The Mount Allison Way: Finding Research Collaborators at a Small Institution

by Elizabeth Stregger
Systems Librarian, Mount Allison University
Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada

In a recent meeting, a colleague asked me how I got started on a research project with Christiana MacDougall, a faculty member from Women’s and Gender Studies. I squirmed in my seat, looked perplexed, and started my story, “well, I went out for a beer with another faculty member and we got on to the topic of Wikipedia….” Merriment burst out in the room. “Ah, the Mount Allison way,” someone commented.

When I came to Mount Allison University, I was keen to find people with similar interests. I started going to all kinds of campus events, from evening lectures to the Pride parade to Faculty Council. I asked everyone if they were a knitter, or if they knew of a knitting group in town. I said hello to people I recognized at the Farmer’s Market. I helped organize a film series in the library. Little did I know that I was starting to establish my research network.

At a smaller library we all have broader responsibilities. If the projector isn’t working, I’m the person who goes and checks all the connections. If a faculty member needs a repository for a digital project, that question comes to me too. These interactions across faculty boundaries are part of life on a smaller campus.

New responsibilities send me into research mode. I start searching the literature, creating Zotero folders, and sharing articles. Although my initial intention is to use evidence to inform my practice, follow up conversations with faculty members spark new ideas for projects and collaborative research.

Bringing these ideas back to the library creates new connections with library colleagues. The best space on campus for the Women’s and Gender Studies Wikipedia edit-a-thon was the library. When one of the students had questions about some genealogical abbreviations in a source, I called the Archivist, David Mawhinney, for help. Now David and I will be speaking together at our International Women’s Day event about women in science at Mount Allison.

Truly engaging in the university community in these ways has required a bit of bravery. The positive feedback loop has me committed to challenging my introverted instincts. In less than a year, I’ve had two conference presentation proposals accepted, my first collaborative REB proposal was approved, and I was included in a SSHRC grant proposal.

Previous positions at other institutions laid the groundwork for the activities I’m involved in now—from developing an evidence based practice at the University of Saskatchewan to working with medical researchers on their research profiles at the University of Manitoba. The “Mount Allison Way” is an exciting approach to research, and I’m looking forward to seeing what other kinds of opportunities will come out of the woodwork next!

What are your tips for adapting to a new institution?

How do you take advantage of happenstance in your research?

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Setting sail as a CEO – what is the optimal tenure for a library CEO?

by Stephanie Hall*

This post is rather personal, as for a variety of reasons, I’ve decided to leave my job after five years as the CEO of a large library system in order to sail around the world on a tall ship. It’s a fabulous job, with an amazing staff and board, and I didn’t decide to leave lightly. As strong as the allure of sailing is, there was also an instinctive sense I had that the time was right for the organization. Our system had made many positive changes, and we were at a good handing off point. I wondered what, if anything was considered the average ‘ideal’ time for CEO transition, recognizing that individuals will vary greatly.

Looking at the corporate world, a 2013 study from Temple University suggested that, while the optimal tenure, as measured by stock returns, is 4.8 years, the average CEO stayed on for 7.6 years. The study’s authors suggested this may be due in part to a tendency of CEOs to depend more on exploratory learning and external input in the earlier part of their term, and to depend more on internal corporate input later in their tenure, potentially ‘losing touch’ with customers and clients. An earlier study of 2500 companies found that longer tenure was correlated with higher overall performance, but for both long and short tenure CEOs, performance was generally best in the first half of their tenure.

However, as we know, the corporate world has a different bottom line from the social sector. In Forces for Good, researchers looked at 12 high-impact non-profits and found that long tenure was a common feature among those high impact CEOs. One of the highlighted techniques emphasized in that book is the strategic use of partnerships. When I think about some of the most high-performing libraries in Canada, partnerships are a critical part of their success. Partnerships depend on trust and relationships, and both of those things take time to develop.

Have you been reading (or conducted) any research in this area? I doubt it needs to be said, but I’m not looking for personal CEO critiques here! I admire my CEO colleagues and respect their humanity and the important work they do. But, as to research on this topic, I’d love to hear your observations.

Fair winds and following seas.

*Stephanie Hall was the CEO of the Okanagan Regional Library from 2013 to February, 2018, and is about to board the tall ship Picton Castle on a 14 month circumnavigation of the globe.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Paying for Peer Review?

by Nicole Eva
University of Lethbridge
Alberta, Canada

I got to talking with a newer professor in our Faculty of Management about issues around open access and the huge profits of the big publishers, and found that she was surprisingly passionate about the subject. I say surprisingly, because often I find faculty members, especially in that particular Faculty, somewhat resistant / unconcerned about the issue. But this particular professor is from a younger generation, having recently completed her PhD, and is not yet totally convinced about the traditional scholarly communications models. As we drove home from a trip our book club had taken, we had hours to muse about the state of academic publishing and the unfairness of it all.

Then she said something shocking, at least to me: “Those publishers should be paying us for peer review”. But the more we talked, the more she had me on board; sure, writing the articles is part of our job, but the reviews we are also expected to perform for free? Those are often seen as over and above, certainly not counting nearly as heavily towards one’s tenure & promotion package but often time consuming and, at least for some, undertaken quite painstakingly and conscientiously. I argued that the ‘good’ guys, those truly open access publications which are operating at a break-even level, wouldn’t be able to afford that; but I couldn’t deny that charging the Big Five a hefty fee for at least some of the free labour we provide as academics would be incredibly satisfying. We fleshed out the idea, devising a scheme in which universities would administer the funds on behalf of their researchers; the funds would go towards the cost of research (RAs, equipment, etc) rather than being paid directly to reviewers, and a portion of it would be held back in a central fund to ‘reimburse’ those who were reviewing for non-profit, open access journals. We got ourselves so worked up about the issue that we decided right then and there to write a blog-post/style article about it, and within hours of getting home she’d sent me an outline of the arguments we’d use.

We did write the article; it’s currently being reviewed by one editor and we hope to get confirmation of publication this month. [Editor’s note: the article has been published and can be found at University Affairs.] But as I floated the idea past my colleagues, I was met with several objections, most of which were philosophical. I get it – the idea of monetizing any element of publication seems inherently wrong. But as long as we are stuck in a world in which some people (read: publishers) are getting rich off of the free labour of others (read: academics), shouldn’t we try to balance the tables at least a little bit? Another objection was that publishers would simply raise the prices of their subscriptions to compensate for their increased expenses. We countered this by calling for government intervention on subscription prices, much the way they currently cap the price of pharmaceuticals. We also noted that this harebrained idea would only work if everyone, worldwide, insisted on payment for their reviews – as soon as someone caves and does it for free, the system falls apart.

So do I think it will work? Not really. I’m sure it’s just another of the many, many ideas out there about how to transform academic publishing that won’t pan out. And in the process, it will probably raise the ire of many a librarian. But what I loved about this collaboration was that another academic – not a librarian, and a business faculty member to boot – cared as much about the unfairness of it all as I, a librarian, did. And I loved the idea that we would put this crazy idea* out there and potentially raise the conversation in a wider forum among academics – not just among librarians and other scholarly communication gurus, but among scholars from all disciplines. We intentionally submitted it to general academic, blog-type sites to gain as wide a readership as possible. And if it does nothing more than stir the pot among a larger audience of scholars and make a few of them think twice about feeding the oligopoly, then I will view that as a success.

So what do you think? Will I be outed as a traitor if this thing gets published? Will all librarians think I’m crazy, and shun me at conferences? Or is any idea a good idea if it raises awareness of the broken scholarly communication system?

*To be fair, once we started writing the paper we discovered that others have flirted with paying for peer review, with some success; see https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/should-academics-be-paid-for-peer-review for examples.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

The Elephant Tale of Data

by
Kristin Lee, Tufts University
Liz Settoducato, Tufts University

Earlier last year when I asked my colleague Liz Settoducato, Engineering Librarian here at the Tisch Library, if she would be interested in looking into Jumbo the Elephant with me we didn’t realize it would become a bit of a weird obsession. A simple idea to use data about Tufts University’s beloved mascot for instruction sparked research into the circus, P. T. Barnum and his shenanigans, taxidermy, and scientific specimens. The more we read, the more we wanted to know.

This project has become a place where our personal journeys to librarianship collide. My background is in science and I have long been fascinated by the idea of physical objects as data. I also love maps, a perfect way to present the adventures of an elephant who had his own personal train car. Liz comes from the world of gender studies and archives. She understands how our fascination with different forms of entertainment impact scholarship and research, and why it is essential to study this as part of the experience of being human. Together we can look at our subject, the sadly doomed star of the London Zoo so fiercely pursued by circus showman P. T. Barnum, who met his end in a train accident in St. Thomas Ontario in 1885, as the pop culture icon and flesh and bone creature that he was.

Chasing down information hasn’t been easy. There are circus handbills, correspondence, newspaper articles, songs, and images of Jumbo in collections all across the country. But we wanted more. Jumbo became the mascot of Tufts University posthumously, when his stuffed hide was donated to the Barnum Museum of Natural History in 1889 by Mr. Barnum himself, after travelling with the circus (The Story of Jumbo). There are pieces of Jumbo, King of Elephants, in collections all over the country (I just found out about this piece of tusk at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan while writing this ). His heart was purchased by Cornell University, but all they have left is the jar, a fact which caused Liz and me to have a conversation about just how you could lose a 40 lb elephant heart. All of these specimens were once a whole, living elephant, a collection that requires each piece for context, and bringing them back together (at least virtually) has become a bit of a mission.

What we call “Our Eccentric Jumbo Research Project” isn’t really that outlandish in the context of librarian research at all. We are using tools from the digital humanities to explore texts, like the biography of Jumbo by his keeper Matthew Scott, to try and figure out how the people around him understood him. We are thinking about how P. T. Barnum, purveyor of “humbug” and serial hyperbolist, spread misinformation about his prized attraction to get the attention of crowds and how that affected the public view of wildlife in places they could only imagine in the late 19th century. We are tracking down data from studies of Jumbo’s bones and his tail (the only piece that survived after the rest of his hide was destroyed when Barnum Hall at Tufts burned down in 1975) to better understand how he was treated during his short life. Librarianship is about not only providing our communities with what they need, but giving them access to worlds they didn’t even know were out there and allowing a sense of wonder and whimsy to infiltrate the research process.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Project Management and Librarianship

by Laura Newton Miller, Assessment Librarian
Carleton University

I did something a little different this past year while on sabbatical: I took an online community college course called Intro to Project Management. I kind of wish I had taken something like this earlier on in my library career. People who know me will attest to the fact that I was kind of “whiney” about it for the first few weeks (sorry about that- I wasn’t ready for the whole “grades” thing!) In the end, it turned out to be quite a useful experience.

I will be the first to tell you that there is way more that I can learn about project management and I am by no means an expert on this topic. But I thought I would share some thoughts in case any of you are interested in learning more.

A project is defined as a temporary, unique endeavour that has a definite beginning and an end. It is not part of regular operations (although when complete could move to that). We deal with projects all the time in libraries. A project could be the implementation of a new service, the renovation of a library building, or the introduction of a new technology. One could also use project management to work through a research endeavour. I can’t help but think we SOMETIMES muddle through things. Maybe there’s a way to do things better.

Project Management is the “application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements” and can be categorized into 5 “Process Groups”- initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling, and closing (PMBOK Guide). A project can go off-kilter in any one of these groups. For a little taste of how one works through this, one could take a look at the initiating process. The main purpose of this stage is to align stakeholders’ expectations with the projects purpose, helping them understand the scope and objectives, and “show how their participation in the project and its associated phases can ensure that their expectations are achieved” (PMBOK Guide). Who are the stakeholders? They are members of the team who are working on the project. They are also those who could be affected by (or perceive themselves to be affected by) the project. Project Management helps to identify stakeholders (throughout the entire project lifecycle), how to understand their relative degree of influence, and how to balance their demands, needs and expectations.

Just taking this small (but very important) aspect of Project Management made me realize just how much we need more training in this. I don’t envision becoming a certified project manager at any point soon, but I am hopeful that my intro course will help me to do my job a little better.

If you are interested in learning more about Project Management:

Books– (a quick look in WorldCat shows that these are available in several libraries- hopefully one near you. I’ve linked below to Amazon)

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide)– This is the go-to guide put out by the Project Management Institute. It’s a bit of a dry “what to do” as opposed to “how to do it”, so you may want to supplement with other resources, such as…

Project Management: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide – I appreciate easy-to-read things.

Video-
ProjectManager.com YouTube channel: I find these videos short and helpful. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUr0u2WqDWBdxrHnM1nRZiA

Research Articles (project management and libraries) (open access)

Horwath, J.A. (2012). How do we manage? Project management in libraries: An investigation. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library Information Practice and Research, 7(1). https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/article/view/1802/2493#.Wk6oBt-nHIU

Unfortunately the other few that I found in my quick search are paywalled, but there is an evidence summary of one article within EBLIP journal:

Sullo, E. (2016). [Evidence Summary]. Academic librarians at institutions with LIS programs assert that project management training is valuable. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 12(3). https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/eblip/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/29275/21431

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

What’s Legal isn’t Always Ethical: Learning Analytics and Article 2.5

by Kathleen Reed, Assessment and Data Librarian, Instructor in the Department of Women’s Studies, and VP of the Faculty Association at Vancouver Island University

Recently I met with members of an institutional unit outside the library that are working on building a predictive learning analytics system to identify at-risk students so that interventions can be made. The desired model is expansive, pulling in many points of data. The group wanted access to library user records, so they could match student ID numbers with library account activations, check-outs, and physical usage of library space. At my institution, like many others, students agree upon entering the university to have their institutional records be accessed for internal research. But do student actually know what they’re agreeing to when they click the “accept” button? How many of us actually read the fine-print when we access services, be they universities or a social media platforms? While technically the students may have given consent, I walk away from these meetings feeling like I need a shower, and questioning why so many people in education are uncritically hopping on the learning analytics train.

Librarian professional ethics mandate us to resist the panopticon-style student information systems being built by many post-secondary institutions in the name of “student success,” and that are built into learning management systems like D2L and Moodle. The American Library Association has clear policies on Privacy, and the Confidentiality of Personally Identifiable Information about Library Users. The ALA’s Code of Professional Ethics states, “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.” (ALA, Professional Ethics) There’s been plenty of librarians talking about libraries and learning analytics; Zoe Fisher has a nice summary on her blog.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that learning analytics don’t have a place in education. But that place should be driven by informed consent of the people whose data are being analyzed. To me, simply throwing in fine print in a long legalistic document doesn’t count as “informed consent” (and IMHO it also doesn’t stand up to strict British Columbia privacy laws, but that’s a debate for another time). Students need to be told exactly which data are being accessed, and for what purpose. Right now, at least at my place of work, they’re not. I’m teaching in Gender Studies this term, and using the learning management system D2L. When I mentioned to students that I don’t look at the learning analytics that are a part of the instructor view in D2L, most were shocked that professors could look up when and what course information students were accessing.

I sit in Learning Analytics meetings and think “if only we were subject to the Research Ethics Board (REB)…” Despite my early-career eye-rolling at some of the hoops I’ve had to jump through for REB approvals, I’m coming to appreciate these bodies as a valued voice in keeping researchers within solid ethical boundaries. REBs make us stop and think about the choices we make in our research design, and the rights of participants. Because REBs serve this function, the research being done is frequently to a high ethical standard.

Contrast this with internal work being done that doesn’t require REB approval, or any training on ethics or privacy. Much of this work is done under the guise of the Tri-Council Policy Statement – Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (2014) Article 2.5, which exempts institutional research from Research Ethics Board approval. Article 2.5 states:

Article 2.5 Quality assurance and quality improvement studies, program evaluation activities, and performance reviews, or testing within normal educational requirements when used exclusively for assessment, management or improvement purposes, do not constitute research for the purposes of this Policy, and do not fall within the scope of REB review.

Application Article 2.5 refers to assessments of the performance of an organization or its employees or students, within the mandate of the organization, or according to the terms and conditions of employment or training. Those activities are normally administered in the ordinary course of the operation of an organization where participation is required, for example, as a condition of employment in the case of staff performance reviews, or an evaluation in the course of academic or professional training. Other examples include student course evaluations, or data collection for internal or external organizational reports. Such activities do not normally follow the consent procedures outlined in this Policy.”

What this means is that most of the assessment work done in the library – unless it’s research for articles or conference presentations later on – is not subject to REB review. It’s the same for folks who are building learning analytics tools, or monitoring the progress of students within the institution. From what I’ve witnessed, the projects that fall under Article 2.5 are some of the most ethically-fraught ground within post-secondary education. I’m not arguing that anyone who does internal work should have to go through a full REB approval process. But they should have to have some training on ethics and privacy. Perhaps there should be the equivalent of a Research Ethics Officer for investigations that fall under Article 2.5, to help ensure that internal work is held to the same high ethical standard as research.

The guidance that REBs give and the mindset in which they train us to think is valuable, and should be more widespread in post-secondary institutions regardless of whether research falls into or outside of Article 2.5.

REBs, I take back every shady comment and eye roll I ever threw your way.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Introducing the C-EBLIP List of Peer-Reviewed Journals in LIS

by Kristin Hoffmann
University of Western Ontario

Have you ever wondered where to submit your latest research paper? Would you like to be able to identify Open Access titles in librarianship?

I am happy to announce that the C-EBLIP site now hosts a list of peer reviewed journals in library and information science (LIS). This list was created to help librarians and archivists identify journals where they can submit manuscripts for publication. To that purpose, we have developed the list with three key features in mind:

Organization by category
There are twelve categories for this list, covering a wide range of topics in LIS, which help identify journals that relate to the topic of your manuscript. The category “Library and Information Science” contains the journals that are the broadest in scope. For simplicity, we have listed each title in only one category.

Identification of Open Access and Canadian titles
Open Access (OA) journals have theOpen Access logo logo at the end of their reference. Happily, there are many more OA titles now than when we started this list in 2007, in part because all of the journals that have launched since then are OA. Since C-EBLIP is based in Canada, we have highlighted Canadian titles with Maple Leaf .

Active titles only
The list does not include journals that have ceased publication, because the goal is to help identify potential venues for publication. We have listed journals under their most recent title, with previous titles provided in the entry.

Selinda Berg created this list in 2007 for the Librarians and Archivists Research Support Network at the University of Western Ontario, based on information from Ulrichs Serials Directory. I have since maintained this list in print, and we have shared it as part of the participant handouts at each Librarians’ Research Institute, updating it with newly created journal titles. Moving it to the C-EBLIP site means that this list is now publicly available and online.

In moving the list online, I reviewed each title over the past few months to check that the basic information about the journal was complete and up to date. Over the coming year, my plan is to add brief annotations to each title based on the focus and scope as described on the website for each journal.

There are almost certainly more titles we could add to this list, and despite our best efforts there may be typos or other errors. If you notice any incomplete or incorrect information about a title, or if you would like to suggest additional titles to include on this list, please comment here or write to Virginia Wilson, virginia.wilson@usask.ca

By the numbers
Journals currently on this list: 115
Open Access journals: 35
Canadian journals: 5
Journals that have launched since 2007: 14
Journals that have launched since 2007 and are Open Access: 14
Journals that have changed their name since 2007: 10

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

UBC Okanagan’s First Researcher-in-Residence Day Report

by Marjorie Mitchell
Research Librarian, UBC Okanagan Library

A small and intrepid group of librarians and archivists gathered on December 15, 2017, in the University of British Columbia Okanagan Library Special Collections room for a day focused on the processes of conducting research. Librarians from Okanagan College and UBC’s Vancouver Campus joined their Okanagan colleagues to hear Jane Schmidt talk about her experience conducting research while on sabbatical, the challenge of peer-review for a topic that takes a critical stance, and, following the publication of her article Little Free Libraries®: Interrogating the impact of the branded book exchange, the media attention she and her research partner, Jordon Hale, received. Jane talked candidly about doing research on a topic she was passionate about, creating strong research partnerships with people who have complimentary skills, and about managing the aftermath of publishing an article critical of a US-based not-for-profit organization that caught the media’s attention.

In the question and answer time following Jane’s formal presentation she said one thing she would have done differently was to have secured ethics approval for portions of the research. She ultimately ended up excluding from her article what she learned from following social media on the Little Free Libraries® because she hadn’t sought ethics approval in advance of joining the closed Facebook group whose members are all people who built individual installations of a Little Free Libraries® box. A participant also asked Jane how she would have done this research if she had not been on sabbatical. Jane emphatically answered that the research would not have happened!

Following Jane’s candid and engaging talk, invited speakers Pierre Rondier and Mary Butterfield, both from UBC Okanagan, talked about writing grant proposals. Pierre focused on information about applying for Social Science and Humanities Research Council grants including the types of grants available, their scope, deadlines and criteria. Mary shared her insight as both a person who helps members of the Faculty of Management to write grant proposals and as an adjudicator for community grants such as community arts grants and grants from the Central Okanagan foundation. Both agreed researchers need to thoroughly understand the criteria of the grants for which they are applying.

The final session of the day was a panel presentation and discussion of research collaborations. Jane Schmidt talked about working with her researcher partner who was a student at the time they worked together. Sajni Lacey spoke about finding research collaborators during her time as a contract academic librarian prior to starting at UBC Okanagan on a tenure track. Finally, I spoke about collaborating in a large group over long distances highlighting my participation within the national studies on research data management practices of groups of faculty. Audience members added their experiences to the discussion to round out the breadth of variety of research, especially research done while on sabbatical or study leave.

Participants expressed an interest in seeing this type of event happen again.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Evidence and Community Save Libraries

by Cara Bradley, Teaching and Learning Librarian
University of Regina Library

March 22, 2017 was a dark day for Saskatchewan’s libraries. The Government of Saskatchewan released an austerity budget that decimated the province’s public library system. Almost $5 million was cut from public library budgets, with $1.3 million cut from libraries in the province’s two largest cities, and another $3.5 million cut from the regional libraries that provide services to smaller communities and rural areas of the province (http://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca/budget-stops-provincial-funding-for-saskatoon-regina-libraries-1.3337911). These numbers might appear small to larger library systems across the country, but they represented more than half of the library budgets of the regional libraries, and so spelled the end of an interlibrary cooperation system for which the province is famous and the closure of libraries in many communities across the province. The impact was to be nothing short of devastating.

Within days of the budget announcement, an active SaveSaskLibraries campaign was launched. Library users across the province mobilized, and after a campaign that included letter-writing, petitions, social media groups, and protests, the Government of Saskatchewan reversed its decision on April 24, 2017 and reinstated library funding to previous levels (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/sask-libraries-budget-reversal-1.4082965).

I’ve thought a lot about the whole series of events, as well as what lessons I (and our library community writ large) might learn from this experience. Here are a couple of my takeaways:

1) Evidence matters. Evidence saved these libraries. Most importantly, it was evidence that these libraries mattered a great deal to the people of Saskatchewan. This evidence took a lot of forms, and included letter-writing campaigns, petitions, and “Drop Everything and Read” protests at 85 locations around the province. The “evidence assault” also included op-eds, media releases, and handouts that corrected the inaccuracies offered by the government as rationale for the decision to drastically cut library budgets. I attended a protest at which a politician was given a document that, point-by-point, refuted the misinformation that had led to the decision. As protest leaders reviewed that document with the politician, I saw a wavering, an uncertainty. The evidence was making a difference.

I have a long-standing interest in evidence based librarianship, but this was the clearest example I have seen of evidence making a difference for libraries. It was powerful.

2) Local community matters. I can’t pretend to speak for all academic librarians, but I think that we tend to find our community with academic library colleagues across the country. Our research tends to be either narrow in focus (our institution) or sector-specific (academic libraries across a wider geographical range). Relatively little of our attention, both research and service-wise, focuses on our local communities. It was this local community—public librarians, library staff, and many, many library supporters–who stepped forward and saved Saskatchewan’s public library system.

We’re missing out. My community is filled with smart, compassionate, library- loving people. I need to learn from them and give back to them. Most of all, I want them on my side when my back is against the wall.

Politics undoubtedly shaped how this all played out—both the decision to cut and the decision to reinstate library funding—but I won’t soon forget the role of evidence and community in saving Saskatchewan’s libraries.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

The increasing need for ‘evidence’: surveillance and patron privacy

by Tegan Darnell, Research Librarian
University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Although I understand the need for demonstrating value and for evidence-based decision making in libraries in the current socio-political environment, recently I have experienced increasing concern over the ways that academic libraries are collecting data about the movements and behaviour of members of their communities. This is particularly of concern with the increasing use of technology using mobile devices that track members of the library community by location and library resource use.

Analytics packages monitor customer behaviour via smartphones with Wi-Fi capability. One application in particular, which I am going to call “Liquid”, collects unique media access code (MAC) addresses from each phone and then scrambles the code to anonymise the data before storing it on servers. Liquid’s business model concerns my greatly, as it provides the data about your own spaces to businesses (or libraries) for free, and then offers a premium paid service to access the aggregated data of other businesses (or libraries).

On a side note: The Mobile Location Analytics code of conduct was established after this technology had already been trialled for months. Customers were made aware of the technology, resulting in outrage about being monitored. This code of conduct applies only to retail spaces in the United States of America.

Once customer data is collected, it is made available to others for payment. While identifying data is not collected, the age and gender of individuals can be established through the aggregation of the billions of points of data that Liquid already collects. Not only that, but permission from customers is not required or sought. As long as customer name and address are not collected, data that may be identifiable is perfectly legal.

While Liquid itself has a primarily retail customer base, Australian academic libraries are considering (or trialling) this type of technology. While the benefits of having this data about library users are clear to me, it seems that the privacy of users is being minimised or dismissed. The benefits of this sort of data is considered more beneficial to library patrons than the potential risks of their exploitation.

I am sure you are all aware that privacy and confidentiality is fundamental to the ethics and practice of librarianship. The question I have is not whether or not a library should use this sort of tech to track the movement of users. My question is this:

Are data-driven information services and spaces an expectation from users, or are they driven by concerns about funding and library relevancy?

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.