Data and research … in librarianship

15 Jun

Many of us in #blogeverydayinjune have been expressing surprise at how interactive this process has become. Apart from the memes : -) there have been controversial topics for discussion (thankyou Sophie), sharing on common themes and genuine learning from other people’s experiences.

I’m also trying to comment on other people’s blogs, and today I received a really useful response to a short comment I had left on Joeyanne’s blog. Just a casual comment on how I am realising I have to do more research to make decisions in my current position based on data, rather than in response to a a fad or a gut instinct. Anyway Hazel replied to my comment with a link to a recently published paper and a draft of an upcoming paper. So handy. As someone who recently blogged asking for reading tips, this is definitely spoonfeeding me into reading more on librarianship  : – )

Up till now I have really been in service desk roles, both as a staff member and then as a supervisor, and manager. This allows someone like me, an extravert with a more instinctive than logical way of thinking, carte blanche to base a lot of my working style on crisis management – as in action and reaction. Hazel’s paper discusses such reactions – “There are, of course, reasons why practitioners are often obliged to make decisions without referring to the extant literature of the domain, a process that has been labelled ‘evaluation bypass’” (p.84), and highlights that service delivery suffers. The only reason I didn’t reinvent the wheel more often during my earlier time as a supervisor was because I had a vocal group of staff and great connections in other libraries who would gently alert me if I discussed a project I thought was more “new” than it was.

Moving up to the next level of management I received a supervisor who believed in documentation, data and planning. As with many great supervisors I am only appreciating him now that I don’t have him anymore! He carefully taught me that you can balance your instincts with data, and that planning doesn’t need to go on endlessly; a factor I used to state loudly led to planning killing creativity or individual ‘off the wall’ ideas. He, and some other colleagues, also reassured me that strategic planning is not something I was too stupid to grasp; something I was obsessed with when faced with project management templates and documentation.

I still haven’t written an article, or presented a talk at a conference. Basically anything I am doing at the time that might be a good topic I don’t see that I can present when it’s half finished – then when it’s implemented my attention span is gone and I am moving onto the next thing. Writing a paper on something that’s over! What effort. Perhaps next year I will stop being so lazy. Especially as it may be the only way I can get to conferences soon : – )

However I am less in awe of project documentation, and I enjoy searching out papers, websites, stories on how other people have faced the same challenges, or similar situations with a different perspective. So research is infiltrating my decision making a lot more.

Hall notes “A more positive observation is that some practitioners who claim not to be research active actually are. It is conceivable that they do not recognize as research their involvement in short-term projects that require the gathering and collating of data (for example by gathering responses to a question sent out to a listserv), and reporting findings. The issues here, then, are less to do with how to embark on research, and more concerned with the dissemination of findings.”(p85)

One of my colleagues is currently undertaking a trial of some new library search cloud based discovery systems. This involves her running focus groups with students and staff on what they look for in a discovery service, identifying preferred web interface design and search functionalities. She is running usability evaluations in a lab in conjunction with a colleague from Swinburne Uni.

Previously I wouldn’t have recognised what she was doing as research, until she presented a paper at a conference. Until then it would have been a project, in response to a particular need or planning goal. Now I get to hear something each week from her, that opens up our user group to study a little further. It’s fascinating. It also means we have measurable goalposts to aim the funding ball at (sorry too much soccer this week).

So I’m enjoying my observational role in librarianship research, and can consider a time in the future where I might even participate!

are from Hazel Hall, 2010, ‘Promoting the priorities of practitioner research engagement’, Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 42(2) pp83-88,
The first quote on p42 includes ideas from A. Booth, 2006, ‘Clear and Present Questions: Formulating Questions for Evidence-based Practice’, Library Hi Tech 24(3): 355–68.


6 Responses to “Data and research … in librarianship”

  1. MissSophieMac June 15, 2010 at 9:23 am #

    Great post! I think if you submit an abstract based on something you’ve just started thinking about then by the time you have to write the paper it’ll be time to do your ‘research’ and start implementing. Good timing hey? Then you don’t have to worry about writing about something that happened in the past – cause it’s something you’re in the process of doing or even yet to do! All in the timing…

  2. Ruth Baxter June 15, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    Thanks for the motivation. Will try and see upcoming projects as papers in progress.

  3. CW June 15, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    The one thing I’ve learned and try to practice is, don’t do it alone. Apart from a momentary year of madness when I wrote not one but two papers for one conference by myself, I have always collaborated with others on every other paper since. Makes it easier, and you get to know colleagues a bit better (especially if they are from another library or organisation).

    Just sayin’!

    • Ruth Baxter June 16, 2010 at 8:45 am #

      Hmm. So I could improve my sharing side at the same time. OK. Taking all this in.


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