Category Archives: Library and Information Studies

Rob Challis on his Harry Galloway Prize winning dissertation

Rob Challis, winner of this year’s Harry Galloway Prize, describes his award winning dissertation.

‘I completed the MSc in Information Management at UWE on a part-time basis between autumn 2013 and spring 2016.  I had been working in Library-related roles at the University of Bristol for more than 13 years when I started the course, and – finally! – I decided to seek a professional qualification following a very rewarding experience working on two library building projects.

The seed of my dissertation topic was a suggestion from one of the UWE librarians to look at how library discovery tools are used in subjects such as Law and Business Studies, where the most important resources are commercial databases that do not interface well with them.  I was working in the Wills Memorial Library at the time (home to the University of Bristol’s Law collection), and this led me to think more widely about how Law students find their way in a digital information “ecosystem” dominated by two key databases – particularly in the later stages of their undergraduate degrees.

I approached the topic by conducting a series of “think aloud” activities, in which student participants from the University’s Law School were asked to describe their thoughts and decisions in real time, as they completed a series of information-seeking tasks.  The data from these sessions were supplemented by follow-up interviews with the participants.

I found that Library tools were used in a very limited way (primarily for finding known print items), and that the majority of “authoritative” sources were sought and obtained directly from commercial Law databases.  Equally interesting, however, was the participants’ use of non-authoritative – and sometimes avowedly “unreliable” – sources, obtained freely from the web, as a convenient way of orientating themselves within complex subjects.

Although my dissertation focused very much on information-seeking behaviours, an optional MSc unit on Designing the User Experience had a significant influence on my approach.  UX principles informed both the design and performance of my research activities, as well as the interpretation of the resulting data.  I continue to use these principles in my current role, implementing reading list software at the University of Bristol.

I‘m delighted to follow in the footsteps of my classmate Sophia Richards (2014 winner) in winning the Harry Galloway prize.  Undertaking the dissertation has been one of the highlights of my professional career so far, and it’s really pleasing to have it recognised in this way’.


AULIC research presentations event

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).

MSc presentations

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.

The Harry Galloway Prize

The Harry Galloway prize was established as an ongoing tribute and memorial to the eponymous Harry Galloway (1946-1996), a prominent public librarian in the West Country. Harry was Senior Area Professional Librarian at Woodspring for seven years following his appointment in 1989, a long-serving Membership Secretary of the Public Library Journal and is on record as having served in almost every office of the Association of Assistant Librarians. Following Harry’s untimely death in 1996, the prize was set up in recognition of his service and commitment to the profession. Harry’s widow Jean Galloway presented the award to its first recipient, Sarah Hemings. The award has since been presented annually to mark outstanding achievements on the part of students on the MSc in Information and Library Management. First based at the University of Bristol, the prize followed the course when it later transferred to the University of the West of England.

     Here the two most recent prize winners, Sophia Richards and Michael O’Hagan, give an account of their experiences studying for the professional qualification and their award-winning dissertations.

2014 winner, Sophia Richards writes:

‘I did the MSc in Information Management at UWE during 2013-14. This was to gain a professional qualification, as I had been feeling stuck in my job for several years. I was a public    library supervisor in Bristol Libraries, first at Cheltenham Road, then later at Bedminster and Marksbury Road Libraries. I did the course full time and found the stimulation and challenge of learning new skills very rewarding. I was also freshly enthused by the scope of libraries and IM as a field, and gained a huge amount of professional insight and awareness through doing the course. This helped me get my current job, Community Librarian at North Somerset libraries, with responsibility for children and young people’s services.

My dissertation investigated the help given by public library staff with government online services such as Universal Jobmatch [an initiative to match jobseekers to vacancies] and Home Choice [a gateway for social housing applicants]. This is in the context of the move towards providing services via websites rather than face-to-face, which has an impact on people who don’t have adequate computer or internet skills. Public libraries often find themselves filling the gap. Through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews I found that one in five front-facing staff helped people with these websites at least twice a day. 80% helped at least once a month, with most giving help at least once a week. A significant proportion, more than a quarter, felt that it was not their job to help these people, and many felt they didn’t have the right skills to do it. Events have overtaken my findings, as a new training programme for public library staff, the Universal Information Offer, which provides online training, has now been rolled out. I have completed this training and it covers many of the issues raised by the participants in my research.

My work on digital literacy is continuing at North Somerset, where I am currently involved in a project to help people get online and gain digital skills through providing help with mobile internet devices – called Gadget Club. We attracted over 50 people to the first drop-in session, which shows the need for this kind of assistance’.


Post 2 Sophia Richards and Lizz Jennings

Sophia Richards (left) proudly receives the Harry Galloway prize from Lizz Jennings, Chair of CILIP SW

Michael O’Hagan, winner in 2013, also speaks of his experiences leading up to the prize:

‘I began the UWE MSc in Information and Library Management in 2011. This was a great course that provided a wide-ranging introduction to current librarianship. We covered core library skills such as cataloguing, but were also introduced to key developments in the information world such as the evolution of Web 2.0 technologies.

Once I’d finished the taught part of the course, I took on the role of leading a project to improve the catalogue representation of the printed collections at the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies. This was a great way to use technical knowledge of bibliographic work gained through a previous role at the Bodleian and to develop further skills in staff and project management.

Whilst working on this project I completed my MSc dissertation, investigating the use of Twitter by UK academic libraries. From my work experience it was clear that many libraries were using Twitter as a means to engage and communicate with their users, but there was little quantitative evidence to evaluate impact or to inform best practice. I analysed the content themes that were prevalent in a sample of tweets from academic libraries across the country, and looked to see how these affected the visible level of engagement from library users, such as retweeting and conversation.

Following my original plan to add a scientific component to my role, I now work as the knowledge coordinator for chemical biology and medicinal chemistry at Oxford University. This role supports the development of a new data management platform for chemical biology that will help further internal and external collaboration.

I was delighted to find out I had won the Harry Galloway Memorial Prize – certainly a proud addition to my librarianship CV!’


Post 2 Michael OHagan

Michael O’Hagan, winner of the 2013 Harry Galloway Prize