Thursday, 29 September 2011

Thing 16 - Advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published

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I'm quite glad I'm a little behind as it has given me time to sort my thoughts on this issue - something that seems to have led to some fairly heated discussions about the difference between advocacy and activism, and whether either should be an expected part of having a role in the library and information profession.

As an 'Evidence Based Researcher' my current role doesn't involve me spending much time in the library (though my research is informed by, and in turn, informs, libraries and librarians). I'm also not a frequent library user, though I do occasionally borrow books and read journal articles from the academic library my department is part of. I spent almost 5 years working in public and academic libraries (with some voluntary school library experience), but I still don't feel I know enough about them to advocate for libraries on any great level.

The information profession however I'm far more comfortable advocating for - I find it a lot easier to explain to people why it's so important for us all to develop information skills and why it's important to have information specialists (some of whom are librarians) to help organise information for retrieval. I advocate for the profession when I'm out and about, and blogged about the small things I do to help spread the word.

I'm also passionate about driving the profession forward so that we're developing at the same rate (if not ahead of) the general society. We should be leading the way and one way we can do that is by sharing knowledge within the profession and building links to collaborate on innovative projects. That's one of the reasons I'm involved in supporting our professional organisations and why I'm involved in committee work for both CILIP and ALA.

On a more local level, I'm currently working to raise awareness of what Evidence Base does and how we can help the profession. We're a self-funded organisation working with all sectors of the library and information community (and sometimes further afield) in research, evaluation, and consultancy. We work on projects of any scale, from small-scale institutional level projects to national level initiatives, and are keen to work with practitioners to help them provide the best services they can for their users. We can help libraries to evaluate services or projects/initiatives, undertake user research (e.g. surveys, interviews, focus groups), or simply provide guidance or advice on current practice. Evidence Base also hosted events previously (before I joined) and we hope to do more of this in future. Our current areas of interest include usage statistics, mobile technologies, user behaviour (e.g. observing the way people use the library space), the value of academic libraries - and we're always open to other suggestions. It's a really exciting place to work and I hope we can do more to help practitioners in their day-to-day work; I really enjoy the research but it's applying it to practice that is the real valuable side to it.

As you can tell, we're a relatively unique organisation so it can be difficult to explain what we do. As all our work is project based and it is predominantly external (though we do help our own university library with their user research and other projects), it varies all the time so it's tricky to define and even trickier to relate that to people who might want to use our services or collaborate with us. It's been a good exercise to write it down actually so this thing has been really useful for making steps towards advocating for Evidence Base. If you are interested in learning more, you might want to follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our blog.

Getting published is another part of this thing, and that's something else I hope to do more of soon. This past year has been focused mainly on my dissertation and settling into a different area of work, but now it's time to start thinking about publishing again, preferably some peer-reviewed articles.

What now?

The actions specific to this thing aren't really so relevant for me so I'm devising my own actions:

  • Develop Evidence Base's message in collaboration with colleagues and devise strategy for getting message across to potential collaborators/users of our services
  • Continue to work on CILIP and ALA committees and advocate within the profession to share knowledge and build links
  • Consider opportunities for writing articles for peer-reviewed journals

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