Reconfiguring the researcher-librarian relationship: evaluating South Africa’s ‛Library Academy’ experience Colin Darch and Karin de JagerUniversity of Cape Town
Context: Research Libraries Consortium • Project funding – Carnegie Corporation of NY • Two 3-year cycles – 2006-09, 2009-12; • Cape Town, KwaZulu-Natal and Witwatersrand • Pretoria, Rhodes and Stellenbosch • Further expansion unlikely (design too specific)
Context: Research Libraries Consortium • Commons (physical space) • Portal (virtual space) • Academy and US Internships (librarians) • No direct equity component • Intensive • Transformative • But inadequate in isolation • Question: what is the character of the intervention?
More Context: South African Research • Need to improve research output • Is a Government policy objective • Innovation economic development • Cadre of aging researchers • not being replaced • not demographically representative • gender, race, language • Crisis of secondary education • Reconfiguring of HE landscape
More context: South African LIS education • Mostly undergraduate professional degrees • B.Bibl., B.Tech. • Weak subject domain knowledge • LIS schools closing down • LIS schools shift towards teaching • IT skills • Knowledge management • Little disciplinary content • One (LIS education) size fits all • academic specialisation , research skills
The Research Commons and the Portal • Overall RLC objective: “to improve support for researchers in South African university libraries” • Dedicated virtual space – Research Portal • Dedicated physical space – Research Commons
... and a Library Academy • Aimed at mid-career librarians • Improvement in subject knowledge • Personal experience of research • Growth in confidence • Leadership • Able to support research • How to achieve this?
The Academy and the US Internships • Our solution in two parts: • Residential Academy, two weeks • Not about skills or training • Exposure to research journeys in different domains • Exposure to epistemology (not all positivism) • The US internships • Selected from Academy participants • MortensonCenter at UIUC, as group, two weeks • 4-6-week individual placements at ARL libraries • Lots of report-back channels
The Academy Venue Montfleur Conference Centre, near Stellenbosch
The Library Academy as a Concept • Partly an intervention re: LIS education in SA • LIS schools not producing academic librarians • Very little debate • Partly a conventional CPE intervention • educational activities ... designed to keep practicing ... professionals abreast of their particular domain ... and to provide them with training in new fields (Pors and Schreiber 1997) • writing a paper ... considerable research and study ... integral part of CPE (Weingand 2000) • mentoring ... necessary for successful CPE (Houle 1980) • varied and complementary learning patterns (Houle 1980); wide range of activities ... designed to meet identified ... needs (Varleijs 2008) • broadening of content to include ... recreation (Houle 1980)
The Academy Throughput • Four Academies have been held • Some attrition (11 participants have left) • Fifth is in process (October 2011)
Writing a Paper: Experiential Learning • Required of all participants • Potentially publishable ... • Any topic: LIS, non-LIS • Difficulty in identifying a research question • Unprepared for peer review • Outcome: range of published papers; specialissue of Innovation
Medium-term evaluation • Self-evaluation not sufficiently objective • Some quantifiable data required • Library Directors or Deputies charged with RLC liaison have clearest insight into changes of attitude and behaviour in the workplace • Best able to provide impact assessment • Online instrument developed • Each respondent answered questions about their own individual staff members - by name • Data collected about 67 participants
Survey instrument • Structured according to RLC key target areas: • Personal development: • Increase in confidence • Leadership development • Research proficiency • Increased contact with researchers • Development of subject knowledge • Conference presentation; and Publication • Professional development • Pro-active use & promotion of new technologies • More effective communication with library staff • Job promotion
Personal development • Have the participants shown an improvement in leadership since the Academy? • In your judgement, have the following participants shown a significant increase in professional and personal confidence since participating in the Academy? (n=67)
Research proficiency • Since the Academy, have the participants become pro-active in pursuing closer contact with researchers and/or graduate students, up to and including active collaboration in research projects? • Have any of the persons listed taken steps to improve their subjectknowledge or expertise since they attended the Academy? • Have any of the participants presented a paper at an academic conference, either on LIS or in another discipline, since the Academy? • Have any of the following participants published an article since participating in the Academy?
Professional development • Have the participants shown an improvement in communication skills and sharing with colleagues since the Academy? • Since the Academy, have participants pro-actively used existing or emerging Web or Internet technologies to promote library or research activity? • Which Academy participants have been promoted since attending, and as a consequence of the Academy?
Perceived professional development BUT: “[t]he promotions are not necessarily a consequence of the Academy. They are part of a larger library reorganization exercise as well as an appointment to a vacant management position. The Academy experience may have contributed but it is difficult to establish the link.”
Constraints • Research libraries under threat in SA: • Researchers don’t all view libraries as essential • Researchers don’t need librarians (or think they don’t) • Many academic librarians have little subject knowledge • Often unable to provide specialised research support • Time frame of our investigation fairly short
Conclusion Yet our results show that a short, intensive intervention can make a measurable difference: • to the way librarians perceive their role • to the way they work • to the way they engage with their clients Which can also have an impact on the national research enterprise. Thank you