Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Getting research into practice

Last week SINTO held its annual Members' Day and AGM at Sheffield Hallam University. I will pass quickly over the AGM (where I had to report a large deficit on the SINTO accounts for the past year) and move instead to the members' day itself.
The theme was "Getting research into practice" and we looked at how research carried out both by LIS academics and by practitioners can be used by librarians.

Our first keynote speaker was Dr Ian Rowlands whose report on Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future has attracted a lot of attention. Ian has explored the reality behind the idea of the "Google generation" i.e. the belief that there is a new generation of people with very different information seeking behaviour based on the use of the Internet and who are turning away from libraries. He suggested that the real situation was more complicated and that we may be seeing the rise of "digital dissidents" - young people who are moving away from the Internet. Dr Rowlands pointed out that librarians have to ensure that their services remain relevant to the needs of students, researchers and the public.

Liz Brewster gave a presentation about her dissertation at the Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield, on bibliotherapy and the public library. This work won her the SINTO Bob Usherwood prize and is a good example of how student dissertations can be a useful source of information for practitioners. Information on tracing student dissertations from the DIS can be found here.

Matt Borg and Deborah Harrop from Sheffield Hallam University Learning Centre then reported on work they had carried out on information skills training. There keyword was "Inspiration" and they pointed out that information is a mechanism not the outcome and that we need to be learner focused. They also showed that information skills training could produce results.

Our second keynote speaker, Juliet Eve from the University of Brighton gave a paper "Academics are from Mars, practitioners are from Venus" which looked at the gap between the two groups. She has outlined her argument in her own blog on this event.

The discussion that followed was fairly low key despite Bob Usherwood's attempts to stimulate debate. Briony Birdi explained the DIS's commitment to making research available to the wider community and their interest in working with practitioners. Some practitioners explained that although they were interested in using research they had limited time to keep up-to-date with everything that was produced and that if they did carry out their own research they had no time to publish it themselves.

Bob Usherwood mentioned Edward Dudley's column in Update to the effect that librarians don't spend enough time thinking about or discussing professional issues. The members' day was an opportunity to do this and I hope the members found it to be a useful interlude.

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