Saturday, December 20, 2008

Teaching EBL, part 2

I begin where I left off, and will hopefully move forward. I ended my last posting by asking whether we even understand librarians' information behavior, and that this question has led me to a reworking of the syllabus and my own dissertation research question.

In syllabus creation I find it best to recursively echo objectives, in a progressive, perhaps kaleidoscopic way: how does this look from here? - does this aspect of the model appear to jibe with this new perspective? If a key part of the course objective is "to reflect on the experience and model for EBLIP as a way to bridge the gap between research and practice," assignments and discussions must continually encourage reflection, rather than compliance with the model for practice.

I am thinking this through as I write. With so little known about our practices, does in-class reflection truly serve the purpose of evaluating the model? Or rather, doesn't it ask for individual (or at best, small group) reactions - rather than a more structured approach that also incorporates what is known about the larger population? But if the purpose of EBP is to support the practitioner, and if I am trying to teach individual practitioners (as opposed to teaching researchers who wish to advance their research agendas), perhaps it is the individual and their reflective discourse that is key, so that the objective is bridging the research-practice gap as an individual practitioner.

If this is the case, then the intended take-away for the class might be an individualized toolbox, suited to each participant's area of practice, together with an appreciation for the translational issues within and across areas of practice.

Now, back to a consideration of whether the current syllabus moves us toward that goal. You know what I love? - that in teaching about EBL, I cannot myself avoid the model for its practice. It seems to me that the base and framework and process, the research support and evaluation, also need to be constructed using the best evidence, following the very model I am attempting to disseminate.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Teaching EBL

I'm working now on the syllabus for the spring's class, offered through WISE, co-taught with Joanne Gard Marshall. Once again it will be completely revised, and this process is one I find so valuable - as a new university-level instructor, as a new researcher myself, and as a librarian.

The first course was a tutorial, with 6 modules. It was begun as the final project for the EBM course taught by Connie Schardt, further refined during a (wonderful, superb) college teaching course I took, and then trialed with a full-semester, Master's level class where the tutorial provided a framework. In the years between my time at the hospital library and now, I had been able to step away from the practice environment, where my focus was wholly on patrons, and toward a deeper understanding of my own long-simmering questions about the what and wherefore and why of LIS practice itself.

So, I stepped away, and began to think about those questions, simultaneously acquiring the critical mindset of a graduate student. I could make jokes here about book learnin'. I looked back, though, with a critical eye, remembering years of practicing by the seat of my pants.

I had to figure out, for example, how to find AV materials for physician CE on the pre-subject searchable OCLC by instinct and practice, or figure out which bindery (and bindery method - fan binding? new glues?) was best and most economical. No guides, no real mentorship early on (I had a director who was scared of computers, and was using the OCLC M300 with one 5 1/4" floppy drive - if I say PC File, do you shudder?), but at the same time, I had an incredible amount of freedom to err and earn my expertise.

I looked back and was shocked at the sheer amount of time wasted, at the slips I made. There is a better way, I became convinced, to do this. Here, from perspective, I wonder if I could have the same perceptions if I had not had such freedom to err. The mentorship that has benefited me so much from the start might have been more akin to Six Sigma training, all focused on the outcomes analysis, with 10% slashed from the top. Would I have felt the same about my work..? I can't tell, any more than I can tell from the inside out what it's like to come to medical librarianship now.

In a way my journey so far has been akin to the confusion many librarians had (myself included) when EBL began to emerge. We felt that EBL must be a way for us to find better information for our patrons. We had (have) trouble distinguishing our more management-oriented practices from those we have worked to perfect in serving our various populations. But of course, EBL is more than that. It is an opportunity to consider our own practices and profession, a way to insert confidence in our decision making through a stepwise approach: ask, search, evaluate, integrate, assess, disseminate - a traceable path to action that can support decisions and provide as near a stable base as possible to our knowledge management for the future.

The tutorial I built early on (I do hopefully return to my point!) reflected my own early understanding of EBL and LIS in general. I had begun with a somewhat unidimensional perception: we don't do enough, don't do what we do, well enough, and we'd best get with the program or we risk losing our professional shirts in the eyes of (more professional) colleagues in other fields, such as healthcare. Tsk tsk. After all, there is the example of EBM to follow, right? I had Olli Miettinen's severe philosophical writings to guide my understanding of the need for a more rigorous practice orientation (1).

And so, my tutorial began with a quick overview of EBM, presenting the shocking idea that in the field of medicine, all that came before is questionable, and only what transpires after the judicious application of the model and methods espoused by EBM has validity. I know, I know - I'm being simplistic here. But this was my springboard to the next module, and the ones that followed, leading participants through a mix of hands-on exercises and theoretical considerations to a more holistic comprehension of the model for LIS.

I still like the progression from concept to application I think I built in, but I also think I knew at the time that it was full of holes. One of them was right in the toe of the sock... I mean, at the business end. Right exactly where you are meant to take the step from question building, searching, evaluating... and then a miracle occurs.
As I began to focus more on EBL as my own research topic, I began to wonder if the gap was not only in my own naive approach, but in the model itself, and in the literature around it. Translation to practice is a ragged hole where the wind blows in. It's not news for social work, and is a concern even for EBM, where recent studies have showed that despite Cochrane, filters, integration into education, the practicing physician continues not to have time to search, is not skilled in the practice of searching, and prefers peer consultation (the 'expert' model EBM was intended to improve upon) as a method of decision support. So now, medicine and other disciplines proceed to focusing on translational research, finding ways to assist the practitioner to apply the findings of rigorous research in practice.

Next, I thought about LIS and how our model emulates EBM. Could we also fall in the same hole? Do we even have an understanding of our own decision making practices, or did we skip over that part? And this sequence of thoughts led to my reworking of the class, which was just taught for the second time as an online course. It also led to my reconsideration of my research question, but that's also a question for another day.

Sidebar thought: Could I have followed the EBL model, back when I conducted a study of bindery methods? Anyway - that's a question for a different day, implicating the then-status of LIS indexing availability, etc.

to be continued

(1) Miettinen OS. (2001, Aug 21). The modern scientific physician: 1. Can practice be science? CMAJ, 165(4):441-2. This is just the first part of an excellent series.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Decisions and revisions

Do I dare
disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
- T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of Alfred Prufrock

Thanks to the economy, more than a dozen schools and programs, including two Ivy League schools and a prominent medical center, have instituted hiring freezes.

Cornell won't hire new faculty members from outside the university through March and has halted all new construction for at least 90 days. At Brown, the president announced a freeze for staff and administrative...

Go, A. (2008, Nov. 7). the paper trail: More schools impose hiring freeze. U.S. News & World Report, from


I wonder how many news stories now begin 'In these uncertain times,' or some permutation of that phrase, or how many rest uneasily upon such a base.

This morning I read, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, reference to yet more schools freezing hires (or as one Florida university prefers it, at least a 'heavy frost.' News of a 16% budget cut for Florida is echoed elsewhere, by decisions to do this, or that, to take a coffee spoon's worth from here or there, to melt away through attrition, to halt purchases of materials in the library (and oh, how dolorously familiar it all seems to me after 20 years in libraries, how inextricably downward-spiraling losses must be!)

Reading all this I am driven to look away but cannot. I am haunted by it, by 'what ifs,' thinking about - well, now what do I do? That's the starting point for my thoughts, I admit - me, me, me. And then I think we may all be haunted by ghosts of unemployment lines, of professors selling apples and pencils, times that have shaped the nation and the world.

How has it changed us? If we can point to the Sputnik era as a starting point for upsurges in university hiring, science-focused education from the bottom up, and increases in library budgets - what are we not saying about harder times, and their effects upon these things?

After I get done with these speculations, or set them aside, I think about those subtler things - among them, evidence-based practice. If we know that some of the primary barriers to research in library settings are time and lack of resources, it may follow that in a recession, these commodities will be increasingly more scarce. If there is a heavy frost on hiring at the library (and we all know this math, don't we?) then staff do more with less of both time and resources. It would not be a good time to subscribe to LISA, or to free up just two hours per week for full time staff for research efforts. Add to this that we serve others whose own resources may have shrunk.

There are places my mind does not wish to go with this.

But it seems to me that this is a time when library associations, and the larger university LIS programs, need to lead more strongly. I had heard that once upon a time, MLA offered research mentors (in fact, I know they still do), and that very few people took advantage of this program. This is a time for collaboration, and we are now technologically more capable of boundary-crossings than ever before. In Second Life, more than 1,000 librarians from all types of libraries have been talking - for several years now - about what it means to work in a virtual space. We've been engaged in discovery about one another, and benefiting greatly from that ongoing conversation.

I want to connect the dots here.

We need strong leadership to emerge, and a new focus on collaboration: let's all learn more about how we can help each other through. As we do so, the future will be shaped. We knew it was coming anyway, right? At the same time, there has been much talk about the aging of the profession, and about the need to enlist younger people to carry on as older ones retire. We will welcome them to environments altered by cuts and heavy frosts, and they will arrive with paradigms and perceptions of their own.

Let's talk about how we can offer students new opportunities to practice in settings that range across all types of information environments. Let's invite students to those conversations, so that we begin now to work toward transition in a collaborative mode. Let's attend to new visions, rather than closing out the dark, from fear or our faltering complacency. If EBLIP is about moving from an expert opinion mode toward one that is more transparent, we all (all information environments, all levels) need to be a part of this conversation. Leadership will (or should) belong to those who think about how to build bridges across the boundaries we have created within and between our present-day spaces.

Our universe is (again, again!) disturbed; it is changing with or without our participation. Meanwhile, we have these new voices...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dregs and bits

The other day (more days ago than should have been), I posted about evangelism in EBP:

I don't have an answer to that (usually) unvoiced opinion, either. I think I used to have one, but as I find I tend to do over time (must be that maturity thing), I came to a realization that soapbox-standing is not my metier. There is a certain aspect to EBL that is evangelical, so that a certain proportion of research articles and editorials about EBL are about persuasion ('for years editors of leading LIS journals have deplored the quality of practitioner research...') Shouldn't our discourse be about those questions, about our existing practices, about our perceived needs? Otherwise it's selling - not ice in Alaska - but ice someplace where there is no use for it.

Nothing like quoting myself for that certain something-or-other, is there? But I was talking yesterday with Michelle Samplin-Salgado of, pursuant to our planning for World AIDS Day (see and for more on this, and our NLM-funded project), and we got around to generalized discussion about how one goes about convincing skeptics of the value of new widgets and practices, in this case, convincing academics and federal health agencies of the usefulness of Second Life for consumer health / public health promotion. I realized this morning while drinking my 2nd cup that this is not really so different from the persuasive tug-and-push of EBLIP, after all.

It is true that I never seem to append my comments about the value of EBL with jokes about wearing pink pig slippers while riding a flaming bike through the sky, but in so many other ways, conveying the value of change seems to entail a certain measure of rah-rah, or, relating it to the recent election, hype and promises of benefits that will - yes! - transform the profession and public perception of it, according us all, finally, with the recognition we so desire. For EBLIP, that's (more) unassailable decisions and less uncertain status within the institutional structure; for Second Life (well, maybe for EBL, as well) room to explore new ways of being.

We have the perception of quality deficits by some, while others feel the old widgets continue to work just fine (seat-of-the-pants practitioners, or authority/expertise based, just as with medicine). We have the kaleidoscopic shift of culture, technology, economy, need, each with its own urgency toward change or stasis; in libraries, these pressures can be threatening to the viability of budgets. Detractors kick back at change for many reasons, and this may be one of them: the rational, self-preserving voice of experience from a library director who knows that no matter what happens in the academy, the hospital administration does not support research, that there is no time or space for risk-taking, that collection decisions are very often more the result of special interest groups (like the neurosurgeons, who insist on those $3,000 subscriptions, or residents' groups, who insist on UpToDate). I'm veering off topic here, but I'm doing it because while writing this, I am thinking it through, and remembering exactly the kind of pressures described, above, in a teaching hospital library in Central Illinois, not all that long ago. I had previously mentioned Pat Thibodeau's half-joke that librarians are anarchists because they focus so intently on serving local populations, and I do think that the pressures described are very real barriers to EBLIP. How, I ponder while drinking all but the dregs of now-cooled coffee, can we help? Is this on the same level as, say, the hushed conversations about pricing deals with publishers?

Monday, November 03, 2008

The United States Election, 2008

Just a brief comment (a radical departure from my endless text!) and then I will settle, and await, like so many millions of others, the outcome of tomorrow's election. If I could write in a method rather than a candidate, I would elect evidence-based decision making. I would nominate it for its stepwise consideration of pertinent elements, and for its transparency:imagine if policy decision making adhered to rules of disclosure!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Evidence summaries and a culture of criticism

As always, Thursday afternoon's EBL class sparked off a number of thoughts and questions, exactly as intended. I cannot ask for a better outcome than to do this. Focus of the class was the journal club discussion/critical evaluation of this article:
McKnight S. & Berrington, M. (2008, March). Improving Customer Satisfaction: Changes as a Result of Customer Value Discovery. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 3(1):33-52.
The process we've been using for this core part of the class is to rotate as facilitators, responsible for assigning the use of a particular critical evaluation tool (these being the same ones provided to the EBLIP journal's Evidence Summary team) then leading analysis of an article that was previously chosen. In this case, it was chosen because Joanne Marshall will be talking about Servqual and Libqual next week. The author of this work, however, chose to use a model for user satisfaction imported from marketing. I also frankly wanted to see how an original research article published in the Evidence-based Library and Information Practice journal might fare.

We kept returning to the culture of LIS, and danced as we've done before around the idea and attitude toward criticism of the literature, sensitive to the difficulties many in LIS have to negativity. Some feel that in order to encourage more robust literature, potential contributors should be approached more gently, more positively. An extension of this is the aversion to cultures in some disciplines where criticism involves spiked fingernails or even poisoned sledgehammers, no-holds-barred nastiness in which one (apparently) must engage in order to be taken seriously as a researcher.

It seems undeniably to be the case though, that in LIS generally (how do you like my 'weaselly' words, spoken as a true grad student!), we are averse to, unused to, and even hypersensitive to criticism. Several times, when I've discussed my EBL interests or focus with well-respected LIS professionals (including those with national and even international reputations), they've responded with what I could only term a sort of culturally-entrenched insecurity. "When you talk about EBL," one said, "I feel that I've been doing it wrong, haven't done enough." These administrators do not refrain from conducting research, but if they feel this way - how do others feel?

As an aside, I regard EBL (or some of its tools, though they aren't affiliated with EBL alone) particularly critical evaluation of the literature, to be a cultural tool. One student said yesterday that she will not read research the same way again, after close and organized readings, and creating an 'evidence summary' paper. Setting aside for a moment the question of whether we do read the literature - isn't this changed view of it something we need to be seeking as a profession? We must (I say, climbing once more onto a wellworn soapbox) engage with our own literature, as a community.

How do critical evaluation tools help us to deal with this sensitivity? Shall we decide that if librarians are touchy, tant pis, and move on anyway, kniving sharply with tools meant for different cultures more accustomed to such stern looks - and potentially, deterring cautious attempts by those who are alienated by such an approach?

To think about, here: is the culture from which EBP arises more patriarchal, positivist, despite recent trends toward the integration and evaluation of qualitative research? How might more feminist models find space in our adaptation of the EBP model? For consideration:

Rogerian argument:
The more traditional & patriarchal model:

Are there studies of the effectiveness of the critical evaluation tools?

In class last Thursday, we used the HCPRDU mixed method tool to evaluate...... and found it utterly cumbersome, with lots of N/A responses to a case study conducted in university libraries. This UK library setting was the setting for a series of workshops, followed by changes in practices, collections, and services. Patrons were surveyed using paired values for both positive and negative aspects of the libraries based on a model intended for use in the marketing sector.

We discuss what questions would be suited for the evaluation of a bibliometric study, a case study. I think about a question set that one might apply to the results of a survey conducted on Medlib-L, or to a 'how I done it' article if, as may frequently be the case, there is a shortage of material.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

If with each step you close half the distance to your goal

- you will never reach it. This simple fact, I always found compelling and a bit discouraging, and as a child I tried to test it by bringing my fingertips closer, closer, closer - and they'd bump. I was incapable of the calibration, and knew it.

In seeking to render research perfectly rigorous, our decisions error- or bias-free, we will never reach that state. How far are we, though? How close might we come, and is the exercise of calibration worth making new tools? In a practice setting, is such an exercise more an expensive waste of time? Don't answer that, or any of these questions.

Or rather, don't answer them generically - do so with each decision, then tell me. I look back, I confess, to 20 years of gut-driven decision making, to marketing in a public library without any knowledge of marketing, surveys conducted with no real idea of what I was doing. In one, a survey about what music patrons might like to see in the circulating collection of a public library, a patron gently pointed out that I'd completely skipped over country music. When I did such things, that I did them at all was viewed as sufficient. No one had time to spend on a more stepwise approach. Everything I learned (or most of it) in library management, supervision, patron services, education - all of it, I learned by trial and error.

I hear older voices, a little amused, whispering: We drank unpasteurized milk/went shoeless/found our own amusements, for years. We drove with not the slightest thought of carseats or seatbelts. This new stuff! and with it, the impression's given that 'new stuff' is unnecessary, extraneous, foolish, even wasteful.

I don't have an answer to that (usually) unvoiced opinion, either. I think I used to have one, but as I find I tend to do over time (must be that maturity thing), I came to a realization that soapbox-standing is not my metier. There is a certain aspect to EBL that is evangelical, so that a proportion of research articles and editorials about EBL are about persuasion ('for years editors of leading LIS journals have deplored the quality of practitioner research...') Shouldn't our discourse be about those questions, about our existing practices, about our perceived needs? Otherwise it's selling - not ice in Alaska - but ice someplace where there is no use for it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why bother?

Why should we bother providing evidence, examining the basis for our ideas - when decisions in the workplace (as elsewhere) are usually made from the gut?

Is evidence-based librarianship, as an initiative, a Sisyphean, pointless labor intended only to amplify the egos of those who champion it (and belittle the voices of the experts against which, it might be claimed, it is arrayed)?

Yesterday my blood pressure was raised, and raised again. No problem - one must get exercise.

Recently, I read the JESSE listserv, and found (yet another) diatribe by an LIS educator against Second Life (SL). Let it be said that I am biased here, because I have been employed there, paid by a grant (the most recent of four) from the National Library of Medicine. The ongoing debate has been between those who claim SL is an important area for exploration, and those who argue it's a waste of time.

This person, who is presumably educating students, displayed a breathtaking arrogance in attacking librarians' activities in SL. First, the valid argument is made that data is lacking. This is fine and warranted (though I must say it would be difficult to provide much demographic data when you cannot even collect IP addresses) but unfortunately, the attack continues.

If this person had left it there, it would have retained a precarious stance as critical inquiry, but unfortunately, this is not what happened. Instead, they continued, writing about how they, in their professional and personal life, are doing real things of 'real' value, and find no need to engage in playacting. The implication is very clearly that those who are active in virtual worlds are not doing such things. Their attack ends by saying they doubt these things could be better done in a virtual world.

The argument described above is not made within the framework of formal rhetoric. It is not presented as the end result of academic inquiry. Instead, it is presented from the stance of expert, essentially an informally published editorial comment shared with peers in JESSE, a forum for educators in information science:

jESSE is a listserv discussion group that, since 1994, promotes discussion of library and information science education issues in a world-wide context. It addresses issues of curricula, administration, research, and education theory and practice as they relate to information science issues in general, and in general academia as the membership feels so moved. It is one of the primary outlets for faculty position announcements in LIS. Specific queries on lost resources and other minutia are welcome, as are broader questions for general discussion (from the listserv description, found here).

It is presented and then signed using the author's full signature block, and is available to any person who cares to view it, including students, press, and others, who take the time to search the archives. At the very least, then, it's the public statement of someone acting in their public, professional persona, issuing an expert opinion about the topic in a forum designated for professional discussion.

I find myself as a doctoral student feeling some pressure to be circumspect in writing about this. It is not my intention to position myself as expert, or to even attempt to stifle free expression. I am frustrated and a little appalled at the level of this discourse.

I draw parallels, perhaps unfair ones, to the level of discourse surrounding the presidential candidates. That was my second blood pressure-riser yesterday. Opinion in this public debate is accorded the status of fact (whatever that is!) - and thus the argument becomes one of innuendo against half-baked assertion. There is no countering such personalized claims, in the case of the current political atmosphere, so that the entire discussion becomes empty sputtering, name calling, baseless animus, replicated caricature.

I am fairly certain this is not the way to move ahead. We can debate about what will benefit our profession, and argue over direction, but placed upon a table for examination, such practices find no credence in the profession.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Questions about questions about questions

If the research we conduct is built on research that is less than solid, are we asking the right questions? For works cited as foundational to our own discovery process, we are intended to realize and utilize salvageable elements, if no better works exist. This is done because of the realizations that a) no perfect work exists; b) the post-positivist realization that truth is relative and conditional; and c) LIS research is incomplete, lacking in coverage and rigor.

It means something rather tiresome, which is that works cited in a piece of research must themselves need to be critically evaluated - a fundamental part of the EBLIP model. But it could really make you tear hair out to then realize: what about the works they cite, and so on? Perhaps it's like retrospective cataloging of a collection, where the decision may be to go forth and sin no more - and in the case of research, to go forth having thoroughly evaluated the sins of past excursions, salvaging bits of wisdom. I have this vision of broken amphorae, patched in with contrasting colors so that we can see what the original was, with full realization of missing parts.

Here our amphorae are surveys done on Medlib-L, or Publib-L, responded to by a self-selected audience and decidedly not bias-free. Or reports of 'how I done it at my library,' program descriptions about a new class, with the self-satisfied conclusion that attendees were pleased. They might be blog postings, conference abstracts or poster session - un-indexed, with little or no consideration of previous research. But they remain, artifacts of experience and reflection.

I have talked with others about their use of resources such as the CSA LISA database in supporting decisions (and please note, here is a nonsupported, observationally-based conclusion): Many have said that they can never find things in LISA, or that what they find is insufficient. Tens of journal editors have bemoaned the lack of rigor and quantity in our research (this is far from unsupported - if you want cites, just ask). In this posting about questioning questions, I end with one: can we afford to walk away from our amphorae?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Teaching EBLIP

This semester (fall 2008), I'm teaching a class with Joanne Marshall on evidence-based library & information practice (hereinafter referred to as the rather ungainly EBLIP). It's our second collaborative effort, and what an adventure! First, though I've taught small groups and one-on-one for years, it's always been as a coaching or one-time session, rather than a full semester experience. I feel a bit as if I'd jumped in the deep end, pedagogically, but then this is precisely the sort of thing I'd like to be teaching. I have loved the seminar-style courses that really engage people in learning and teaching, so that we're exploring topics in a systematic and open way - this is definitely a great way to learn, but it's a challenge to teach. I'm very glad to be working with Joanne on this.

We'd based the first full semester course we'd taught around the Booth and Brice book(1) as our official text, and a modular tutorial I created(2), bringing in speakers from the UNC campus (social work, nursing, public health) to discuss the adaptation of EBP to their profession, and also had the serendipitous occasion to participate during class time with the Canadian Library Association workshop led by Su Cleyle, on EBLIP(3).

The experience was a very good one, and in fact we wrote a chapter on how we conceived and conducted the course for Elizabeth Connor's edited work, Evidence-based librarianship: Case studies and active learning exercises(4). But this summer, thinking hard about what I felt might be the really seminal aspects of the course, I had several realizations. It didn't hurt that I've simultaneously been reading deeply in the literature of EBM, EBL, and all the many publications exploring librarians' publication patterns.

One was that the tutorial places undue emphasis on EBM and its development, and really less on the examination of issues related to the adoption/adaptation of EBP to library settings. I think it may be important to understand the roots of EBP development, but it seems at least as important to place it (EBM, I mean) in context of contributing factors, and to provide contrast with EBP in other fields of study (such as social work, education, nursing, etc.) so that we do not get bogged down in healthcare contexts.

There is so much to say about EBM - practice setting decision making, (questions, diagnosis, etc.); regulatory factors; culture; education, etc.) that one day I'd really like to write the book: Comparative Evidence-based Practice. I had begun something on this at the tail end of the first EBLIP course, because I was so inspired by what I'd learned about the adaptation of EBP by other disciplines. There is much, much more to say on this, and I think it will be instructive for our own profession to think about what's been done in order to see what might be done. In fact, one of the papers to be written this semester (and in the last class) will be one where students take another area of practice and summarize how EBP has been adopted & adapted, considering contextual isssues and finally, whether LIS could benefit from specific tools or practices around that adaptation process.

Second, while we did practice critical evaluation of LIS research, I felt it wasn't, somehow, enough. I wanted the class to be a transformative experience, and envisioned a journal club, with rotating responsibilities for facilitation, where we read and critically evaluate LIS research. Part of the discussion is around the use of critical evaluation tools: Do they work? What sort of evaluative tools do we need to build? We read and had a first try at critical evaluation last week using a bibliometric study(5), finding the process involving, and bringing up a lot of questions about the tools and much more. We'll be doing this throughout the entire semester, and instructors are not exempt :).

Perhaps as a direct consequence of my dissertation work, I have also found my initial understanding of EBLIP to be shallow, with assumptions unexamined (such as the more-or-less automatic acceptance of the evidence pyramid). I find myself not so likely to say to students: Well, here's the topic. Let's practice the skills now. It's not about that - it cannot be, not if we are intending to truly engage in discourse. It's a matter of walking the walk, eh? I am less sure of how to direct this process (tending to want to meander off, seeing all sorts of digressive issues) and am grateful for the presence of a syllabus and the time-boundaries of a weekly class, which we're teaching via Blackboard and teleconferencing.

Booth A & Brice A. (2004). Evidence-based practice for information professionals: a handbook. London, England: Facet Publications.
(2) EBL Course Syllabus, used the first time we taught the course.
(3) Cleyle S. (2005, Sept. 21). Evidence based library and information practice - the Canadian scene. CLA Teleconference Series.
(4) Perryman C & Marshall JG. Designing a curriculum in evidence-based practice for Master’s students in library and information science. In E. Connor (Ed.), Evidence-based librarianship: Case studies and active learning exercises, Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2007.
Antonisse MJ, Burright MA,& Hahn, TB. (2005). Understanding information use in a multidisciplinary field: A local citation analysis of neuroscience research. College & Research Libraries, 66(3):198-210.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

First thoughts

There are so few resources out there for librarians interested in EBL/EBLIP (whatever you'd like to call it)! I don't know if I'll keep this up but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Here's my primary goal, other than finishing my dissertation and returning to gainful employment: enabling an active discourse among multi-type librarians about the profession itself, especially about how we make decisions.

I keep quoting Pat Thibodeau, Duke University Medical Center's Library director, who made a half-joking comment that 'librarians are anarchists.' It is her sense that we focus so much on serving our communities, defining collections, policies, and activities by those whom we serve, that the mere thought of identifying best practices in many areas is anathema. I don't mean to jest about this any more than she did, though. In a profession defined by service, it is most appropriate to shape practice in response to need.

One question that occurs about this, however, is just how we do that (I know, I know - Libqual). That's a terrific advance. But what if, at your library, you recognize a need that is not adequately measured by such tools, or if you are unprepared to go beyond user satisfaction measurements - and then find you need to do so, or risk budgets?

There's another question, too. This one is rather self-evident as well. What do we say we teach patrons in any kind of library where teaching is involved (I mean, the overarching goal of it)? Isn't it information literacy... critical thinking? - (and I see you nodding). Where is our own form of literacy, does that stop at competency?