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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Research, evidence and practice – working together


Eighth Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Conference


By Clare Thorpe

The eighth International Evidence Based Library and Information Practice conference (EBLIP8) is returning to Australia in July 2015. Ten years after the third conference ventured to the southern hemisphere, Brisbane is again host city for EBLIP8 from July 6th to 8th 2015. This biennial event aims to promote the use of the best available evidence in practices and processes particular to the library and information profession. The conference provides an opportunity to bring together researchers and practitioners from all sectors to discuss and explore contemporary issues and topics of relevance to evidence based practice.

So what is the connection between research and evidence based practice? Is there a difference within professional practice?

Evidence based practice within the library and information professions emerged around the turn of the 21st century, promoting an approach that intricately linked research with professional practice. Evidence based practice was initially adopted and adapted by health librarians drawing on the models developed by the medical professions, growing and evolving to become important resource in the LIS professionals’ toolkit across all sectors and roles. Early definitions from Booth (2002) and Eldredge (2002) emphasised the critical use of research to improve decision making. Crumley and Koufogiannakis (2002) extended these definitions, focussing not only on the use of research but also encouraging librarians to become researchers and to “conduct high quality qualitative and quantitative research”. (p.62)

In its short history, the literature and discussion around EBLIP has primarily focussed on the analysis, validation and application of research literature to a specific problem to inform decision making. But it is fair to argue that evidence based practice as imported from the medical profession has never been a perfect match for library and information sciences. Although synonymous with information sciences, librarianship at its best is a combination of both “science” and “art”. Koufogiannakis (2013) describes this as the application of both “hard” and “soft” evidence within professional practice. Hard evidence sources are those more scientific in nature, including traditional published research sources. Soft evidence includes “non-scientific” sources such as accumulated knowledge, opinion, instinct and relationships. Speaking at the opening of the EBLIP7 conference, Koufogiannakis argued that research may not always be the best form of evidence given the collaborative (or committee) approach to decision making often applied to specific problems within individual libraries. EBLIP discussions may need to recognise the diverse range of legitimate sources of evidence that librarians use in their decision making processes, including research publications. This is not to discredit the importance of research but rather to highlight it as one key element which evidence based library and information practitioners use, combined with other aspects of evidence, to make informed decisions. Research, evidence and professional experience together combine to create the evidence based library and information practice picture.

The theme of the EBLIP8 conference is “evidence and practice: working together” and reflects our focus on narrowing the gap between practice and evidence and in promoting evidence based practice in all parts of the library and information professions. For the Australian LIS community, this is an opportunity to showcase the way in which we are developing practices and processes particular to the library and information profession and reconfiguring the traditional evidence based philosophy to suit individual circumstances and locations. Australian researchers and practitioners are among notable contributors to the contemporary EBLIP dialogue, with Lewis (2011), Gillespie (2010), Partridge (2010) and others leading the way in Australia and internationally. Initiatives such as the Australian Evidence Based Practice Librarians’ Institute are fostering strong engagement and mentoring a new generation of evidence based practitioners in the health sector. Collaboration across institutions and sectors is fundamental to foster learning through the sharing of experiences, publication of quality research results, and a sustainable and connected EBLIP community. 
The organising and program committee of EBLIP8 welcome submissions from practitioners and the research community to explore these ideas in Brisbane next July. Submissions close October 13, 2014. Find out more at http://eblip8.info/callforcontributions/ 

References

Booth, A. (2002). From EBM to EBL: two steps forward or one step back? Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 21(3), pp. 51-64.

Crumley, E. and Koufogiannakis, D. (2002). Developing evidence based librarianship: practical steps for implementation. Health Information and Libraries Journal, 19, pp. 61-70.

Eldredge, J. D. (2002). Evidence based librarianship: an overview. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, 88(4): 289-302.

Gillespie, A.M. (2010) Valuing the impact of the teacher librarian from an evidence base. In Proceedings of SLAQ / IASL 2010 Conference, School Library Associations of Queensland and International Association of School Librarianship, Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Brisbane, Queensland. 

Koufogianniakis, D. (2013) EBLIP7 Keynote: What we talk about when we talk about evidence. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice 8(4). Retrieved 23 September 2014 from: http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/20486/15965. 

Lewis, S. (2011), Evidence based library and information practice in Australia: defining skills and knowledge. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 28, pp. 152–155. 

Partridge, H., Edwards, S. & Thorpe, C. (2010) Evidence-based practice: Information professionals’ experience of information literacy in the workplace. In A. Lloyd & S. Talja (eds.) Practising information literacy: Bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together. Wagga, NSW: Charles Sturt University.


Clare Thorpe is Project Officer at the State Library of Queensland

Tuesday, 2 September 2014