I’ve just had a great couple of days at the UHMLG Summer conference in Glasgow. The theme was teaching excellence, which was just up my street. All the tweets are available on a Storify, but I thought I’d put down a few thoughts.
As well as taking place inn a venue with fantastic wall paper….
there were great speakers, and plenty of food for thought. Here’s some of the good stuff:
First off Alison Brettle talked about “Demonstrating the value of health and academic library information and knowledge workers“.
She recognised that impact – the difference or change resulting from contact with the library service – was sometimes intangible, and hard to demonstrate was specifically the result of library input. For example yes, we may provide information to answer a clinical question, but this will not be the only input that might be responsible for an improvement in outcome for the patient. She also raised the fact that in terms of demonstrating outcome, quantitative measures were most commonly used, but qualitative measures were often more meaningful.
She cited lots of papers that she extracted data from as part of her scoping review around the value of LKS workers (interesting aside, were her comments about the difference between a scoping review (chart data, rather than appraise the data)).
It was interesting what a low value user satisfaction surveys have – really, it’s no use to us to know that library users like the service we provide. We need to be able to show what difference we make to the outcomes that matter to our stakeholders.
Interesting and frustrating outcome of Alison’s work seemed to be the variety of ways by which impact was reported – with so much variation it’s not possible to make any reasonable comparisons. So just as reporting of RCTs or systematic reviews needs consistency to be able to compare, so we as library professionals should be working to make it as easy as possible to show that one service makes as much impact as another by using the same reporting methods or the same core outcomes.
The need for us to consider return on investment was also emphasized. I think this will be a recurring theme as we are required to become more business like. Public libraries have been considering value for money for some time, and I wonder why academic libraries have been relatively slow to pick it up. There are some pioneers: “The economic and environmental value of the Syracuse University library show an ROI of $4.49 returned to the university for every $1.00 spent each year.” and also a study which suggests that [australian] hospitals, government departments, associations and other organisations involved in healthcare gain a $9 return for every dollar they invest in health libraries.
What return on investment is NOT is a user satisfaction survey, as mentioned above. We need to ensure that we talk in terms of what stakeholders value, and use the terminology that they will understand. How many times do librarians stand accused of too much librarian jargon? If we don’t adapt our language and presentation then the message will be lost.
Now it’s true, that impact of librarianship on the outcome that will impress our stakeholders is sometimes hard to disentangle from other influences (an increase in the number of first class degrees might be influenced by access to library resources but we will never be solely responsible for this as an outcome), so presenting qualitative “stories” of the impact can be powerful evidence.
Knowledge for Healthcare does have some lovely impact studies (eg 7.A.5 Case study: point of need information for clinicians using examples from the marvelous @UHCW_CEBIS). (unsurprisingly Alison was involved in the task & finish group developing the Value and Impact Toolkit).
We need more evidence like this in primary care as well as acute trusts, and we definitely need more like it in academic libraries (hence the link to the work done in Syracuse University Library)
Essentially, as supporters of evidence based medicine, and advocates of evidence based librarianship, we should demonstrate best practice in researching our impact:
- question our practice,
- gather/create evidence/
- use evidence wisely,
- share to help others
(and if you do it well you might win the “researcher in practice” award sponsored by EBLIP and being launched at the CILIP conference – £500 could be yours!)
Some useful reading will include
- Alison’s report to CILIP around the value of LKS workers
- The value of library and information services in patient care: results of a multisite study
- Effects of librarian-provided services in healthcare settings: a systematic review.
- Lib-Value: Values, Outcomes, and Return on Investment of Academic Libraries, Phase III: ROI of the Syracuse University Library
- The costs and effectiveness of information-skills training and mediated searching: quantitative results
- “Being Evidence Based in Library and Information Practice”