Last updated on 4 December 2018
What drives me a lot of time in this profession is the belief I have in libraries and their role in people’s lives. Libraries empower, enable and inspire the possibilities of what we can achieve as individuals and together as communities, through lifelong learning, creativity and knowledge. One way libraries remain relevant to their communities is through evidence based practice. My job, or mission is to show and enable libraries how to become aligned with, and evolve with their communities, within the environmental and societal conditions they find themselves. Evidence based practice is a set of deliberate actions that can help ensure libraries be all they can be and more.
That all sounds lovely, doesn’t it? But a little removed from what happens day-to-day in a library service, I’ll admit. Being evidence based in what we do – the decisions we make, the problems we solve, the improvements we implement to services, makes sense. How we become evidence based is an ongoing practical challenge because what exactly does it look like?
We may each have our own ideas of what evidence based practice means. From conversations I’ve had over the years, for some evidence based practice comes naturally and they are aware of what informs their work. For others, evidence based practice looks like something you do when a big project starts or a service crisis emerges. And then, only managers and leaders do the actual process of looking at different perspectives to resolve the situation. I’ll tell you now, evidence based practice is something we can all do and achieve, no matter our employment level because being evidence based is both deliberate and a way or mindset in being a professional.
A workshop experiment
I was invited to deliver an evidence based practice workshop at the recent ALIA Queensland Mini Conference, held in Brisbane Australia. I felt up to the challenge, so I immediately agreed.
This practical, hands on, super quick 30 minute workshop explored the evidence based library and information practice (EBLIP) process and showed participants how ‘every day’ being evidence based can be. I took what I know in theory and using my own experience and observations from my current role, I turned evidence based practice into, well, practice. I hadn’t designed a evidence based practice workshop for a conference environment before, so this was a bit of an experiment.
I based the workshop design on two challenges I regularly see in day-to-day LIS professional practice:
- matching the evidence need with the most suitable evidence gathering method and evidence source, and
- taking evidence and turning it into actions.
These challenges formed the basis for the two workshop activities. I then had to design the workshop to fit within the allocated 30 minutes. I achieved this by taking the thinking out of the coming up with possible evidence sources and providing participants with more than a handful of options so they can focus on working through the EBLIP process. Examples of evidence I included in the workshop activities are by no means perfect. This is actually the point and reflective of the real world. Every data set and piece of evidence is going to have limitations. It is important we are aware of these limitations when we make decisions based on evidence.
The first activity is about weighing up and identifying evidence the group will use to inform how they were going to progress with resolving their challenge. The second activity is about taking the evidence to inform their next steps. This might be a project decision, communicating success to stakeholders or answer a question, depending on their given scenario.
Outcomes – evidence based practice can be fun!
Overall, I was very pleased with how the workshop unfolded and what the participants gained from the experience. Certainly doing the pre-thinking in providing evidence examples helped to meet my own aims in enabling EBLIP process exploration. I felt surprisingly relaxed, quietly confident throughout and was excited by the group discussions and participants’ engagement with the activities. As I took a quick gauge of participant experiences with a show of hands, most felt challenged by the activities. Only a few felt the process came naturally to them. But through the experience, confidence levels with applying the EBLIP process were raised. Win!
Workshop now available as ‘DIY’
The workshop materials are now available under a Creative Commons licence so that library leaders and managers can conduct the workshop with their own teams. Even if you’re not a total wizz or expert at evidence based practice, you can still conduct this workshop. I have included some notes with the PowerPoint slides to help guide the discussion. If there is anything else holding you back from using these workshop materials, please let me know. I’m happy to help.
Evidence based practice is not just a theory or a theoretical framework. Evidence based practice can be applied to day-to-day work no matter where we sit in the organisation. Being evidence based takes a mindset and a willingness to make better decisions and services a priority, individually and collectively. Become aware of what informs what you do. Reflect regularly on how you’re doing things and be critical about what else can be done to serve your communities.
Because our world deserves top notch library services.
Featured image from Pixabay