “Payment for Success” system, which – it claims – will increase productivity and reduce costs across the whole public sector by changing the way services are funded to focus on the delivery of results.

The report singles out libraries as an area of public service facing funding challenges, with library usage declining and the cost per unit for lending a book becoming more expensive than the wholesale price of buying the book. The authors suggest that an appropriate solution would be to follow a North American model, whereby libraries are staffed by community volunteers. The report claims that such a move could save large amounts of money on “over-skilled paid staff”.

Needless to say there has already been a significant reaction to this section of the report. Former poet laureate and current chair of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, Sir Andrew Motion, calls the plans “foolhardy, outlandish and potentially catastrophic” in a response for the Guardian. He goes on to stress that: “Good libraries, like good anythings, need expert people working within them. Maybe there is a role for some aspect of volunteering but all the central stuff must be done by people who are qualified to do it…”

CILIP has also been quick to outline the benefits of public libraries managed by professional staff at their web site and has launched a campaign asking for clear, compelling “one-minute messages” to promote the library and information community’s activities. School librarian Nicola McNee has responded to this call using Twitter and the #CILIP1 hashtag to challenge others to outline what they do and why we need skilled professionals working in our libraries. The response to her call has been analysed by Brian Kelly on the UKOLN Cultural Heritage blog.

Radio 4’s The World This Weekend probed the issue in detail and usefully highlighted the importance of looking at the end result intended by having a library in the community, with libraries described as being the “National Health Service of the mind”. You can hear the debate here.

Whilst the report forms part of the run up to a public consultation it seems to have support from the new government. Once again we are reminded that it is only with a robust evidence base that claims such as those made by KPMG might be refuted. The LIS Research Coalition was established last year to facilitate and strategic and coordinated approach to LIS research. One obvious way of developing the evidence base is for LIS stakeholders from across all sectors – and particularly those involved in practitioner research – is to work with the LIS Research Coalition. At the end of this month there is a great opportunity for us to gather together to achieve this at the forthcoming LIS Research Coalition conference on Monday 28th June at the British Library Conference Centre. Here we will be able to discuss the issues in more detail and set the future agenda for adding to – and exploiting – an evidence base the demonstrates the value and impact of LIS. The deadline for signing up to attend the conference is Friday 18th June, so you will need to be quick to secure one of the remaining places.

Guest blog entry: the Modernisation Review of Public Libraries and Research by Guy Daines

Guy Daines, Director, Policy & Advocacy at CILIP (one of the LIS Research Coalition members) has contributed this blog entry on the Modernisation Review of Public libraries. Over to Guy…

Most of you will be aware that DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport) published their Modernisation Review of Public libraries on 22 March. I expect fewer will be aware that there are fifty-four proposals in the report, including a number bearing on research. It was heartening to read an acknowledgement of the need for proper data for management purposes as well as the need for broader evidence of impact for advocacy purposes. “If we are to convince local and national leaders and partner organisations of the value of public libraries” the report notes, “we must produce evidence which connects library use to local and national priorities”.

There are eight proposals relating to research (recommendations 46-54). They include extending the DCMS “Taking Part Survey” to include a wider range of questions on public library use and correlating data from that survey and the CIPFA public library statistics with the Local Government Place Survey (that forms part of the Audit Commission’s comprehensive area assessments) – can any relationship between public library use and the satisfaction of local residents be shown? But even better, it is proposed that a consortium of interested parties is brought together to develop a cross-sectoral approach to research on the impact of public libraries. Another proposal recommends using the Understanding Society Panel study – which explores the socio-economic circumstances and attitudes of 100,000 individuals in 40,000 British households – alongside a longitudinal study of respondents from the Taking Part survey to gain a better understanding of the long-term impact of public libraries. Perhaps at last there is a serious commitment to developing the evidence base needed for public libraries.

All good stuff no doubt. But what if a Labour Government is not re-elected? We can only hope that the seeds of understanding have been sown within the DCMS secretariat and that they will be able to convince a future Minister of the importance of research. Comfort perhaps might be taken from the fact that it is not an area of party political contention.

You can find the DCMS report at: http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/consultations/6752.aspx