Talking to Business Librarians at the BLA Conference

We have been out and about disseminating the early findings of the LIDP project over the last few weeks. We have been delighted with the feedback we have received from conference delegates and a lot of the comments about possible future directions for research from the CILIPs, SCONUL and LIIBER conferences have given us food for thought. Many of these comments will appear in the final project blog post before the end of July. However, we had the opportunity at the Business Librarians Association Conference at Sheffield (http://www.bbslg.org/2011Conference.aspx) of testing some of these thoughts. After our presentation (http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/10949/) we divided delegates up into a number of groups to discuss a variety of scenarios.

Scenario 1
If we assume a link between library usage and attainment, what does good practice look like? What are the students who gain a first doing differently to their colleagues who get lower grades? Do high achievers choose ‘better’ resources, or are they ‘better’ at choosing resources?
Two groups reported back on this scenario with the following recommendations:

  • Talk to high achievers to find out what they are doing, e.g.
    • Working
    • Using data effectively
    • Using the right resources
  • Establish what good practice is, e.g. finding, using interpreting
  • Consider the requirements of the subject, for example mathematics courses often require much less resource use than other subjects such as history
  • Qualitative statistics need to be considered in addition to quantitative statistics
    Consider the impact of information literacy and support services
  • Find out the student’s own personal goals, e.g. why are they attending the course – as a work requirement etc.
  • Look at which resources are being used, such as extended reading, not just how much
  • Teach the students evaluation skills to help them find appropriate resources, not just ‘better’

Scenario 2
If students are not using the library or the resources, what can we do to change their behaviour? Is non-use a resourcing issue or an academic/information skills issues? How could gender, culture and socio-economic background affect library usage and how could this be addressed? Are there scenarios where we should NOT try to increase library use?

Groups considered a number of factors that could be used to change behaviour:

  • Incentives
    • Attached to an assignment
    • Work with and win over the academics
    • Encourage student champions
    • Make sure the resources are embedded and relevant to the subject

Regarding non-use, the groups thought that both issues were relevant. The skills issues required further training and the resources needed simplifying.
Gender, culture and socio-economic background were themes brought out at both the SCONUL and LIBER conferences. One group looked at international students where it was considered that they were too dependent on Google – does this means our resources are too difficult to understand? It was also considered that there is a focus on generalisations, e.g. international students, rather than looking at individuals. Another group considered that it was a cultural issue and that students were guided to the ‘right answer’ via reading lists, rather than reading around the subject.
Finally discussion turned to work-life balance and whether students should be logging in at 2am, and whether our culture of 24×7 access was a healthy one.

Scenario 3
Can we actually demonstrate that the library adds value? E.g. if a student enters university with average UUCAS points and attains a first class degree having used library resources to a high level, does this prove the library has added value to the student achievement? Have we done anything? Do they need us?

The short answer to this scenario was yes!
We receive feedback, both internal and external and have provided learning spaces and essential resources at the very least. We can also show that we have promoted our services and embedded information literacy skills into the curriculum by working successfully with academic staff. It was thought that we add to the employability of students by teaching them research skills and giving certification, e.g. Bloomberg etc.

Scenario 4
If the hypothesis is proved to be correct, does cutting library budgets mean that attainment will fall? Is this something that can be used at director level to protect resource budgets/subject librarians? Should we be concerned about implications for publishers if the hypothesis is proven?

The group that looked at this scenario considered that further use of statistics were required to find out what students were reading. This would allow stock to be rationalised and the reduced budget could be used to better target appropriate resources.

In addition it was suggested that other services such as, inductions and information literacy training by audited and evaluated in order to provide more effective targeting.

It was also felt that there was an absolute minimum spend for resources, once this level was passed impact would be huge with insufficient resources to support courses.

The group felt that this could be used at Director level and that evidence would be required to support this.
Big deals came up in the final point from this scenario. Discussion centered on a standoff between the need for better products verses ongoing financial commitments

Many thanks to all the delegates for allowing us to blog about their comments and to the BLA for letting us loose at their conference. We’ll be adding some of these comments to our final blog post.

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