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Lisa Horowitz's picture

Evidence-Based Practices DG -- Notes from MW 2013

ALA MW ULS Evidenced-Based Practices Discussion Groups

(50-60 attendees)

Lisa Horowitz and Jason Martin, the conveners, introduced the differences between evidence-based practices and library assessment, using the annotated bibliography constructed by the DG convenors group (http://connect.ala.org/node/194052). Evidence-based practices incorporates library assessment, but also includes researching best practices in the library research literature. Lisa and Jason described some of the articles, mentioning SPICE, which focuses the questions to ask about the research: Setting (context for the question), Perspective (who are the users/potential users), Intervention (what is being done), Comparison (what are the alternatives), and Evaluation (how success of the intervention is measured); and the five steps of the EBLIP process: "Five A Model": Ask, Acquire, Appraise, Apply, and Assess.

EBLIP (Evidence Based Library and Information Practice) is an open source journal out of Canada that may be of interest: http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/EBLIP.

Some of the ideas raised about evidence-based practices in librarianship:

  • leadership-based challenges -- how to get library to buy into evidence-based practice, how to move these practices into the way that the library is actually managed.
  • One article mentioned that our anecdotal methods and “we’ve always done it that way” is similar to the idea of not eating before surgery. Actually, the original reason is to prevent patients from throwing up on the doctors’ shoes. It does not have a research basis, according to that article. We should also keep that in mind as we evaluate our practices.
  • Be reflective, contemplative -- what is it you're doing? why are you doing it? When you look at evidence, be rigorous. How well is the research done?

The group discussed what others have done that might qualify as EBLIP:

  • Northeastern University’s assessment team does reviews of the literature, searching for areas where there is consensus in literature, where they might benefit.
  • Florida State did a literature review on how libraries have impacted honor code and plagiarism.
  • Another institute is redoing circ policy. Looked at the literature about fines on returning books, but found that there is nothing really available about how fines work or don't work.
  • One university was successfully doing a pre- and post- longitudinal study, using their criminology department. Working alongside them with professor. They help collect the data. Working with experts in statistics and research.
  • One problem identified is that as librarians, we don't learn how to do research. Jason commented that being in a doctoral program taught him how to do research. He did a three year group comparison of college student reading habits based on self-identified reading habits. Insight into how first year students approached texts, volume of the reading they were doing. How they could interact with texts they find with research.

Other points:

  • Do we use other fields? Education or psychology. Vocabulary is different.
  • Assessment vs. evidence-based practice – We don’t always go into the literature first, and the literature isn’t always good research practice.
  • In EB healthcare practice, they have meta-analyses. Do we have this? In EBLIP - they have done some evidence-based research reviews. They look at rigor, outcomes, methodology.
  • One person presented research and was criticized deeply for methodologial issues. Started her learning. Some best practices for presentations: Be sure to acknowledge weaknesses of the methodology.
  • We need to learn good methods for reading research articles - important to understand what it means for things to be statistically significant. How to make qualitative research, to communicate it so that it's received appropriately. Qualitative brings meaning to the kinds of work that we do.
  • Mixed methods approach is highly praised. There is an attitude that rigorous research is not available in library research. Are new librarians trained to do this kind of research? A few possible authors to pursue for mixed methods:
    • MAry Smith,
    • Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1981). Effective evaluation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    • Lincoln, Y. S. & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic Inquiry. Beverly Hills: SAGE.
    • A good journal for research-level work, aside from EBLIP, is portal -- a peer-reviewed, quarterly. They may offer a mentoring process for publishing.

Librarians aren’t writing. We really need more written work. Every other profession writes and finds time to publish. Merit process - credit only given the year something is published. People encouraged to do quick things and they must have publications/presentations, not enough time to do a research article every year. Value of just publications, not necessarily high quality publications.

  • Do librarians feel supported to write? Do people feel supported to write?
  • Literature review -- just write up literature for EBLIP - it will go through peer review and will add to the literature. Can be thorough, even though it's only the lit review. Can be valuable to practitioners.
  • To write, librarians take vacation, take time off without pay. Different from academics who have summer. Even with support, it's still a problem for librarians to write. Also speaks to our passions - people who are passionate find the time. People who are doing it because they need to for tenure or promotion or simply to share can more easily put it aside. Librarians don't go into librarianship to do research usually.

Discussion about how to get more research into the librarianship:

  • Introducing young librarians to small pieces of "action research," poster sessions -- bigger kick on these at ALA and ACRL etc. That gets feedback and gets them to become more rigorous. Then move into articles and bigger projects and grant-writing. We have to teach ourselves and mentor.
  • There is a lot of research happening in medical librarianship.
  • Organizers of posters or papers are people looking for flashy; not interested in having presentations on just evidence that we are looking for. Research on certain topics is much more desirable. More practical based journals? Maybe there are journals who might be more practical.

Some obstacles:

  • We have to find the evidence. IT may not always be in our field. Not just in library literature.
  • Run into IRB question by library adminstrators, or limits to campus-wide surveys. Survey fatigue. Too many surveys at a time. Problem with bad surveys as well. Keeping the sample size small may be a way around this, if statistical sample. Sometimes a small sample is fine. But sometimes faculty say, well you missed me. IRB may not approve too small a sample.

For future discussion group topic, bring in faculty to talk about their teaching and their writing to contribute to the literature. Ideas for possible panelists/speakers:

  • U of TX of Austin, Randolph Bias
  • Include new librarians who are trying to engage in research
  • LRRT - do they give guidance, where do people go for research advice?
  • Megan Oakleaf
  • Penny Beile from University of Central Florida
  • Karen Fisher from UW in Seattle
  • Carol Palmer, head of Center for Information Research (?). They do contract survey research at U Ill in Urbana - may be able to recommend someone.
  • Dominican University may also be another contact.
  • Jeff Pomeranz at UNC Chapel Hill