CityLIS is delighted that Clare Thorpe, Associate Director (Library Experience), University of Southern Queensland, will visit us on June 24th. Clare will be giving a seminar around her work on evidence-based practice in A108 from 12.00-14.00. The timing will allow plenty of time for discussion, and we hope to see as many students and colleagues as possible.
Please bring your lunch!
Evidence-based practice in research and academic libraries: an applied approach
Research and academic libraries must become increasingly effective in meeting the challenges and opportunities faced by our information society, particularly in relation to open access, bibliometrics, digital scholarship, user experiences and cultural heritage. Libraries need to demonstrate their value and contribution to their institutions and communities. Evidence-based practice can meet both these needs. It is an approach to professional practice that involves a structured process of collecting, interpreting and applying valid and reliable research and evidence to support decision-making and continuous service improvement in professional practice (Howlett & Thorpe, 2018). This paper reports on two emerging initiatives in evidence-based practice at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Library, a regional multi-campus university in Australia. It demonstrates how evidence-based practice forms part of our organisational strategy to engage with our community and society.
Firstly, the paper reports on a new model of embedding evidence-based practice through a role explicitly dedicated to developing the library’s evidence base. While other libraries may have a person responsible for assessment, performance metrics or data analysis, the Coordinator (Evidence-Based Practice) has a broader mandate – to work with library staff to develop tools, skills and expertise in evidence-based practice. The paper will describe why this role was created and how the Coordinator is working to engage with library staff to understand their business and the evidence needed to support service improvement for the Library. By doing this, USQ Library is building the capacity to demonstrate value to stakeholders, gain a deeper understanding of clients’ needs and experiences, promote robust decision-making and improve service delivery.
The second initiative, led by the Coordinator (Evidence-Based Practice) is the development of a maturity model to conceptualise and identify practical steps to cultivate a culture of evidence-based practice within research and academic libraries. Current models of evidence-based library and information practice apply predominantly to individuals. Little is known about how an organisation can enhance its maturity level in being evidence-based, despite a growing demand from institutional leaders for proof to demonstrate why investments in libraries should continue (Baker and Allden, 2017; Council of Australian University Librarians, 2016). Informed by relevant literature and 16 semi-structured interviews with library professionals from Australian and New Zealand university libraries, the model identifies characteristics of evidence-based practice at different levels of maturity. Academic and research libraries will benefit from the maturity model as an innovative tool to identify the extent to which their organisation is practising and delivering services in an evidence-based way; build, measure and sustain a culture of evidence-based practice.
USQ Library is seeing the benefits of having explicit focus on building the capacity of library staff as evidence-based practitioners and developing tools to measure and sustain our success. These emerging initiatives demonstrate an applied approach by which research and academic libraries can become better informed and more adaptable to client and community needs in an ever-changing society.
Clare Thorpe is the Associate Director (Library Experience) at University of Southern Queensland. She has worked in academic and state libraries since 2001, using evidence-based approaches to develop and apply best practices in collection management, user experience, staff development, and information literacy design. She has also lectured and tutored in the MLIS program at Queensland University of Technology. Clare’s professional achievements include Australian Library and Information Association’s Distinguished Certified Professional status (2016), the Metcalfe Award for early career achievement (2005) and the Queensland Library Achiever of the Year (2016). Follow Clare on Twitter @thorpe_clare and ORCID: 0000-0002-0974-4087