In Great Britain, the “major stakeholders in library, archive and information science (LAIS) research” have just established a coalition to do something about the fragmented state of the field. As Elkin (2007) says:
- …there is research going on, much of it ICT focussed, but it is piecemeal, of varying quality, with no co-ordination or coherence and poorly disseminated
- there are no real think pieces being produced or encouraged
- we have lost the locus / the space for research, within a co-ordinating framework
- we have lost the continuity and the context, as well as the culture and the capacity
I hope we can learn from this initiative.
The quote above comes from an overview of a British workshop about research agendas for library and information science. It applies, in my view, equally well to LIS research in Norway and the other Nordic countries.
A few years ago, I participated in an effort to coordinate research on public libraries in the Nordic countries. This was initiated by the library schools. A few meetings and seminars were held, but the lack of a common strategic framework and truly shared interests caused the process to collapse. At the moment, fragmentation prevails. The British process, it seems, had a stronger basis. Therefore I quote some representative sections from Kenna (2008):
– [In] March 2008, a small group representing major stakeholders in library, archive and information science (LAIS) research met to address this situation and begin the process of establishing an LAIS research coalition for the UK. The aim of the coalition is to:
- Articulate a strategic and planned approach to research across the sectors;
- Identify appropriate research content;
- Encourage the development of research capacity;
- Ensure the inclusion of each sector.
This meeting was the culmination of a lengthy process… . Its origins lie in a workshop entitled Looking Back to the Future, which was held at the British Library (BL) on 27 November 2006 in memory of Brian Perry, Director of the British Library’s Research and Development Department (BLR&DD), 1984-1995.
The proceedings were published as a special edition of Library and Information Research, Volume 31 (97) 2007.
Delegates agreed that there was a need for a real or virtual structure to enable the organisation, co-ordination and implementation of strategic LIS research. Such a structure would also enable access to information about research by the LIS profession which, in turn, would engender more confidence that any research activity associated with their profession would be available in an understandable and useable way.
In particular, there should be a focus on practitioner research and bringing research results into practice.
Delegates at the 2006 workshop suggested a number of possible models for a collaborative approach:
- A coalition of stakeholder organisations;
- Communities of researchers practitioners and funders co-ordinated by a stakeholder champion;
- The British Library acting as a broker, at least initially;
- A library development agency.
The coalition approach was … the option most strongly favoured, not least because it would not be another new organisation. The recommended model was … a membership-based organisation similar to the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC). This seemed to offer the most appropriate mix of financial and practical commitment from key players, together with a wide spectrum of membership and mechanisms for consultation and dissemination.
The next critical stage in the establishment of a coalition, was achieving buy-in from stakeholders. Over the summer and autumn of 2007, therefore, members of the working group, usually in pairs, visited and consulted a range of key stakeholders, both large and small, including:
- Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
- British Association for Information and Library Education and Research (Bailer)
- British Library
- Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)
- Cymal [Museums Archives and Libraries Wales]
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
- Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)
- Library and Information Services Council, Northern Ireland
- Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA)
- National Council on Archives (NCA)
- National Health Service
- National Library of Scotland
- National Library of Wales
- Research Information Network (RIN)
- Research Libraries UK (formerly CURL)
- Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC)
- Society of Chief Librarians (SCL)
- Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL)
- The National Archives (TNA)
- UK Office for Library Networking (UKOLN)
The outcome was a unanimous endorsement of the recommendation from the 2006 workshop that an initiative should be undertaken to improve the infrastructure for library, archive and information research. The coalition would:
- Provide a locus of and for LAIS research;
- Define the LAIS research landscape;
- Develop a national research strategy, respecting differences across the UK;
- Co-ordinate and disseminate information about research;
- Exploit existing and leverage new funding;
- Promote practitioner research and research into practice;
- Broker research and funding partnerships;
- Promote best practice and the development of skills and competencies.
The roadmap proposed eleven action lines:
- Encouraging quality
- Conference and showcase**
- Finance and administration
- Review and evaluation.
*A Manifesto setting out aspirations, objectives which should demonstrate links between existing research, strategic and government agendas but also set out its own agenda;
**A ‘Cream of Information Science’ showcase of best practice and the facilitation of existing research information exchange
- Buckley Owen, B. (2007) Models for a Coalition for Library and Information Science Research. London: British Library.
- Elkin, J. (2007) Overview of the Brian Perry commemorative workshop: looking back to the future; research agendas for library and information science. Library and Information Research, 31(97), 36-37.
- Proposed Coalition for Research in Library, Archive and Information Science, Second workshop on library and information research, Friday 30 November 2007. Library and Information Research. Volume 32 Number 100 2008
- Macartney, N. (2007) Setting the scene for the commemorative workshop. Library and Information Research, 31(97), 1.
- Kenna, S. (2008). Towards a coalition for research in library, archive and information science, Library and Information Research, Volume 32 Number 100 2008
Plinius in English
- PL 10/07. Why LIS research is fragmented. Supporting the views of Tom Wilson.
Plinius in Norwegian
- SK 7/09. Forskningsinteresser. Folkebibliotekforskerne samrår seg.
- SK 43/07. Det nordiske bibliotekfeltet. I det nye kunnskapssamfunnet er nordisk samarbeid en nødvendighet – når det gjelder bibliotekfag.
- SK 41/07. Forskere og folkebibliotek – i København. Felles nordisk satsing på forskning om folkebibliotek.
- SK 19/07. Nordiske folkebibliotek. Samarbeid om forskning over grensene.
- P 99/07. Nordisk forskning om folkebibliotek. Arbeidsnotat til et møte i Uppsala i mai.