Notes from the Library & Information Science Dissertations Conference, 5 November 2016 held at University College London (#lisdis16)

The Information Needs of Occupational Therapy Students: A Case Study

Jane Morgan-Daniel, Aberystwyth (@JMorganDaniel)

Chose information needs as about people and helps base service provision on evidence. Selected topic based on work and personal experience; identified a literature gap.

What are the information needs of Occupational Therapy students and how do these needs contribute to library use and non-use?

Three main objectives:

  • motivation
  • information sources
  • barriers

Considered systems theory and user-centred as research traditions informing the research methodology. User-centred more suitable for this topic. Research strategy based on consulting students. Used non-probability purposive sampling starting with a key informant. Ended with a sample of 27 students. Because of sampling method results not representative or general to all OT students. So a local study. Used a mix ed method research design: both qualitative and quantitative. Data collection was via a self-completion questionnaire using both open and closed questions. Response rate 23% (8 returns). Used a mixed methods approach to data analysis. Used thematic analysis for qualitative data and non-parametric descriptive analysis for quantitative data.

Motivation was for academic assignments, EBP and developing workplace skills. Sources included colleagues, textbooks, search engines, e-journals and bibliographic databases. Barriers were information literacy training gaps, not aware of library offerings, difficulty in getting to the library around working ours, lack of library familiarity with OT and patchy access to electronic resources at work.

Recommendations included increase awareness of OT as a distinct profession, improve signage, extend library hours, offer literacy training throughout course not just at the beginning, improve availability and accessibility of OT resources and targeted publicity.

Lessons learned include:

  • keep research question focused
  • literature review is important but time consuming
  • think about the timing of your survey

Information needs case studies are a manageable, useful and enjoyable topic for a dissertation.

A Library Love Triangle? An analysis of the relationship between data, information and knowledge in Library and Information Science

James Atkinson, City University (@JamesAtkinson81)

Interested in information theory from first induction session. Uncomfortable with idea of knowledge as an end product of information. Ideas also too reliant on other disciplining staff rather than immanent within LIS.

Three main definitions of data in literature: ancient, modern (anything fed into a computer – Machup), future (“data, data everywhere and not a thought to think” – Shera). Multitude definitions of information in the literature and different definitions of knowledge debated throughout the history of philosophy, and LIS.

After definitions, next explored relationships between data, information and knowledge drawing on Shannon, Brookes’ fundamental equation of information science and the DIKW hierarchy (Rowell, 2007). References criticism of these models for their simplicity and lack of communication, social and human elements. Other models are more complex and include both linear models or more circular.

This literature review raised a number of discussion points:

  • DIK as a process
  • the importance (or otherwise) of truth
  • where should knowledge be
  • computers vs humans
  • the, possibly unhelpful, debate between Bates and Hjørland scavenging from other disciplines to support their arguments

Uses the example of information retrieval as an applied example in LIS to discuss how knowledge comes before information. Considered information literacy training as, typically, a linear application of knowledge transfer.

James developed his own model of the relationship between data, information and knowledge drawing on the idea of dust in Pullman’s Dark Materials series.

Data is gathered or fed for a task; information is the results after data has been filtered through knowledge. There is constant interaction between data and knowledge and information and knowledge. Suggests no direct relationship between data and knowledge, rather an indirect relationship mediated by knowledge.

In conclusion, this is a complex question and likely to be the subject of ongoing debate.

This was an example of a literature based dissertation. Had an idea that wanted to develop own model before started so research involved analysis of the literature to explore its.

An Oral History Narrative: The Abbey Ballroom Indoor Football League

Helena Byrne, University College Dublin (@HBee2015)

This was a group capstone project solving a real information need. Produced an exhibition on the oral history product and an extended resource guide. Because the group was geographically dispersed during the summer they used Skype and other collaboration tools to communicate.

Project team need to consult with their clients (Drogheda Local Voices and Museum) to work out their information needs and wrote an executive summary. The team split the report into sections; they became an expert in their area and wrote their section then edited the report as a group.

Project objectives were to help manage, organise and exhibit the materials and produce a resource guide. Materials included audio materials and newspaper clippings. As a team they constructed a narrative by reviewing all of the source materials. They created 7 posters, a map and a video for the exhibition. The resource guide was mostly open source material but did include some useful, albeit potentially inaccessible, books. Produced a physical guide first so the indexing of information was more suited to the physical copy than the online version. There was soul ice relations campaign for the exhibition using a Facebook event, twitter (#abbeyballroom), local media end e-invitations.


  • oral history training useful for librarians and archivists
  • community based cultural heritage volunteers are interesting in developing the skills to help them manage their collections
  • more collaboration needed!

The Hybrid Music Library: User format preferences at Leeds College of Music Library

Megan Dyson, Northumbria University (@MeganDyson3)

The largest music conservatoire in the UK with the strongest focus on non-classical music.

Research aims were

  • investigate the hybrid music library
  • inform the library collection development policy

A hybrid library is one that combines physical and online collections. Limited literature on hybrid music libraries and none using mixed methods methodology. The methodology involved:

  • analysis of usage data from library management systems
  • user survey (three questions because added to annual library survey)
  • benchmarking study (comparing the library against other similar libraries)

Research design compared what user say they want (survey) compared with what they actually use (usage data). Research was limited to scores, books and audio materials.

71% say they prefer print books but print and e-book collections had similar levels of usage. Print collection was more diverse; e-book usage was really concentrated around one or two titles. Is suggest browsing usage of print titles but target usage of e-book collections.

63% said they prefer printed scores and usage reflected this. Use of digital scores was minuscule compared to use of printed scores. Students on the classical course were score super users.

49% preferred online audio however CD use vastly outstripped online streaming resources. There’s probably lots of unseen use here from audio on non-library online platforms. There is a possible link between subject area and format preference. About 85% of CD borrowing is for non-classical subjects.

Themes from the survey were an overall preference for physical resources. Use of the ”magic wand’ question revealed online access, networked devices and a one-stop shop seen as very important. In this question only 26% said physical would be their preferred format. Someone asked for Accio Information! Convenient, quick, easy to access information in their hand.

Recommendations and implications includes:

  • maintaining a wide broad collections meets browsing demand
  • e-book collection policy should prioritise key model texts
  • promote (even prescribe) online resources more
  • maintain a constant feedback loop with users – user information needs are constantly changing; built services around users not the latest technology

Lessons learned:

  • planning is crucial (and have a plan B)
  • pilot survey questions with intended recipients
  • usage data is a minefield
  • comparing physical use to online use is a challenge

Resource Description and Access in Europe

Dilyana Ducheva, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow (@Dellche)

Resource description and access (RDA) considered a bold choice but cataloguing is still essential as collections proliferate. Good metadata is essential for well organised collections.

RDA is based on an entity relationship model. It started as a revision of AACR2. Research objectives were around how libraries decided to adopt RDA, how they implemented, perceptions of RDA, comparisons between Europe and US and these perspectives influenced RDA.

Methodology was a literature review and semi-structured interviews with respondents from 12 countries followed by thematic analysis. Most European countries have a National Library that influences adoption. Countries using AACR2 were more likely to adopt RDA. Countries with own national rules were less likely to implement RDA but those countries may align their local rules to RDA. This is a dynamic picture.

The reasons for implementing RDA include applicability to digital materials, interoperability and the ability to share records between libraries internationally, and to remain in sync with the wider cataloguing community. The most important part of implementation was training. Most implemented use LOC training materials available online. The importance of translation varied.

Issues and challenges include:

  • unclear text structure
  • worries about outdated library systems and legacy metadata formats
  • generally positive about future developments expire any current frustrations

European respondents were more concerned about the high level of change in the new standard but were more involved in the future development of the standard. European respondents also more concerned with development of RDA for museums and archives. Cooperation on implementation seen as a benefit in the US; collaboration in Europe more focused on issues with the standard itself.

RDA possibly not to solution to international cataloguing interoperability but a catalyst for future developments.

Future work may involve looking at whether attitudes have evolved now RDA in use for a few years. How many standard updates are a result of implementation issues? As more countries adopt RDA will RDA be influenced by all these cultural perspectives.

Researching in the Workplace

Claire Sewell, University of Cambridge (@ces43)

Claire trains library staff (c. 400 at Cambridge) in scholarly communication. Current research is on educational background of people working in scholarly communication. Survey received over 500 responses. Will follow up with some interviews and then disseminate results.

Why do research?

  • solve a problem
  • proving case to stakeholders
  • career advancement
  • help others learn from what you have done
  • evidence based practice

In evidence based practice you start with a problem, then gather evidence, including what other people have done to address this problem, critically appraise the evidence, apply to the problem and then evaluate. Gathering evidence may also include generating your own evidence.

Barriers to research include:

  • finding time
  • lack of research
  • lack of support
  • political barriers
  • personal barriers

Thinking about research outcomes can help you form your research questions. You need to know where you are going and what you want to get out before you get started (James Atkinson would approve of this position I think – knowledge filters!). However, you don t want to let the outcome you want to influence the research.

Important research skills include:

  • time management
  • ability to take criticism
  • communication skills
  • negotiation
  • neutrality

Pros of research in the workplace is insider knowledge, higher level of access in the organisation, establish trust and can make a contribution to organisational change. Cons include import on objectivity, colleagues may not see you as a researcher, risks finding out negative or unpopular information and becoming responsible for change.

Now … creating a research plan in 7(8) steps:

  1. think of a problem (something doesn’t work, something that could be improved, something that could work better)
  2. outcomes (prove something, change something, making a case)
  3. turn it in to a research question or questions
  4. think about methods (think about the right method for your research, think about what’s manageable and think about what might make any things difficult)
  5. consider the ethics (how will you keep participants and data safe, does the research deal with sensitive information, is there an ethical research process in your workplace, informed consent)
  6. plan timescales
  7. how will you share your results?
  8. peer review your plan

An elephant in the room: information,interact in the narrative of UK public libraries

Diana Hackett, UCL (@BeetleBook)

Information,literacy is knowing when and why you need information, where to find it and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner (CILIP). Essential skill and even right in our information rich age.

Problems of definition around bibliographic instruction or qualified with more specific literacies and frameworks e.g. media, digital that may reduce it to a specific set of skills or technologies rather than being a behaviour.

Topical discussion on the purpose and role of public libraries referencing PLMA, 1964. Must provide not just resources but advice on use. Information literacy is therefore a core requirement of public libraries but not used much as a term and rarely discussed in public library research literature.

Both information literacy and public libraries are suffering from advocacy failure.

Research aim was to look at how information literacy is currently positioned in public library advocacy narratives in the UK. Methodology reviewed some of the more prominent advocacy sources for their narratives using qualitative textual analysis.


Firstly, I nformation literacy is barely mentioned in public library advocacy material; the emphasis is on digital literacy and inclusion. Even this focuses on provision of technology rather than skills or behaviour.

A second theme was passive directory vs active delivery. Libraries provide access and support but access mostly involves signposting and directing rather than active agency. No mention of the skills and expertise that library staff acquire to enable them to provide support.

A third theme is intellectual isolation. There is a gap between government digital inclusion policy goals and the advocacy of LIS.

Recommendations include greater collaboration between academic research community, academic libraries and public libraries and more on information literacy in advocacy narratives. Events like today and other professional community events across sectors help facilitate this.

Discussion of whether there is a political agenda in obfuscating wider role of library and expertise of library staff and reducing LIS to a passive role around digital inclusion. This is topical, given the protests out on the streets of London today, but this research suggests that we need not just activism but also advocacy. We need a load and persuasive story around a broader narrative.

Resisting neoliberalism: the challenge of activist librarianship in the UK HE context

Katherine Quinn, University of Sheffield (@katherinebquinn)

Having said that we now move from advocacy to activism, although Katherine says she might not have chosen such a combative title now. This is another totally different research approach drawing on the theory of Gramsci and ethnographic methods. The diversity of topics and research approaches has been a real highlight of the day.

Research aim was to investigate the possibility of developing a radical democratic alternative to neoliberalism in LIS. First was definitional work on neoliberalism a contested and little understood term. Then analysis of Gramsci and critical theory to illuminate instances, disruptions, nuances of neoliberalism and its contestations within empirical fieldwork.

Methods include ethnography, reflections on participating in Radical Librarians Collective, observation of RLC gatherings and interviews. Thematic analysis within the Gramscian framework.

Explored neoliberal hegemony in LIS: the theme of library as a business, and alternatively considering what is distinctive above library services. Does the integrity of something change when you think of it as something bought and sold? Do worlds make worlds? For example, the more words reinforcing a hegemonic position there are, the smaller the space for alternate worlds and ways of being. LIS professionals are thinking hard about these questions and exploring spaces for solidarity and counter-hegemonic narratives.

Secondly explored Radical Librarian Collective as alternative practices of library work. Radical is more about the root of librarianship rather than an explicit political position. Thirdly, explored the future development of activist librarianship and the challenges of organisation, facilitation and horizontalism in practice.

Panel Session

Question on publishing research. Most panel members have not yet published research based on their dissertation or disseminated beyond speaking today. Some have applied their work in more practical ways. Some are hoping to publish. This advocacy and collaboration between researchers and collaboration starts here folks – amplify!! There’s such a great variety of research methods and results on show today we need to disseminate.

Question on data collection. Institutional repositories and untapped source of data and information. Can find research outputs that haven’t been published. Social media is also useful: especially if it appears multiple times.

Question on improving communication to students on what is expected from them in a dissertation, especially marking criteria. Dissertation handbook and guides useful to work from; some followed these quite closely. Marking criteria less helpful, though can be useful for validation as a checkbox exercise. Some schools offer study schools or boot camps especially for distance learning students.

Question on Katherine’s presentation on critical theory and radical librarianship. Was critical theory part of your course and do you consider yourself radical or not? Not necessarily a formal part of the curriculum but often actively discussed in extra-curricular activities. There often was an emphasis on critical reading and developing critical thinking skills. Most panel members are not loud radicals but more described themselves as “on the way to being an activist” or in thought rather than deed and a few did state they were actively political and or critical about their librarianship. Discussion of how visibly political to be on social media when developing a professional profile.

The suggestion that we should all be radical or activist is hegemonic in itself, no?

On that intriguing political/philosophical note an interesting conference draws to a close.

Many thanks to the conference organising team, UCL for hosting, the event sponsors for supporting the event and to all the presenters for sharing their interesting and varied research and managing to communicate it so well in 15 minutes.


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