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Trends and Challenges to Future Libraries: Exploring Research Approaches


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Invited presentation given at the 8th International Conference on Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries by Sheila Webber on 26 May 2016, at Senate House, London, UK

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Trends and Challenges to Future Libraries: Exploring Research Approaches

  1. 1. Trends and Challenges to Future Libraries: Exploring Research Approaches Sheila Webber Information School, University of Sheffield Plenary talk, QQML Conference, London, May 2016
  2. 2. Conference theme “Exploring trends and challenges on building the future libraries” Sheila Webber, May 2016 Pictures taken by Sheila Webber in the 3D virtual world, Second Life: where libraries and books are treasured ;-)
  3. 3. • How “challenges to libraries” are framed • Some qualitative research approaches that can be used to explore what the issues actually are, and tell compelling stories • Relevance of qualitative research to developing staff and the library • Will focus primarily on the academic library sector Sheila Webber, May 2016
  4. 4. Trading cards created using Word cloud created using Sheila Webber, May 2016
  5. 5. Sheila Webber, May 2016
  6. 6. Sheila Webber, May 2016
  7. 7. Important questions! • Why do people do things? • What do people like doing? • How do people feel about things? • How does “the library” fit in with the whole of people’s lives? Sheila Webber, May 2016
  8. 8. Avoiding making assumptions that “everyone is like this and wants this” Sheila Webber, May 2016
  9. 9. SheilaWebber,May2016
  10. 10. Case Study
  11. 11. You want to explore a specific question or problem, in a specific context Sheila Webber, May 2016
  12. 12. Characteristics • Investigating a specific problem or question • Doing so in a “bounded context” i.e. you can tell fairly easily whether something is inside or outside the context you are focusing on • You collect multiple sources of evidence to get different perspectives on the problem • Normally researchers are not participants, but they may be so, in which case the researcher needs to discuss her/his role and impact Sheila Webber, May 2016
  13. 13. Interviews with teachers Focus groups with children Observation, photos and field notes Curriculum documents, handouts etc. Syeda Hina Batool: case study investigation into information literacy in primary schools in Lahore, Pakistan (Batool and Webber, 2014) Recommended case study textbook: Thomas (2011) Each case = 1 school Material produced by children in focus groups Sheila Webber, May 2016
  14. 14. Characteristics • Outcome may be a model or theory and/or practical recommendations • Start by describing relevant features of the context: can be useful in helping you to “step back” from familiar context • Difference between systematically planned and researched case study and just describing one example Sheila Webber, May 2016
  15. 15. Ethnography Sheila Webber, May 2016
  16. 16. • Dent Goodman (2011: 1) cites Fetterman as describing ethnographic writing as “the art and science of describing a group or culture” • Observation, participation, field notes & memos, interviews • Popularised for librarians by the ERIAL (Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries) project (Asher and Miller, 2010) & UX seminars (e.g. (though, in particular, some significant information behaviour studies well before this) Sheila Webber, May 2016
  17. 17. Khoo, Rozaklis and Hall (2012: 86) talk about the “growing complexity of the social and technological environments within which libraries are situated” and other factors “prompting libraries to think about how to describe their strengths, not just in terms of performance and metrics, but also in terms of the wider social cultural value they offer to users and communities” Can be used directly to guide policy and improve services Can provide vivid human stories which may convey the library’s value more effectively than bare numbers Sheila Webber, May 2016
  18. 18. • Regaldo and Smale (2015) investigated how students used (or did not use) the library for their coursework (City University of New York) • Mapping diaries; student photos with elicitation interviews; interviews about the process of doing an assignment • Notable finding: students liked private, individual spaces e.g. carrels: a large number commuted and did not have a quiet space to study at home Sheila Webber, May 2016
  19. 19. “I live in the library. The library is, like, my fulltime job. When I don’t have classes, I still come to the library because there’s too many distractions at home and in order for me to be a successful, productive student, I have to come to school, to remain dedicated and driven” (p908)Sheila Webber, May 2016
  20. 20. Autoethnography Sheila Webber, May 2016
  21. 21. “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)” Ellis et al. (2011: 273) Sheila Webber, May 2016
  22. 22. Reflexivity of the ethnographic researcher, questioning and identifying her/his own stance in relation to the object of study Reflexivity of the autoethnographic researcher, examining her/his own practice, feelings, interactions, in a specific cultural or social context Sheila Webber, May 2016
  23. 23. • Understanding one’s own practice, motivation, feelings, place better • Providing insight for others in a similar situation • Making the librarian visible in the context • Providing others with insight into the library’s and librarian’s role • Gaining better understanding of the social and cultural context Sheila Webber, May 2016
  24. 24. • Grace and Sen (2013): community resilience and the role of the public library • Wheeler, Graebner, Skelton and Patterson (2014): collaborative autoethnography on experiences of academic librarians serving on faculty associations • Patin (2015): role of the school library during the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita • Anne-Marie Deitering’s autoethnography initiative: – autoethnography-learning-community/ – learning-community/ Sheila Webber, May 2016
  25. 25. Phenomenography Sheila Webber, May 2016
  26. 26. “Phenomenography is the empirical study of the differing ways in which people experience, perceive, apprehend, understand, conceptualise various phenomena in and aspects of the world around us.” (Marton 1994) Sheila Webber, May 2016
  27. 27. • So, useful if you want to find out about the different ways in which people conceive of, or experience, a phenomenon… • The phenomenon could be: the library; a specific learning experience; using the catalogue … • Have to end up with a small number of categories, that are distinct, and between them describe the qualitatively different ways people think about or experience the phenomenon Sheila Webber, May 2016
  28. 28. Example: Categories from Emily Wheeler’s research into librarians’ conceptions of themselves as teachers of information literacy: librarians conceived of themselves as ... • Category 1 - teacher-librarian • Category 2 - learning support • Category 3 - librarian who teaches • Category 4 - trainer Wheeler and McKinney (2015) Sheila Webber, May 2016
  29. 29. Applications of phenomenographic research • Variation theory: having identified how learners’ conceive of a subject, you design learning that enables them to experience the variations • Workplace training & education e.g. Masters students at the Sheffield iSchool were able to use Wheeler’s framework when reflecting on their own development as teachers of information literacy • Understanding people better, so you are better able to engage with them • The interview itself can be a learning experience for the interviewee and interviewer Sheila Webber, May 2016
  30. 30. Action Research Sheila Webber, May 2016
  31. 31. Characteristics • Start with an aspect of practice that you want to improve • Only feasible if you have to power to make changes to practice; usually you would be involved in that practice (e.g. you want to improve your own practice) but might be invited in as a catalyst/facilitator of change • The participants are the people affected by, or observers (key informants) of, the practice • Multiple sources of evidence, including your own reflections Sheila Webber, May 2016
  32. 32. Classic cycle is: Plan, Act, Monitor, Reflect Levy’s (2003; 100) representation of the process Sheila Webber, May 2016
  33. 33. • Malenfant, Hinchliffe and Gilchrist (2016) introduce special issue or C&RL with action research projects from the Assessment in Action initiative • Describe it as “an emergent developmental form” (p143) (improving practice and developing the community of inquiry involved in the action research) Sheila Webber, May 2016
  34. 34. Qualitative research, developing librarians and the library Sheila Webber, May 2016
  35. 35. Embedding Academic and Research Libraries in the Curriculum “Solvable challenge: those that we understand and know how to solve” Rethinking the roles and skills of librarians “Difficult challenge: Those that we understand but for which solutions are elusive” Embracing the need for radical change “Wicked challenge: those that are complex to even define, much less address” Three challenging areas from the Horizon Report 2015 Library Edition (Johnson et al., 2015) .. though I’m rather sceptical about these categorisations! Sheila Webber, May 2016
  36. 36. Rethinking the roles and skills of librarians • Giving librarians and their managers insight into their current practice, feelings, motivations, work context (e.g. through autoethnography): giving people ownership of their development • Insight into users’ experience helping to ensure services, and also librarians’ skills and roles, are developed appropriately • Some research skills also relevant to librarians’ practice e.g. interviewing • Giving a framework to develop practice • Avoid putting too much emphasis on “agony areas” like staying current, using technology Examples: Wheeler et al. (2014); Whitworth et al. (2014) Reflexive researcher/ reflective practitioner Sheila Webber, May 2016
  37. 37. Embedding Academic and Research Libraries in the Curriculum • Understanding more about the learning context and the key actors in that context • Undertaking research that can lead to evidence- bsed recommendations for action • Developing relationships through research: as fellow researchers, as participants, as co-learners within the research process • Providing vivid examples of how librarians and libraries can make a difference Sheila Webber, May 2016
  38. 38. Embracing the need for radical change • Gaining insight into what the changes are (and whether they really are radical) • Grounding plans for change in knowledge of the specific context, and the feelings and needs of the human beings in that context • Understanding technology as one part of a human’s life world, rather than an unstoppable force of nature which changes everything Sheila Webber, May 2016
  39. 39. Qualitative research: the librarian’s friend and solution to wicked challenges! Sheila Webber, May 2016
  40. 40. Sheila Webber Information School University of Sheffield Twitter & SL: Sheila Yoshikawa Orcid ID 0000-0002-2280-9519 Pictures by Sheila Webber taken in Second Life (a trademark of Linden Lab)
  41. 41. References • Anderson, L. (2006). Analytic autoethnography. Journal of contemporary ethnography, 35 (4), 373-395. • Asher, A. and Miller, S. (2010). So you want to do anthropology in your library? Or, a practical guide to ethnographic research in academic libraries. • Batool, S.H. and Webber, S. (2014). Early findings from a study of information literacy practices in primary schools of Pakistan. In Information Literacy. Lifelong Learning and Digital Citizenship in the 21st Century. (pp 282-290). Springer. • Dent Goodman, V. (2011). Applying ethnographic research methods in library and information settings. Libri, 61, 1-11. • Dokphrom, P. (2013). Information literacy of undergraduate students in Thailand: a case of the Faculty of Arts, Silpakorn University, Thailand. In M. Hepworth & G. Walton (Eds.). Developing people’s information capabilities. (pp.111-126). Bingley, England: Emerald. • Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989). Building theories from case study research. The Academy of Management Review, 14 (4), 532−550. • Ellis, C., Adams, T.E. and Bochner, A.P. (2011). Autoethnography: an overview. Historical social research, 36 (4), 273-290 • Farrell , R. (2014). Action research, assessment, and Institutional Review Boards (IRB): conflicting demands or productive tension for the academic librarian? New Review of Academic Librarianship, 20(2), 167-184. Sheila Webber, May 2016
  42. 42. • Grace, D. and Sen, B. (2013). Community resilience and the role of the public library. Library Trends, 61 (3), 513–541 • Klipfel, K.M. and Carroll, A. (2015). Librarians as action researchers: a practical framework for evidence-based information literacy instruction. In LOEX 2015 Annual Conference, Denver, CO, May 1, 2015 • Levy, P. (2003). A methodological framework for practice-based research in networked learning. Instructional science, 31, 87–109. • Marton, F. (1994). Phenomenography. In T. Husén and T.N. Postlethwaite. (Eds.), The international encyclopedia of education. (2nd ed.). (pp. 4424-4429) Oxford, England: Pergamon Press. • Malenfant, K. (2010). Leading change in the system of scholarly communication: a case study of engaging liaison librarians for outreach to faculty. College and Research Libraries, 71(1), 63-76. • Malenfant, K., Hinchliffe, L. and Gilchrist, D. (2016). Assessment as action research: bridging academic scholarship and everyday practice.College and Research Libraries, 77(2), 140-143. • Marton, F., & Booth, S. (1997). Learning and awareness. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. • Nazari, M. (2010). Design and process of a contextual study of information literacy: An Eisenhardt approach. Library & Information Science Research, 32(3), 179-191. • Patin, B. (2015). Through hell and high water: a librarian’s autoethnography of community resilience after Hurricane Katrina. Media Tropes, 5(2), 58-83. SheilaWebber,May2016
  43. 43. • Reason, P. and Bradbury, H. (2008). The SAGE handbook of action research: participatory inquiry and practice. (2nd ed.). London, England: Sage. • Regaldo, M. and Smale, M. (2015). “I am more productive in the library because it’s quiet”: commuter students in a college library. College and Research Libraries, 76(7), 899-913. • Thomas, G. (2011). How to do your case study: a guide for students and researchers. London, England: Sage. • Webber, S., Boon, S. & Johnston, B. (2005). A comparison of UK academics’ conceptions of information literacy in two disciplines: English and Marketing. Library and Information Research, 29 (93), 4-15. • Wheeler, E. & McKinney, P. (2015). Are librarians teachers? Investigating academic librarians’ perceptions of their own teaching roles. Journal of Information Literacy, 9(2), pp. 111-128. • Wheeler, J., Graebner, C., Skelton, M. And Patterson, M. (2014). Librarians as faculty association participants: an autoethnography. In J. Dekker & M. Kandiuk (Eds.), In solidarity: Academic librarian labour activism and union participation in Canada (pp. 171-183). Sacramento, CA : Library Juice Press • Whitworth, A. et al. (2014). Changing libraries: facilitating self-reflection and action research on organizational change in academic libraries. New Review of Academic Librarianship, 20(2), 251-274. Sheila Webber, May 2016
  44. 44. Sheila Webber, May 2016