RiLIES2 project poll: findings

This post is an update on our progress with the RiLIES2 project. We highlight the pressing need for a centrally-funded community-maintained directory of LIS research resources, held in a known location, with (crucially) a long-term commitment to maintenance.

Knowledge is required before action. To this end we carried out a survey in April, the purpose of which was to find out which of the existing resources that support librarians and information scientists when they consume and/or conduct research are (a) well used and/or (b) respected. We also asked respondents where they would go to access advice online on how to set up a new research project of their own.

Summary of responses

We are not claiming that the survey is representative: just 87 people responded, and the majority were librarians working in academia and healthcare. However, the data can be treated as a source of new ideas for evaluation, and can be used to feed into project plans. This blog post summarises some of the more interesting findings from the survey related to practitioners’ knowledge of resources, the creation of legacy resources by the project team, and dissemination options for RiLIES2.

More information about the project will be made available between now and its conclusion at the end of July. In the meantime, please contribute your thoughts, knowledge and ideas. It’s not too late to make an impact on our results!

Practitioners’ knowledge of resources

The first main section of the poll listed 19 electronic resources. These were identified in the first RiLIES project completed last year, and through additional desk research undertaken in early 2012. We asked about respondents’ knowledge and experience of the resources listed.

As has been identified elsewhere, mailing lists (particularly operated by JISC) continue to be the main source of information for many who are interested in LIS research. In addition, several blogs and Twitter feeds were cited by poll respondents. Other popular resources included the Library and Information Research journal (LIR), the resources assembled by the Library and Information Research Group (LIRG), and the Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP) journal. The resources developed over the course of the DREaM project also merited mention.

A common response, even from experienced researchers, shows that completing the survey was a useful exercise in itself, as illustrated in tweets such as this:

“Just completed the @LIS_RiLIES poll & learnt about new resources to support my research in the process”

We discovered that a number of resources have low visibility to the LIS community. For example, few respondents had heard of KnowledgeHub (a relatively new resource) and/or the BAILER resource links (a resource aimed at a specific sector of LIS researchers). There was an indication that other resources – though known – face a challenge in transforming a potential audience into an active user-base. This finding applies to the DREaM project resources, the Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP) journal, and the Library and Information Research journal (LIR).

Another issue is that some of the resources identified have been found to be wanting. A large proportion of respondents reported that they had accessed particular resources, but not found them useful. This applied to two sets of resources which rely on volunteer effort for their maintenance: the web pages of the Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) and BAILER resource links. Long-term commitment to resource curation is a key issue here.

These findings illustrate how often what may understood as lack of access to resources is something different. It is a combination lack of practitioner awareness of existing resources, and a poor match of resources to user expectations, particularly in cases where the resources depend on sustained effort by volunteer committee members to keep them up to date.

Creating legacy resources

The aim of the second group of questions in our poll was to establish priorities for the RiLIES2 project’s suggested outputs. A supplementary aim was to identify any other types of material that could be considered by the project team.

Preferences for legacy resources

As the chart shows, the core proposals for output suggested by the project team generally attracted positive responses. There was little enthusiasm, however, for the production of poster material, although some comments implied that a flyer/leaflet that conveyed the same information may be useful.

Other ideas for RiLIES2 project outputs included:

  • Tip sheets and brief, practical best/good practice guidelines on a broad range of topics: we believe that this will work best so long as content is created in a form that can be kept up to date, long-term commitment by a resource “host” would be required for this.
  • Discussion space for questions and answers related to LIS research: since the LIS community routinely uses mailing-lists to ask questions about research, it would be best to use a JISC LIS-* list for this purpose (at least for the time being, until the conversation moves elsewhere) – a key question is which mailing list should be the focus, or whether a new one should be created.
  • Link lists to resources held outside the UK – obviously their relevance would need to be considered carefully.

A further point made in poll feedback was the need to maintain awareness of the distinct groups in LIS practice and the separate needs of each. For instance, library management is a very different subject area from information retrieval. Similarly, although some information sources are general, different sectors have their own requirements.

Dissemination options

The final group of questions in the poll asked for feedback on means of publicising the RiLIES2 project’s work. Perhaps predictably – given that the majority of respondents were from the academic sector – conventional routes were the most popular. Thus a project report and associated academic papers must remain core to the project’s output. Preference was frequently expressed for papers to be published in open access journals. This may partly reflect a finding from RiLIES1 that many LIS practitioners are not aware that CILIP membership gives access to many journal titles free of charge.

What is to be done?

This survey has generally supported the assumptions that drove us to conduct this follow-up project to RiLIES1. With evidence of a low level of awareness of existing resources that support LIS research, we now intend to focus our efforts in two directions. First, we need to raise awareness of under-used extant materials. Second, we need to set in motion a strategy to address the issue of long-term commitment to resource curation. The Internet is already littered with abandoned or poorly-maintained directories and out-of-date resources. In the current environment the only realistic approach is to coordinate a community response to enhancing existing provision. This requires tools that permit a joint approach to the curation and sharing of resources.

A centrally-funded community-maintained directory of resources in a known location with (crucially) a long-term commitment to maintenance would be the most useful outcome of this project.

(The heading from this last main section of our post comes from a question «Что делать?» Lenin asked this before arguing for the need for a dedicated vanguard to spread his message of revolution. We feel that this same question may also be relevant in our search for improved research-practice linkages. It also ties up nicely with the notion of the DREaM workshop cadre developed in our sister project to RiLIES.)

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank individual practitioners for publicising and taking part in the poll. We are also grateful to Information Today Europe for helping to publicise our study.

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.

RiLIES project final survey now available

We have launched a short online survey as the final part of the LIS Research Coalition’s RiLIES project. Update: this survey closed on 15 July.

Aimed primarily at UK-based Library and Information Science (LIS) practitioners, its purpose to is check our findings to date on the relationship between the output of LIS research projects and its impact on practitioners. (If you live in another country, or are an LIS researcher or student, we would still be interested in your answers, so please feel welcome to participate too.)

You can access the survey by visiting: http://bit.ly/RiLIES2

The survey should take about 15 minutes to complete. Please submit your responses by Friday 15 July. If you can, please pass the word on to your colleagues so that they have an opportunity to make a contribution too. Many thanks!

LIS Research Coalition Review – survey now open

Today sees the launch of the online survey which forms part of the LIS Research Coalition’s review of its impact and value.

The survey has been designed to help assess the Coalition’s work and achievements to date, as well as gather comments on the Coalition’s plans for the next 12 months. We are pleased to invite you to participate in the review by completing the survey: it takes under 15 minutes to complete. The survey will remain open until 17.00 on Friday April 8th 2011.

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