Mainstreaming Scholarly Communication Support: C-EBLIP Journal Club, January 5, 2017

by DeDe Dawson
Science Liaison Librarian,
University of Saskatchewan

The C-EBLIP Journal Club kicked off 2017 with a “classic” article:

Malenfant, K. J. (2010). Leading Change in the System of Scholarly Communication : A Case Study of Engaging Liaison Librarians for Outreach to Faculty. College & Research Libraries, 71(1), 63–76. Retrieved from

In journal club we tend to select newer articles from the last year or two. Although 2010 is not that long ago it is outside our usual range. I recently revisited this article while working on a strategic action item that I am leading for our library. Our team for this action item is tasked with positioning the library as the source for open access expertise and advocacy on campus. As we contemplate ways to engage our library colleagues in this topic we have been doing what all good academics do: consult the literature! This article, in particular, seemed a good one to discuss beyond our team.

Kara Malenfant is a Senior Strategist with ACRL. At the time of writing this article her main responsibility and interest was in changes in scholarly communication and how libraries are responding to them. The article is an intrinsic case study: “…a special, significant example, not a typical or average case of how libraries implement scholarly communication outreach programs” (p 64). She describes how the University of Minnesota (UMN) Libraries “mainstreamed” scholarly communication duties into the work of all liaison librarians.

The notion of an “intrinsic” case study was new and intriguing to me. Indeed, the methods of this research were the first discussion point raised in our journal club. Malenfant conducted semi-structured interviews with two liaisons involved in this transition as well as Karen Williams, the library administrator at the time who implemented the change. A few of us raised concerns about the low number of people interviewed and their obvious bias in support of the changes, while another objected to the lack of generalizability of this kind of method. Despite these concerns, we all agreed strongly that this article is highly valuable and worthwhile – and one of the better case study articles we have read! Biases are labelled and acknowledged, and Malefant is clear about the methods and limitations.

Apparently, many other readers agree too. The article is highly cited and was selected as a landmark paper for republication in the College & Research Libraries’ 75th Anniversary issue. We discussed this popularity a bit too. Malenfant clearly states that the findings of a case study of this type are not generalizable… but they are transferable. This rings true: we noted many situations described where we saw ourselves and our library! We identified with the challenges the UMN Libraries faced. It is likely the case for other readers as well. All academic libraries face this challenge of how to address the changing needs of their users with the same, or fewer, resources and how to engage liaisons in new areas when they are already overwhelmed with numerous responsibilities. So, it is not surprising that the journal club discussion veered away from the article and towards this meaty and contentious topic.
Scholarly communication support is an obvious and pressing need on campus, and liaison librarians are ideally positioned to provide this kind of support. Making this kind of transition, getting everyone on board and (most critically) stopping doing some other things, is a rough road however. The successful strategies discussed in this intrinsic case study are useful to many libraries struggling with the same challenges.

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 “Why?” behind the research

by Andrea Miller-Nesbitt
Liaison Librarian, Schulich Library of Physical Sciences, Life Sciences and Engineering, McGill University

Lorie Kloda
Associate University Librarian, Planning & Community Relations, Concordia University

Megan Fitzgibbons
Innovation Librarian, Centre for Education Futures, University of Western Australia

When reading journal articles reporting original research, content usually follows the IMRAD format: introduction, methods, results, analysis, and discussion. Word count, author guidelines, and other conventions usually mean that the researchers’ motivation for conducting the study are often left out. In this post we present our motivations for conducting a research study on librarians’ participation in journal clubs:

Fitzgibbons, M., Kloda, L., & Miller-Nesbitt, A. (pre-print). Exploring the value of academic librarians’ participation in journal clubs. College & Research Libraries.

Being an evidence-based practitioner can sometimes involve a bit of navel-gazing. Beyond using evidence in our professional work (e.g., for decision-making, evaluating initiatives, etc.), we may likewise ask questions about the outcomes of our own professional development choices.

After three years of facilitating the McGill Library Journal Club, we began to think about ways we could disseminate our experience and lessons learned, and most importantly, how we could determine librarians’ perceived outcomes of participating in a journal club. We felt anecdotally that participating in a journal club is worthwhile, but we wondered: Can we formally investigate the impacts of participation on librarians’ practice and knowledge? What evidence can we find to inform the decisions and approaches of librarians and administrators in supporting or managing a journal club? Is there a connection between journal clubs and evidence-based librarianship? We also wanted to learn more about approaches taken in a variety of journal clubs and how they define success for their group.

The McGill Library Journal Club was initially established in order to help foster evidence-based practice by reflecting on the library and information studies literature and using those reflections to inform practice. The journal club also provides a professional development opportunity for all those interested. Although the McGill Library Journal Club has experienced many of the same challenges as other journal clubs, it is still going strong after 6 years thanks to a core group of motivated facilitators. (For more information about the journal club’s activities, see the McGill Library Journal Club wiki.)

In order to answer these questions, we first had to agree on a definition of a journal club. After some reading and deliberation, we framed participation in a journal club as an informal learning activity: learning that occurs outside classrooms or training sessions, but still involves some coordination and structure. In this context, our research question was: “What do librarians perceive as the value of participating in a journal club?” We focused on academic librarians who participate in journal clubs to manage the scope of the study, but a similar approach could be taken in other library and information organizations as well.

Because we were interested in gaining insight into individuals’ experiences, we considered several methods, and ultimately selected an in-depth qualitative method, the hermeneutic dialectic process (Guba & Lincoln, 1989). This is a method that we have seen used in the social sciences for the purpose of evaluation and reconciling diverse perspectives. At the time we were coming up with our research question, one of the authors (Lorie) was an assessment librarian, and interested in qualitative methods. She brought Guba and Lincoln’s writing to the team for discussion. It seemed both appropriate for answering our research question and also flexible to enable us to be able to really capture study participants’ experiences – not just what we expected to hear. We believe that this is the first use of this method in LIS research, so an additional motivation for the study was to apply the approach in the field.

As per the method, we conducted semi-structured in-depth interviews with each participant. After the first interview, central themes, concepts, ideas, values, concerns and issues that arose in the discussion were written into an initial “construction” which captured the experiences and perceptions expressed by the interviewee. Then in the second interview, the participant was asked to react to some of the points brought up by the first interviewee, as expressed in the construction. The construction was added to after each interview, incorporating the perspectives of each successive interviewee and used to inform the subsequent interviews. At the end, all participants were given the opportunity to comment on the final construction and let us know whether their perspectives were accurately represented.

Ultimately, we believe that the findings of our published study are of interest to librarians who aim to create and sustain a journal club. In particular, it could offer insight as they form goals for their group and justify the activity, including seeking support and recognition for their group.

More details about the impacts of academic librarians’ participation in journal clubs are of course presented in the article. In addition, in collaboration with the C-EBLIP Research Network, we hope to compile additional resources about journal club practices in librarianship and open communication channels in the future. Watch this space, and please get in touch if you have any ideas about promoting journal clubs for academic librarians.

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.

Futures Studies: What is it, and how can it be ‘evidence-based’ research?

by Tegan Darnell
Research Librarian
University of Southern Queensland, Australia

In March 2015, I started as a student in the Doctorate of Professional Studies (DPST) program. I wanted to find out why librarians are ‘doing’ information practice so far behind what is relevant in the current information environment. Obviously, we are all at different places and have different strengths in regards to our professional practice, but generally, as a group, librarians are, well, behind the information use of our clientele. Just admit it.

Scholarly communication has been transformed. The world in which information professionals operate has been disrupted, and embracing these changes allows for a much broader scope for the roles we play. I wanted, really, to shake things up. After reading tonnes of the literature, debating with myself, and arguing with the DPST Program Director about how I was going to address the problem, I was introduced to causal layered analysis (CLA).

CLA is a ‘futures studies’ methodology which was introduced by Sohail Inayatullah in 1998. The original paper can be found here. Professor Inayatullah is a practitioner of futures studies, the interdisciplinary study of postulating possible, probable, and preferable futures. But how can this possibly be scientific? I mean, how can it be possible to collect evidence from a future that hasn’t happened yet? It is a paradox which has not been ignored by practitioners.

Futures studies is a growing transdisciplinary field which has embraced such fields as systems thinking, education, hermeneutics, macrohistory, sociology, management, ecology, literature, ethics, philosophy, planning and others. It is an integrated field ‘with many lines of inquiry weaved together’ to create a complex whole (Ramos 2002).
The discipline uses a systematic and pattern-based approach to analysing the sources, patterns, and causes of change and stability in the past (history, economics, political science) and present (sociology, economics, political science, critical theory) in an attempt to develop foresight and determine the likelihood of future events and trends.

De Jouvenel (1965), an early futures theorist, likened forecasting or ‘the art of conjecture’ to the science of the meteorologist. Weather forecasts can be prepared reasonably accurately for each of the next few days. A forecast for more than a month in advance can be based on patterns, such as normal temperatures and precipitation, and other factors which may affect these in relation to the average. There is no way for a meteorologist to, with any certainty, say what the minimum and maximum temperature and precipitation levels on a particular day one month in the future will be. The meteorologist may, however, be able to say that it is likely that we will have above average rainfall, or that temperatures will be below average. A futures study considers patterns of power and privilege, social institutions, religion, and history, to postulate possible future states that may recur.

The causal layered analysis method, specifically, is not used to predict the future, but rather to create ‘transformative spaces for the creation of alternative futures’ (Inayatullah 1998). It is an action research method for increasing the probability of a preferred future by examining the problems, systems, worldviews and myths of the present. It is about human agency – using what we know about the past, to act in the present, in order to create/shape the future we would like to see.

Just imagine librarians in your own workplace, critically examining their own current problems, existing systems, worldviews, and subconscious myths and mythologies, to transform their practice. Perhaps you are starting to see why I decided to use the causal layered analysis method in my research.

I’m currently preparing for Confirmation of Candidature. Professor Inayatullah has agreed to be one of my supervisors. I think that makes me a *ahem* futures theorist.

If you are interested in finding out more I recommend this article by Professor Inayatullah on Library Futures published in The Futurist magazine.


Inayatullah, S 1998, ‘Causal layered analysis: Poststructuralism as method’, Futures, vol. 30, no. 8, pp. 815–829.

De Jouvenel, B 1965, The Art of Conjecture, Trans. by Nikita Lary. Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London.

Ramos, JM 2002, ‘Action Research as Foresight Methodology’, Journal of Futures Studies, vol. 7, no.1, pp. 1-24.

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.

Describing a phenomenon through experience: C-EBLIP Journal Club, February 16, 2016

by Carolyn Pytlyk
Research Facilitator
University Library, University of Saskatchewan

Forster, M. (2015). Phenomenography: A methodology for information literacy research. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 1–10. doi: 10.1177/ 0961000614566481.

Way back in October at the C-EBLIP Fall Symposium, Margy MacMillan from Mount Royal University talked about phenomenography as a new methodology for conducting research on information literacy. Phenomenography is “the empirical study of the limited number of qualitatively different ways in which various phenomena in, and aspects of, the world around us are experienced” (Marton quoted in Forster, p. 1). Margy’s enthusiasm and excitement for phenomenography certainly piqued my interest. In my conversations with library researchers, research methodology is often to topic of discussion when planning research projects, applying for grants, or developing research budgets and can sometimes be a stumbling block for researchers. As such when it came my turn to convene Journal Club, I thought Forster’s review article might be a good opportunity to explore phenomenography as a viable library research methodology for library researchers.

The majority of our conversation revolved around whether phenomenography was indeed a useful new methodology for conducting library research or not. For the most part, we agreed that from the perspective of the review article, it seemed a rather complex and involved methodology. However, in the end, we couldn’t really tell without actually following a researcher through the process. This review article was a fairly good introduction to and overview of phenomenography but to really understand its complexity, we agreed that we would need to read research employing phenomenography as a methodology to see how it works and if it is really as complex as it seems at the outset.

While presenting an intriguing and possible methodological alternative, this article left us with many more questions than answers. Some questions stemming from this review article include:
1. Is this a useful methodology? Would library researchers use it?
2. Is it a methodology about how we think?
3. How do researchers unobtrusively interview people without priming the participants? Is it even possible?
4. Is it a complex methodology, or does it just seem like it?
5. What are the steps involved? How does someone actually do it?
6. Could it be appropriate for library research other than information literacy (like usability or librarians as researchers)?
7. What other methodologies are out there in other disciplines that are possible for library research?
8. What sorts of learning/training would researchers need before undertaking phenomenography?
9. Do researchers have to be experienced interviewers to use it?

Still, despite the numerous unanswered questions, we were not deterred and were in agreement that we are all keen to learn more about it and its process.

Finally, we rounded out our conversation with the value of review articles, although not all of us are keen on them. (Don’t worry; I won’t name names.). Forster’s article not only opened our eyes to phenomenography as a new methodology; it also opened our eyes to the value of review articles as providing overviews of new methodologies, both as consumers and producers of knowledge.

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.