Making a gateway of knowledge for knowledge sorters

It is a recursive idea that people who sort knowledge and information and make it available for other people need knowledge and information themselves. Not only that, but in order to access it quickly and easily, they require someone to sort it and make it available for them saving their time.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, and sometimes people don’t, what I mean is that librarians, library staff and information professionals spend their working time ensuring that other people can access the information that they need. However, they also need support, they need some professional evidence to develop their own knowledge, skills, interests and improve the services that they give to other people.

The Charted Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) is aware of that need and they have been giving support and training opportunities since 1877 as the Library Association and 1958 as  the Institute of Information Scientists. These bodies merged in 2002. CILIP believes that it should be an “authoritative source of data and evidence about information management and libraries” and “an active partner in providing a research and evidence framework for the sector as a whole”. Therefore it commissioned us at Evidence Base in partnership with Education and Social Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University to look at the possibility of a portal of information about information, knowledge about knowledge: a place where information professionals can go to get find authoritative evidence to back up practises, procedures and new developments. CILIP also asked if we could make some suggestions of how such an enterprise could be sustainably funded.

Together we examined the online resources that exist for other organisations. The American Library Association’s LARK is a good example. We looked at things that could be of use to information professionals of all fields and had a sneaky peak at what other professional associations were providing. More than that, we actually asked people what they wanted, what would really be useful for them. And the answers were:

Essential Features:
Case studies
Data sets/statistics
Open access search engines and repositories
Research reports
Regular updating
A variety of entry points to evidence e.g. sector, use and topic
Sharing options e.g. Twitter

Recommended Features:

Summaries or structured abstracts of key papers and reports
Sector specific resource
Indicators of rigour
Links to other CILIP resources

They also suggested some Additional Features:
Comments facility
Ability to export references
Briefing documents for different stakeholders
Alerting services

We suggested that the best method of funding such an undertaking would be by a collaborative approach, with funding gathered from a variety of organisations.

We are delighted that CILIP and now considering what can be done to achieve this important resource for librarians, library staff and information professionals. The full report is on the CILIP website.

 

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IRUS-UK Survey 2018

Evidence Base conducted the IRUS-UK Community Survey from January to March this year. The survey is sent to IRUS-UK members for a number of reasons. It is an evaluation of the resource and the team behind it. It a form of communication with the IRUS-UK members and it is a great way to get ideas for the future development of the resource.

IRUS logo

This year we had some particularly interesting results, some of the questions were more open than in previous years, and that meant that IRUS-UK members could express their thoughts about repository usage statistics gathering in a general way, telling us all about the issues that they face.  Some common barriers to collecting repository statistics are:

  • Unreliability of statistics from the repository’s software packages
  • The need to provide and report statistics in greater depth and details to institutions’ management
  • Issues surrounding the use of statistics without context – a lack of understanding from some people reading the statistics

Pleasingly, many of the people who told us about these issues also told us that IRUS-UK is already helping to overcome these barriers.

“Down barriers!” by Oleg Afonin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It is doing this because it has:

  • Reliable and authoritative statistics and comparable data
  • High quality support from the IRUS-UK team
  • An easy to use system

Some useful suggestions for the development of IRUS-UK were made, including having more data visualisations with enhanced features and additional reports with increased downloading options.

The boring statistics about IRUS-UK were as follows:

  • 85% of respondents were “very” or “fairly” satisfied with IRUS-UK
  • 79% of respondents felt IRUS-UK has improved their statistical reporting
  • 63% of respondents consider that IRUS-UK has enabled reporting that they could not do previously
  • 60% of respondents use IRUS-UK for identifying trends and patterns

When asked if they would recommend IRUS-UK to a colleague, the majority of respondents said that they would.

The IRUS-UK team are currently working on how and when these things can be added to IRUS UK. For the report, follow this link: http://irus.mimas.ac.uk/documents/IRUS-UK_Annual_Community_Survey_March_2018.pdf

Staffing libraries with librarians

It may seem a little obvious to the general public to say that libraries should be staffed with librarians.
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It must appear that one is saying that schools should be staffed with teachers, banks should be staffed with bank clerks or hospitals staffed with Doctors and Nurses. But we know that in today’s complex job market where there are more people than jobs to go around, well in the UK anyway, it is not that simple anymore. Libraries are staffed with library assistants, schools have teaching assistants, banks have Automated Teller Machines (ATMs, or “cash-points to the likes of you and me”). Hospitals have a whole range of specialised technician roles as well various non-health related roles. There are many reasons for this, some to do with the expense of paying staff with higher qualifications and some to do with the changing nature of these establishments.

I also think that the definitions of the job titles have changed over the years. Librarian once really did mean someone who worked in a library and now I think that it means someone who holds the Higher Education Qualification of Librarian.  Looked at in that way it is easy to see how the confusion exists.

However, being highly qualified and knowing all the theory about a subject does not necessarily mean that someone really fits the role. For example, I have observed many a newly trained teacher struggle with controlling their class until they have had a few years experience of discovering the subtle skills of psychological crowd control.  Similarly, W.C. Berwick Sayers wrote about the role of Librarian in the introduction to Ranganathan’s 5 laws. Please forgive the gender bias in this passage, it was written at a time when the pronoun “he” was taken to represent humanity, so in your mind read this as meaning either “he” or “she” depending on your predilection.

“it is the personal element that the librarian brings into the library which gives it its vitality. Many libraries, alas, lack vitality ; they have staff, but no librarians…

…the librarian must be a man of acquisitive mind who closes his mind to no subject of human interest. He is always a learner; he must always be awake to and welcome every development of human thought and every adventure of the human spirit. He must, however, be a man educated not only in the general sense but in every operation and process of libraries. He must be a lover of other men. When young people come to me as aspirants for library work I ask them, “Do you love books?” They invariably reply that they do, but I ask them next, “Do you like people and serving people?”

All this means that to truly be a librarian you must have the social skills to deal with people, the curiosity of pursuing knowledge and the sensitivity to be a natural educator.

JUSP Community Survey 2017

A little over a year ago I blogged the results of the 2016 annual survey that Evidence Base runs for the Jisc resource for academic and research  libraries, reporting their use of e-journals and e-books (JUSP) which they have purchased or to which they subscribe.

We have now completed this year’s survey and the 2017 report, which has been interesting because JUSP has added more reports and other resources to its service since last February. As well as being able to see how many times the library users have downloaded or viewed e-journals or e-books, library e-resource managers can now find out those statistics for a select number of data bases and aggregators. The JUSP team have also developed a set of data visualisations of the statistical reports that can be used by library staff to add to their own reports, or presentations, or as an analytical tool.

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These data visualisations have proven popular with the JUSP community and although it is early days since their introduction in November it seems that some institutions are already making good use of them and see potential for these to have a positive impact on their work. We will be monitoring the use of these and are interested in any interesting ways that libraries are using the JUSP visualisations.

Overall, the JUSP community are happy with JUSP, they would find their work much harder without it. Special mention was given about the customer support provided by the JUSP team who tirelessly work in the background ensuring that JUSP users are accessing their e-resource usage figures and develop the online resource in the way that is most useful to the JUSP community.

Unlocking ground breaking research: Open Access Week 2017

 

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“Old padlock” by Futurilla is licensed under CC BY 2.0

So it is nearing the end of Open Access Week and here in the UK Institutional Repositories have been promoting the benefits of allowing the ordinary person to read scientific work. I follow some Jisc lists and I have been watching as various events unfurl, the most amazing one that has overshadowed everyone else is Stephen Hawkins’s PhD thesis. He gave permission for Cambridge University’s repository Apollo to make the digitised copy of his work open for anyone to read. Needless to say, the repository was overwhelmed. Apparently by Tuesday 410,000  had viewed the thesis. By Wednesday the Altmetric figures showed that the thesis was shared 1525 times, 964 times on Twitter and of those, 840 were members of the public.

On Tuesday another 30 Cambridge alumni gave permission for their theses to be digitised and uploaded as open access. The only drawback of all this is the expense of digitising the work, but the university are working with a charitable fund; Arcadia Fund to make this happen. The project is explained here.  Apparently there is also a project in collaboration with the British Library which will digitise another 1,400 theses that had been microfilmed.

Evidence Base works with IRUS-UK which has done its own little contribution to Open Access Week. IRUS-UK records the number of times a thesis has been downloaded and in advance of OA week the IRUS-UK tech team developed the function to report repository usage statistics daily. This means that repositories can calculate the impact of Open Access Week; has their usage increased, have more thesis or articles been downloaded? It will be interesting to find out what has happened and I may well report back on that.

However, my favourite remark from an open access staff member of another university was “We are not doing anything specifically for OA week – We OA all the time…” This is surely how it should be and one day there will be no OA week because it has become normality.

 

Latest News from JUSP

I have two pieces of information from JUSP. The team has been very busy over the past few months and two items have come into fruition. We did some interviews earlier in the year about e-book statistics. You may recall that I blogged about “the trouble with ISBNs”, and that post was due to my work with the e-book statistics project.

We wanted to know what challenges were faced by the teams and individuals whose roles include the collection and reporting of e-book usage statistics. We did some case study interviews that included a cross section of publishers, librarians, aggregators and  library consortia, from the UK and other countries. We not only asked about the challenges, but also about how they overcame them and what recommendations would they give for the future collection of e-book statistics.

We discovered that one major problem was the lack of a standard for what was termed a section of a book. This means that if you are counting the number of times that a book section has been downloaded, you cannot be sure whether that is a whole chapter, a page, or even one dictionary entry. Surprisingly, we found that there was a lack of relevant common identifiers – hence my thoughts on ISBNs. Again, in this age of machine automation, we found that many of the solutions to challenges meant a great deal of manual work and manipulation.

The project and the recommendations that resulted from the work have been written up as an article in Insights and as a full report.

The second news item is that the e-book portal in JUSP will no longer be called the e-book portal. This is because that portal will contain COUNTER reports of databases as well as e-book reports, starting on 4th September. The portal will be re-titled “Books and other”. The team are working towards including other reports on that portal as well, such as multi-media. As always, the team are speaking to many publishers and with the addition of more COUNTER reports more publishers will be joining JUSP. You will find a little more information about this in the JUSP newsletter and look out for further details as the team make the changes to the portal.

The Scottish Reading Strategy for Public Libraries

Evidence Base has teamed with LISU, another research and consultancy unit, which is based at Loughborough University, in order to examine and update the Scottish Reading Strategy for public libraries across Scotland. The reading strategy was implemented three years ago and since that time new initiatives have appeared. Therefore the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) has commissioned us to look at the current reading landscape in Scotland and to refresh the Scottish Reading Strategy accordingly.

Kirkwall Library, Orkney

Orkney Library and Archive at Kirkwall

As it stands currently, the Scottish Reading Strategy aims to –

  • Contribute to health and well being
  • Improve levels of literacy
  • Inspire reading across all interests and age groups
  • Draw communities together to bring reading alive

by providing “free access to the life enriching, creative activity of reading.”

The project will include speaking to key individuals about the efficacy of the Scottish Reading Strategy  for Public libraries over the past three years, comparison with the latest strategic policies for libraries in Scotland and comparison with similar policies in other parts of the UK and other counties. The outcome of the project will be a report with  recommendations for the refreshed strategy.

SLIC is the charitable body that administers Scottish Government funding for libraries and it draws it’s membership from public, academic, and specialist libraries across Scotland and the Scottish islands. It works with libraries and other partners to support their development and to help them to provide high quality services to their customers. It focuses on “innovation, proficiency and inclusion” and offers “funding, research, advice and skills development” to its members.