The latest issue of the Evidence Based Library and Information Practice journal has come through my virtual mail slot.
I admire the work being done to by those trying to bring the evidence-based approach (more traditionally found in other academic and research fields) to the world of librarianship.
It is my assumption (without substantial evidence to back-it up, oh the irony!) that the lack of competition libraries have had for centuries to their role as society’s preeminent source/repositories of information has led to a tendency to allow the “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” sentiment to permeate their culture.
And when change was considered, I assume most of the decisions were based on staff anecdotes, user surverys, changes made at other libraries etc. A researcher from a field that has traditionally relied on proper evidence-based research techniques (e.g. pharmaceuticals) would consider that approach sub-standard since the conclusions they draw from their research can involve the differences between life and death.
With so many sources of information opening up, libraries can’t afford to be complacent about doing things the same way they always have and if changes (both big and small) are to be made, it is crucial that these choices be based on solid, well researched evidence.
One of my areas of interest is whether screencasts (or other interactive or non-interactive) tutorials can be effective information literacy tools, and if they can, what attributes make them successful. This review from the latest issue of EBLIP calls into question some of the evidence used to reach positive conclusions about a tutorial that aimed to teach skills for searching OVID. This type of critical review within the information professional field, in terms of the research methodologies being used, will help the profession make sound decisions in the future.
While articles like this one from Educause attempt to counter the suggestion that academic libraries are in danger, this blogger sounds the warning that we can’t rely on the idea that we have a captive audience that will ensure we will survive in the form we always have. This essay from the ACRL about the changing roles of academic and research libraries states:
What is at stake is the definition of the indispensable library—indispensable to faculty and students in the first instance, and to the knowledge and information industry in the second. In redefining and reasserting their value, libraries will have to embrace much more aggressively the fact that they are one of many contenders for their institution’s financial support. Libraries have been comparatively slow to realize and accept the need to function in an environment of direct competition for resources, either from within or outside their institutions. As one participant in our roundtable observed, “Don’t assume that people care about libraries. People care about streamlining the processes that support research and learning.” Libraries must be active contestants in the race for financial support or fall increasingly to the periphery of their institution’s strategic vision.
If we are to compete for resources, quality research and evidence is vital in order to make our case.