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Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice: One Canadian Answer to Research and EBLIP Support

By Virginia Wilson 

At the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, librarians are faculty members. This means that we are responsible for the practice of professional skills, service, and research. In fact, we are required to conduct and disseminate research to achieve tenure and promotion. You might think that the mandate to conduct research would mean that doing so is seamless and easy. Not so! I know that from my own experiences as a librarian who was hired on the tenure track and who went through the tenure and promotion processes that there are common barriers to conducting research. I probably suffered through all of them. There are challenges like protecting the time we have to actually do the research; thinking about research as part of the role of a librarian rather than merely an add-on to the “real job”; dealing with financial concerns – will my professional fund allow me to hire a student and go to that crucial conference?; and feeling a self-perceived lack of research skills.

After making my way through the tenure and promotion process with the help of mentors and peer support, and working for a library Dean who strongly believed in implementing a culture of research at our library, I took the lead on the development and implementation of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, or C-EBLIP. C-EBLIP’s mandate is to support librarians as researchers and to promote evidence based library and information practice. C-EBLIP is dedicated to raising the profile of librarians as researchers on campus and beyond; enhancing the University Library’s national and international reputation as a research organization; developing peer mentoring relationships to augment research and evidence based library and information practice; and sustaining established activities such as the Dean's Research Lecture Series and the Researcher-in- Residence Program. The formal application to establish the centre had to make its way through the University governance system, culminating in approval by the University Council. University Council is responsible for overseeing and directing the U of S’s academic affairs.

C-EBLIP was launched in July 2013 at the 7 th International Evidence Based Library and Information Practice conference which was held at the U of S. In the past three years, C-EBLIP has sponsored a number of activities designed to support our own librarians – workshops, a journal club, a writing circle, a code club, a blog, and more. But at the same time, as Director, I’ve always thought about the necessity and the benefits of facing outward and of connecting with others doing the same kind of work. Across Canada, not all academic libraries have the same requirements for research amongst their librarians. The terminology varies for things like tenure, faculty status, and the like. And more expansively, around the world it varies greatly as to whether or not librarians are required to conduct research for career advancement. However, whether or not it is a requirement, librarians are conducting research. They do so to enhance practice, to continue to develop professionally, and to contribute to the profession of librarianship. I wanted C-EBLIP to facilitate a connection with other librarians doing research and/or interested in evidence based practice.

One of the ways to do this was to organize an event. In 2014, the first annual C-EBLIP Fall Symposium: Librarians as Researchers was held at the U of S. Approximately 54 librarians from across Canada (and one from the United States) and from across library sectors attended this free, one-day symposium that included a keynote speaker, a single track of sessions, and really, a lot of food. In 2015, 62 librarians attended and we added a pre-symposium workshop included in the free registration. Currently, registration is in full swing for the 2016 edition of the C-EBLIP Fall Symposium and we’ve added a networking breakfast into the mix. From the start, post-symposium feedback has been exceptional, with one of the highlights for many librarians being the chance to network and connect with other librarians in the context of our work as researchers.

It’s been fantastic working with librarians at the U of S and connecting with librarians nationally at the C-EBLIP Fall Symposium. But why stop there? Spring 2016 saw the launch of the C-EBLIP Research Network, an international affiliation of institutions that support librarians as researchers and/or are interested in evidence based library and information practice. And while the membership is institutional (libraries, research groups, etc.) the research network is truly for librarians. There is a nominal institutional membership fee each calendar year (starting January 2017) and all funds being rolled back into the C-EBLIP Research Network to provide two online learning opportunities per year as well as research grants if funds allow.

As of this writing, there are currently 19 institutional members belonging to the C-EBLIP Research Network – members from Canada, Australia (including LARK, Flinders University Library, and the library at the University of Southern Queensland), the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and the United States. The remainder of 2016 continues to be a building time with full C-EBLIP Research Network activities ramping up in 2017. All of the details about the C-EBLIP Research Network and how to join can be found hereThere’s also a continually updated list of current members. Networking on a global scale is filled with possibilities for communication, collaboration, knowledge sharing, and learning, which in turn can enhance research and practice. C-EBLIP is very keen to connect with more institutions and more librarians. Join us!

Virginia Wilson is Director, Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice at the University Library, University of Saskatchewan

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