Thursday, March 24, 2011

PL 6/11: The value of libraries for research

Filed under: 1bib, research — plinius @ 8:26 pm

A new British report documents the value of libraries for research. I summarize some main points.

Chapter headings

  1. Good libraries help institutions to recruit and retain top researchers
  2. Libraries help researchers win grants and contracts
  3. Libraries promote and exploit new technologies and new models of scholarly communications
  4. Repositories increase the visibility of the institution and raise its research profile
  5. Outward-facing libraries contribute to institution-wide initiatives
  6. Specialist staff work in partnership with academic departments
  7. Connecting with researchers enhances the value of the library’s services
  8. Dedicated spaces provide a better work environment for researchers
  9. Convenient access to high-quality research content remains a key foundation for good research
  10. Libraries are a physical manifestation of the values of the academy and of scholarship

From the introduction

This report presents the findings of a systematic study of the value of the services that libraries in the UK provide to researchers, and of the contributions that libraries from a wide range of institutions make to institutional research performance.

  • The aim was to identify the key characteristics of library provision to support research in successful UK universities and departments.
  • The approach comprised two main elements: quantitative analysis of statistics – from SCONUL, HESA, and the RAE, along with bibliometric data – to investigate correlations between the characteristics and behaviours of libraries in 67 UK HE institutions, and the research performance  of those institutions;
  • and gathering and analysing a large tranche of qualitative information from nine institutions with a range of characteristics.

Statistical and qualitative evidence

Our initial hope was that analysis of statistical trends and correlations would provide evidence and suggest avenues to explore in the qualitative phase of the project. The limitations of the available statistical data on library provision and characteristics, however, mean that our statistical analyses have been of limited utility.

  • This report is therefore based on a large weight of qualitative evidence, gathered from interviews and focus groups with a range of stakeholders – researchers, PVCs Research, the Research Support Office, Graduate Deans and Finance Directors as well as librarians – across nine institutions, and carefully analysed and cross checked.
  • Such evidence is based on individual perceptions and experiences, but we believe that in the aggregate, the evidence on the value of libraries set out in this document is robust and  unequivocal.
  • Libraries contribute to the research performance of individuals and institutions in many different ways, even if the nature and extent of that contribution is not well understood by researchers and senior managers.



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