Photo of Katie Fraser

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.

The dissertation process

August 19th, 2009

When I first started my dissertation I actually meant to blog about the process more, but it turned out to be quite hard to find an angle to come at this from. I’d imagined blogging findings as they emerged, but particularly with qualitative analysis of data there’s not many moments of revelation to be had: the analysis evolves over time.

There were two stages to the research, and three stages to the analysis. In stage one, interviews with staff involved in the Information Commons (IC) development were analysed using the Theory of Change approach to uncover the drivers, resources, activities, desirable outcomes and anticipated impact of the project – these are the five tubs of quotes visible in the photographs. In stage two, a thematic analysis of the student interviews looked at how students used the IC. Stage three, which I’m still finishing, involves looking at the desirable outcomes of the project related to student usage of the IC and the student experience, and asking if i) if there’s evidence for them in the student interviews and ii) if they seem to have occurred because of the activities identified by staff.

In stage three everything’s starting to come together quite nicely. I think the first two stages of the analysis are quite information-rich, but the process of evaluation draws them together quite well and should help me structure the key findings in the discussion and conclusion quite nicely.

At the moment I’m finishing off the literature review (currently bringing together the literature on information commons in general) and then I’m back into the analysis again. My supervisor is back from holiday on Monday, and we’ve arranged a meeting, so I hope to have a reasonable draft of the whole thing to show her by then. Compared to my PhD thesis this has all been a bit of a whirlwind: I’ve been reasonably ambitious with the scope of this project, and there’s not much time at all to think and reflect. However, I’m happy so far with what I’ve produced and hopefully will be able to knock it into shape before submission.

Libraries and the student experience

August 5th, 2009

The SRHE (Society for Research into Higher Education) Student Experience Network is running an event at the Information Commons (IC) on September 10th entitled 24/7: The Life of University 24-hour Libraries.

I’m coordinating two sessions at the event. The first is a formal presentation, alongside my dissertation supervisor, Professor Philippa Levy, talking about my dissertation on the IC. The second is a tour of the library “through students’ eyes” replicating and commenting on some of the tours students gave me of the IC in my research. This will provide an introduction to the IC for those who haven’t seen it before, alongside actual student experiences of the IC: which ties in quite nicely with the focus of the network!

Places are free, although they’re limited and I’m not sure what the rate of uptake is so far. You can find out more, and register for a place, by contacting Matthew Cheeseman on Matthew is the coordinator of the event, and has produced some fascinating ethnographic work on the IC from his position as a folklorist, which has been really valuable in my own ethnographic approach to learning about students’ use of the building.

Note: photo is an old one from my visit to Sheffield as a prospective student. I need to take some more photos of the place now I’m studying it!

Staff interviews and other dissertation activity

July 4th, 2009

This week I have been conducting interviews with staff at the university, in order to construct a Theory of Change for the Information Commons project. In simple terms, this is a model of the expected outcomes for the project, and the steps that were taken by those involved to achieve those outcomes. The model will be compared with my student data to see which outcomes I have found evidence for, and where inconsistencies lie.

The Information Commons is a beautiful building, if relentlessly modern. I’ve posted pictures of the outside before, but here’s one of the interior, which I used as a probe in the student interviews. I might go round and take some pictures myself soon, as empty out-of-term building means no consent forms. The varying levels of use of the IC have impacted on my project in several ways. I had to conduct my student interviews during my coursework period, as exams were approaching, and getting students to give me a tour of the IC would have been unworkable at its peak use. Still, it put me ahead of the game, which I’m not complaining about that now.

When I first started this project I was more focused on the student part of my project than the staff aspect, but over the last week I’ve really loved doing the staff interviews and finding out about how the IC was put together. I was astonished to find out that it was in planning back in 1998 when I first came to the university as an undergraduate! My favourite bit is seeing how staff use some of the ideas and interests I’ve had in the MA in their jobs at senior levels. The opportunity to get involved in projects like the IC is something I’d love, and it’s made me even more enthusiastic about a career in academic libraries. I just need to find a job now!

Note: Photo was taken by Flickr user paolomargari and used here under Creative Commons licence.