Last updated on 5 January 2018
Six weeks ago, I started my new job as Coordinator for Evidence-Based Practice in a university library. This is a newly created position that is responsible for engaging the different areas of the library service to help ensure the best available evidence is identified, gathered and applied to ongoing improvements, projects and decision making; that what is measured as the library’s performance is relevant and reflective of the library’s value and contribution to the university’s priorities and objectives and other stakeholders, as well as foster a culture of evidence-based practice throughout the library.
An exciting time for EBLIP
This is the first time I’ve seen ‘evidence-based practice’ in a job title in the library and information profession. I acknowledge there may be other labels for this role’s function, such as ‘library assessment’ or ‘library quality’, or ‘performance measures and data’ in a job ad I recently received in my email inbox from Canada. But having ‘evidence-based practice’ in this role’s title excites me. The focus is undoubtedly on developing the library’s capacity for practicing in an evidence-based way. I see this role as not just about satisfying and ensuring compliance with reporting requirements from external stakeholders and bodies. This role is also about empowering the library to ask its own questions about professional practice and service delivery, think critically about what we do and how we do it, and then design appropriate approaches to gather the evidence necessary to answer those questions.
How did I end up here?
All my professional experience to date, including my stints in the corporate world, has come together to be utilised in this role and toward an end I’ve become most passionate about as an information professional. Evidence-based practice is the constant. I first started to learn about evidence-based library and information practice (EBLIP) in my first year of the LIS Masters. I completed a ALIA FOLIOz course run by the University of Sheffield. From there, I adopted a ‘practitioner-researcher’ approach to my practice and completed an EBLIP research project in my final year which resulted in my first, published academic journal article. If my business undergraduate grades are anything to go by too (popped up in my house de-cluttering over the weekend), I had an interest in research and an aptitude for analysis. By nature, I’m always asking ‘why?’ and I like finding new ways to do things more efficiently and effectively.
In this post, I thought I’d share with you my first steps in establishing this brand new role.
The first few weeks
I felt like a newbie info pro all over again – scared, doe-eyed and nervous. Perhaps the beginning of a new chapter in my career. Being a brand new role, my focus for the first week was to better understand the position description and identify the duties and tasks that would be required to bring the role to life. I pulled the position description apart. I asked myself,
- What does this role mean to the library? How will the role fit?
- On a day-to-day basis, what would this role do?
- What are the key streams of work this role would need to undertake and co-ordinate?
I also thought about my own experience being an evidence-based practitioner and realised the challenge I’d walked into in attempting to unpack, translate and support the application of this knowledge and experience to different areas of the library.
I read literature and searched for ways to embed EBLIP into a library and found that there’s a literature review/ research article waiting to be written. 🙂
I wondered about what projects were currently underway and what challenges, constraints and opportunities the library is facing.
My output from my first week was a rough plan for the year, with goals, objectives and strategies. I also had a heap of questions and things to talk about with my supervisor.
The next few weeks
In the weeks following my first, I’ve tried to meet as many people as possible, taken up opportunities to chat with people about evidence-based practice, orient myself within the library’s context, identify opportunities and priorities that will lay the groundwork for the role’s function. I have started to draft mini-project briefs. Those who have worked with me know that I like good project documentation and being a new role, I believe it is even more important that I do so. (Creating the role’s evidence base from the get-go.) I have identified some priorities for the role and revised my work plan. I’ve also started work on that aforementioned literature review. At this point however, I can see challenges ahead.
Challenges of a new role
- Integrating this role’s function into ‘the way we do things’ in the library – I think at first there’s been excitement and curiosity about what this role is and means, and initial meetings were full of enthusiasm (which is awesome). But from here, I need to find ways to continue conversations for others to learn about me, for me to learn about them, and where and when to bring this role into discussions and projects. I see this role as being a facilitator and an enabler of the library achieving the goals of EBLIP.
- Fostering an understanding of EBLIP and evidence across the library – Some will already be practicing in an evidence-based way without realising it. I’m ready to support them. Others don’t know that a better, informed approach to practice can be achieved. And these are general observations from my experience, not just where I currently am. Then there are some who have a preconceived idea that I’m ‘the stats person’. Yes, statistics are a form of locally derived evidence. But it is not the only form of evidence. Nor will all statistics that are collected be useful to decision making and ongoing improvement. My job is to prompt thought about this and help design meaningful approaches to informing what the library does and in the ways its stakeholders find valuable.
A different look at evidence-based practice
I’m in a unique position. I’m kind of the ‘theory’ of EBLIP dropped into the real world. Instead of being a researcher onsite doing fieldwork or interviews for a short time, this role has been created. I’m here day-to-day. I have my knowledge. I have my experience. I have my inner researcher. Applying these will be interesting.
In my first weeks and steps in this new role, I confirmed something – evidence-based practice, in practice, is very different to theory. Or rather, how, when and with what evidence, happens differently. Evidence-based practice can be messy. Also, a culture of evidence-based practice is dependent on context, and will be thought of and applied differently in each.
I’m looking forward to what I learn about EBLIP in this role and what insight I can share along the way.
Featured image found on Flickr by Brandi Korte with a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.