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Katie Fraser's blog and website

I'm an academic librarian, working in the UK Higher Educational sector, supporting academics and students. Prior to this, I was a researcher, working with social and learning technologies.

My interests include the application of emerging and traditional technologies, research support in libraries, learning spaces, evidence-based practice and the professional development of library and information workers.

You can find out more about more about me from the links to the left. Note that the views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other individual or organisation.

DREaM 2: LIS Research Methods Workshop

January 30th, 2012

LIS DREaM pack

LIS DREaM pack

This was the second of the LIS DREaM (Developing Research Methods and Excellence) workshops, this time held at the British Library in London.  As with the previous workshop, I’ll be focusing on my thoughts on applying the methods, as the workshops are so well documented. For those wanting to read more slides these (where available) are already up on the Workshop 2 webpage on via the individual talks linked below. Videos of the talks will be available in about a week.

User involvement in research – Professor Peter Beresford
Peter discussed the implications of doing user involvement in research (from commissioning it, all the way to designing studies). He didn’t strictly present this as a method, more focusing upon the ethical, methodological and pragmatic challenges of the approach, no matter what method it was used alongside.

In academic libraries I’ve found that involvement of users in research is increasingly popular: for example, with user involvement in design research in library design literature. However, Peter’s discussion of the origin of service user involvement in research among marginalised communities made me question how this research is targeted. Very often the users libraries involve in research are habitual library users: could encouraging less frequent users to conduct their own research into the library’s potential expand our user base and relevance?

Techniques from History – Dr Thomas Haigh
I appreciated that Tom split up historical research into several approaches which might be relevant to LIS research: intellectual history, social history, cultural history, institutional history & history of practice / labour. Although I’ve never been a real history fan, I’ve often found accounts of the intellectual history of a concept fascinating. A recent example was reading about the history of bibliometrics, which I found really illuminating with respect to where practice is today.

I’ll admit I was surprised how much of a social scientist I felt when listening to Tom’s talk! My research needs focus on developing services and making recommendations, and I think this is usually best served by talking to current service users, so I’m keeping this approach on the back burner for the time being. Still, it was good to learn about a method that’s entirely new to me.

Introduction to Webometrics – Professor Mike Thelwall
Mike talked about webometrics: specifically examples of using analysis of web links, the sentiment of comments on Twitter, and patterns of interaction on YouTube, and what could be learnt from gathering data on these ongoing interactions. This was the talk where I could most easily see the applications possible to my own work.

It would be interesting to look at patterns of linking to library sites and resources an academic library within its own institution using web links. However, you’d need to go beyond the public web data Mike studies: for example, looking within the virtual learning environment. Perhaps appropriately anonymised data could be negotiated to get access? Twitter commentary seemed potentially promising, but would allow limited conclusions regarding a single institution (too few comments to get much data). I wonder if you could get illuminating data by narrowing down to academic libraries via Twitter users posting @ university library accounts?

Making the bullets for others to fire (research and policy) – Professor Nick Moore
Lastly, Nick spoke about doing research which informs policy. While government policy on education and information affect academic libraries, the kind of research that I want to do is more aimed at institutional and sectoral policies. However, many of his suggestions about conducting research seemed relevant regardless, and his advice to be passionate, ahead of the curve (but not too far ahead!) and to build networks & relationships were universally applicable.

The techniques covered in this workshop were a little further out of my comfort zone than the first, so expanded my research understanding further, but left me struggling a little more to think of applications! As I’m moving jobs this week, I’m going to think quite carefully about how the methods from both workshops could be used in my new workplace. You never know how a new environment might provoke new questions!

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