An event showcasing recent research by MSc students and library practitioners from Bath Spa University, University of Bath, University of Bristol and the University of the West of England (UWE).
Academic Library outreach: a view from the field – Katie Rickard, Bath Spa University
Katie’s background was in widening participation and she was interested in how that would translate to the academic library sector. Her research focus was to identify forms of public outreach by academic libraries and to develop a toolkit of practice. Academic library outreach was well documented in literature in North America but under explored in the UK, though there were good examples of public outreach and engagement work (such as The Hive in Worcester and UWE’s open door policy). The research involved semi structured interviews at three AULIC institutions and a UK wide online survey resulting in 34 responses from 32 universities. Respondents were asked to reflect on their outreach activities in the last year and to describe their ideal outreach plans. The majority were women (72%), most worked part-time on outreach projects, many were subject librarians. There were high levels of unaffiliated visits but scare reference to outreach activities in job descriptions. Outreach mainly related to schools and college visits, including EPQ.
Recommendations for the toolkit of best practice included running events in libraries to create the link between the library and outreach, setting a limit on attendees to avoid overcrowding, and creating a robust portfolio of outreach resources with guidelines, policies and open access resources made available on a bespoke area of the library website. It was recommended that libraries develop a fair and equitable selection procedure and go beyond the EPQ – which is taken by those already intending to go to university and favours high achieving schools – and arrange such activities as author readings and special collections visits not linked to the EPQ. Use of university marketing departments and partnership working via networking events were also recommended, to tap into skills and knowledge of colleagues from other sectors. To ensure ownership and autonomy an outreach agenda should be embedded within library agendas and included in job descriptions.
Conclusions were that outreach is gaining significance with UK academic libraries but is under acknowledged in literature. Librarians are keen to do more to connect under-represented groups in HE. UK university libraries are embracing and promoting the concept of the publicly engaged university, including open doors policies and academic-public library partnerships.
The academic information-seeking behaviours of Law undergraduates: a study at the University of Bristol – Rob Challis, University of Bristol
Rob has worked at the University of Bristol since 2000. His research interests were information literacy and user experience, particularly in subjects where discovery tools don’t interface with key resources.
For the research ten second and final year law undergraduates participated in ‘think aloud’ exercises (they were given a series of information seeking activities and had to say out loud what they were doing), and in follow-up semi-structured interviews reflecting on how they undertook the activities. Activities included finding material on reading lists and sourcing material on a topic (which resembled their final year research project). Four types of resources were focused on:
- Library Search/Primo discovery tool
- Lexis and Westlaw, key databases for Law (used separately as don’t interface with Library Search)
- Google for accessing informal resources such as Wikipedia, news, NGOs’ sites
- People (other students, family, librarians)
Findings indicated that Library Search was generally only used to locate books. Westlaw and Lexis were the primary sources for ‘authoritative’ material, both known items and in more exploratory research. Participants tended to use either Westlaw or Lexis, for subjective reasons such as familiarity or ‘look and feel’. Google was used for practical and contextual information in the early, exploratory stages of research. Students were happy to share with their peers generic information such as lecture notes but not more specialised information they’d discovered.
The information strategies of second & third years were enhanced with academic and discipline specific knowledge; when searching for information about a recent act, for example, they would also search for the original bill to increase results. Students commonly used ‘Satisficing’ behaviour, to achieve an adequate or acceptable level in their research rather than best possible and often favoured convenience over legality, such as with eBooks.
Library research presentations
Open Access Citation Advantage at the University of Bath – Katie Evans, University of Bath
Katie is a Research Analytics Librarian and was interested in whether Open Access (OA) research outputs at the University of Bath had higher citations. Pure (for Green OA papers) and a JISC spreadsheet with funds data were used and copied into SciVal to match up citations. Papers from 2010-2015 were examined and 27% of both Green and Gold OA papers were highly cited, compared to a baseline of 18% of all papers. This identified a correlation between higher citations and open access, but on a smale-scale and not necessarily a cause. There was however a wide subject mix of papers so it could be surmised that the citation advantage of the OA papers was not coming from a subject advantage and overall it was felt that OA does have an impact on citations.
Education Resource Centre Project – Amy Jackson & Hannah Poore – UWE Bristol
The Library’s Education Resources Collection, a distinct collection of children’s material to support teaching practice, was reviewed and refreshed in 2012 with new resources and shelving, but usage declined by 75% in a four year period. A further review was undertaken in September 2016, to determine the reasons for the decline and whether the collection was still value for money and meeting the needs of student teachers. Usage statistics were examined alongside a survey, focus groups and comparison of two comparator institutions (Chester & Derby). The data had not been analysed and fed back to library managers but reflections were made on what worked well:
- Good level of engagement by stakeholders with academics encouraging students to complete the survey and participate in the focus group
- Working with the Library Engagement Coordinator to use student communication channels to publicise the survey and focus group.
What didn’t work well:
Data collection period was informed by the need to move the collection to another part of the library which coincided with student placements.
Independent Learning Environments – Tom Rogers & Hilary Cooksley, University of Bath
An Independent Learning Environments project was conducted in late 2015 on the future of study spaces at the University of Bath. This involved an audit of existing learning environments and study spaces, collation of LibQUAL feedback, focus groups and a survey. Strategies and ideas from other institutions were looked at via a literature review and practitioner based research and reports.
A report was produced on their findings focusing on five themes:
Types of space – need for a variety of flexible and reconfigurable spaces with an emphasis on social and collaborative space and a trend towards interdisciplinary and hands on space.
Space for researchers – trend towards dedicated PGR space with technology for presentations and information creation, meeting space. Soft seating and food tolerant space was valued and a greater emphasis on quiet space, distinct from undergraduates and housing relevant staff (research support, OP, metrics librarians). Good examples include the universities of York, Exeter and Warwick.
Staff & services – including qualified librarians in space is beneficial. There is a trend towards convergence of services.
Technologies – should be student centred, customised and value for money to reflect major changes in learning and access to information. Learning needs to be experiential (for simulation exercises, problem based activities), embedded, across disciplines, beyond the physical space. Information skills are for life and part of students’ academic and professional futures.
Aesthetics & design – this needs to communicate what the space is intended to be and give a sense of belonging. A good infrastructure (cleaning, food & drink) is required and a good interaction between different spaces.
Conclusions were that the focus should be on self-directed learning spaces, incorporating flexibility, providing social, collaborative and experiential environments. Removing print in favour of increased study space is alienating students from resources and librarians; effective marketing strategies are vital.
Forthcoming dissertation research – Melissa Newell, Bath Spa University
Melissa is studying at the University of Sheffield and proposes to do a case study at Bath Spa on effective information literacy and its challenges. Methods will include interviews, observations, data analysis and a possible questionnaire to AULIC colleagues – watch this space.