EBLIP10 report: University of Strathclyde, 17th – 19th June, 2019

HLG Nursing Bulletin Vol. 38 (3/4)

Gillian Siddall
Academic Librarian (Faculty of Health and Society)
University of Northampton

This was my first time attending the EBLIP (Evidence Based Library and Information Practice) Conference. I have to admit I’ve always been intimidated by the name as I’ve always felt that my work was far from evidence based. I do my best to explore and understand user perceptions, I certainly reflect on how my work is going – but I couldn’t stand up and say everything I do has evidence to back it up. This conference, which travels the globe and takes place every two years, was a great opportunity for me to learn more. Thankfully all my reservations were unfounded and I found the conference a really great opportunity to learn from experts and meet colleagues and be reassured that I am not alone. Even more importantly, that there are people interested and willing to answer my questions!

I thought this would be a good opportunity to share my experiences of this conference and give you the highlights which might tempt you to go next time. This was an interesting conference looking at how evidence is explored and applied in institutions across the globe. I’ve highlighted the main messages from the keynotes at the conference and a few messages that I think can be useful for those of us working in health-related libraries. A key message that appeared multiple times throughout the conference was that managers may ask for statistics, but there’s no reason why you can’t give statistics AND a story.

Headlines from the keynotes:

  • Dr John Scally:   
    • In his work raising money for libraries explained that stories beat statistics every single time.
  • David Stewart:    
    • Said that one of the biggest frustrations of the LIS sector is that someone may have done the research in 1974, but no one ever looks back that far, so they repeat it again. We shouldn’t ignore existing evidence, just because it’s over ten years old.
  • Dr Frankie Wilson
    • Explained that you can’t always be evidence based, certainly from a strategic or management point of view, sometimes you must do something the evidence says you shouldn’t, whether for financial or institutional reasons. We shouldn’t berate ourselves for it, we should aim to be evidence-informed instead.
  • Donna Scheeder:
    • Made a very interesting point in her talk reflecting on her time at IFLA and working with the UN. As library and information professionals, we need to keep changing or live with the changes made by somebody else!

Although there were a range of interesting talks and posters I wanted to highlight the ideas and messages that struck a cord with me. I know we are all busy people so I thought I would keep it short and to the point.

Beware the paralysis of perfection: Research is often stopped before it gets started because we want it to be perfect. Dr Frankie Wilson encouraged us to work towards reliable and useful evidence, rather than perfect research data and outcomes.

Use their language: Loyola Marymount University in California did research into LibGuides. They amended their database description to reflect the keywords students look for e.g. scholarly, full text and supplier e.g. EBSCOHOST. There is no point using library language or promotional text from publishers, if it doesn’t speak to what our users want. We should translate our language into theirs. An example is available by this link: http://bit.ly/dblibguide, which includes the complete Qualtrics form. One warning is that you need to have standardisation when there are hundreds of databases.

Communicating Cancellations: This presentation on research about communicating cancellations from Canadian libraries was very interesting. They researched 29 CARL librarians/collection managers (Canadian association of research libraries), looking at how the libraries communicated resource cancellations to their institutions. The research emphasised the need to link into the university management team and highlight the stewardship and expertise of the library in managing collections. It must be transparent and Librarians need to be armed with relevant statistics that they can share on demand. Front facing library staff need to be fully briefed and ready to direct queries to relevant person. Everyone needs to be speaking with one voice.

Cancellations are often seen as a library problem, rather than a university or institutional problem. Their advice is to:

  • Start early and keep communicating. 
  • Use different channels and tailor your message to different audiences e.g. Student or staff, humanities or stem subjects.
  • Be transparent and track/log your communications, so if someone says they haven’t been informed, you can track back, point to the log of communication. Be trustworthy.
  • Make sure front-line staff can reassure and redirect queries.
  • Be as clear and concise as you can. Have a sound bite and remain calm.
  • Keep your chin up.
  • Keep communicating.
  • BE SIMPLE, CLEAR AND CONCISE in your message.

Avoid Library bias, take it out of the research:

An interesting idea that came from Christine Wolff-Eisenberg at ITHAKA-S.R. They removed the Library from the research to avoid bias towards / against the library (telling us what they think we want to hear). A research project looking at student support, invited and conducted research with students outside of the Library to see what they believed were the most important aspects of support. They conducted the research outside of the library context, invitations came centrally and interviews were conducted in non-Library buildings. This meant they could explore everything, without prejudice and hopefully gave them a much more balanced view of their users and non-users.

Project Management:

David Morgan from Royal Holloway looked at project management for collections. A key lesson I took from his talk was the importance of good estimation for project management and how all estimation requires some data or evidence from previous projects. It’s useful to write project reports so you have something to build on. A decent project report would include: aims, achievement, progress, accurate time scales (how long it took), cost and resources, a narrative about what went right and wrong. This could be a great knowledge resource for a department to build on.

I hope this short overview was an interesting read and perhaps encourages you to explore EBLIP in the future. It was great to see so many health librarians and experts at the conference. There really was something for everyone, whether you are from an academic or health library.

Useful resources:

EBLIP 10 conference website: https://www.eblip10.org/Home/tabid/7677/Default.aspx EBLIP journal: https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/eblip/index.php/EBLIP

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