On 14th November, the FLIP team joined many other LIS students and professionals for the first LIS Dissertation conference (LISDIS). The conference was organised in order to showcase the breadth of LIS research done at masters level. There were nine presentations from recent LIS graduates across the day, grouped according to themes as well as a guest presentation from Emma Coonan, editor of the Journal of Information Literacy. Below we’ve summarised details from these presentations, followed by our overall thoughts from the day.
Part 1 – Collections and Discovery
The first presentation was from Sarah Hume discussing her research into classifying women’s studies collections. This was particularly interesting as it highlighted some of the more problematic elements of classification schemes. With most classification schemes having been developed predominantly by men from western cultures a significantly long time age, diverse identities are not always well represented as classification schemes have not progressed at the same pace as our views on identity have. This was clear from Sarah’s research where she found such issues as infanticide and abortion classified together in Library of Congress. You can follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahFHume.
Next up, Lizzie Sparrow discussed her research into discovery platforms. She carried out ethnographic research in order to view how users of Senate House Library were using the online catalogue. She discussed the challenges of getting participants involved and how her response rates fell short of her targets. In spite of this she still strongly endorses ethnographic approaches to LIS research, explaining that although time consuming it gives much deeper insights into users information behaviour. Her results concluded that information behaviour is different for every user and that people use a range of tools across different search platforms. As such, an ideal ‘discovery layer’ would be unique to each user. You can follow Lizzie on Twitter @library_lizzie.
The last of the first round of sessions was delivered by Lucy Saint-Smith. Her research focused on female book collectors through 1775 to the mid 19th century. In this period, Lucy noted, book collecting was seen as a distinctly male pursuit with female collectors being viewed as doing so for merely sentimental or decorative reasons. She looked at four women collectors in particular who challenged that perception and evaluated different aspects of their personal collections such as language, age, bindings and other physical aspects. One of Lucy’s most interesting findings was that the book collections themselves formed a crucial aspect of how these women represented themselves to other people.
Part 2 – Public Libraries and Community
Following a short break for tea and biscuits the next round of sessions began. The first of these was presented by Ian Clark, who talked about community libraries and the digital divide. His research compared two very different volunteer run libraries, one in an affluent rural area and the other in a deprived urban area. Both had become volunteer run in response to funding cuts and this had significant on the standard of services. Neither of the libraries were required to have computer literate volunteers working on site but the rural library was able to invest in computer equipment and free wifi where the urban library had to cut their number of computers and consider charging for internet access. He concluded that there is a serious concern that the digital divide between the two communities (and indeed in society in general) will continue to grow in the face of economic hardship. You can follow Ian on Twitter @ijclark.
Next, Alanna Broadley spoke about her research on the provision of lesbian fiction in public libraries in Scotland. She found that where public libraries used cataloguing to indicated that books in their collections were lesbian fiction, they only applied this to books that were classics, groundbreaking lesbian fiction or romance novels. Books where the main character was a lesbian were generally categorised into generic genres. Additionally when Alanna looked at the collection policies of public libraries in Scotland she found that none gave any specific mention of LGBT materials. This is problematic as a questionnaire that Alanna sent out to lesbian women as part of her research suggested that lesbian fiction was of great value to them.
The final presentation on the theme of public libraries and the community came from Martyn Greenwood. His research was an investigation into the availability of graphic novels in public libraries in England. Martyn looked for a list of 80 graphic novels on the OPACs of 13 public library services and, after an examination of the catalogue records, discovered that there were a number of problems with the cataloguing and classification of graphic novels. It was often hard to search for graphic novels by series, as it was not indicated on the catalogue record that the graphic novel was part of a series. There were also inconsistencies in the classification of graphic novels within individual library services. Martyn concluded by recommending that the cataloguing and classification of graphic novels in public libraries was improved, and a genre based approach should be used in stock selection. You can follow Martyn on Twitter @MrMJGreenwood.
Part 3 – Emma Coonan
Emma’s presentation focused on getting researched published. As the editor of the Journal of Information Literacy, Emma has a great level of experience of the publication process and gave some really good advice about it. She focused on the various stages of the process, shedding light on why it can feel, for those submitting research, like a very long time between initial submission and final publication. Emma also discussed reasons why she had turned down research in the past – even when it pained her to do so – with the aim of reminding people that a rejection from one publication is not an automatic indicator of poor research; often, people submit fantastic research to inappropriate publications and are therefore turned down. It was incredibly uplifting to hear somebody so experienced and regarded in the field telling people to have faith in the quality of their research and to work hard to get valuable LIS scholarship into the world. For most of us at FLIP HQ we aren’t quite in a place to be considering publication yet, but we got the feeling that Emma’s words really resonated with many of the attendees at LISDIS. That aside, she was a genuinely fantastic speaker and it was clear she is very passionate about what she does. You can find Emma on twitter as @libgoddess and also follow the Journal of Information Literacy @JInfoLit.
Part 4 – Valuing the Library
The final set of presentations started with Natasha Chowdory discussing how to measure the value of corporate libraries. Proving the value of the library is important in every context, but Natasha highlighted just how vital this is with a corporate library where the focus is on profit. She had compiled a survey to send out to staff at Microsoft to assess how they felt about the service they got from the Learning Centre. The wording of this survey was important as it need to be as clear as possible in order to be of value. Natasha and her manager spent a lot of time getting the wording of these questions right before sending out the survey. Natasha was pleased with the response rate from the survey, and it gave her the proof she needed that the Learning Centre was highly valued by employees at Microsoft. You can find Natasha on Twitter as @LibraryTasha.
This was followed by a presentation from Marion Harris about how academic librarians perceived student attitudes in the wake of the tuition fee rise. Her research was conducted through interviews and focus groups and she did find many librarians felt there had been a noticeable change in students attitudes. A great deal of this came in the form of discourses around the belief that students felt they were suddenly entitled to something that they felt represented the fees they were paying – a new found confidence in making complaints to frontline staff. This, Marion noted, was potentially related to the shift in focus from students as students to students as customers – a divisive issue in the LIS community. Marion asked librarians for their opinions on using the term customer to refer to students and found a significant number of librarians did have strong feelings about it, and there were certainly a few attendees in the audience who seemed noticeably uncomfortable with the term.
The last presentation of the day was given by Sonja Kujansuu. Her dissertation looked at libraries under attack, and discussed wider concerns about cultural heritage as being a key target for destruction during times of unrest or war. An interesting thing that Sonja’s research uncovered was that attempts by unesco to mark out important cultural heritage sites for protection often resulted in those sites becoming more vulnerable to attack in times of unrest. The presentation also introduced many of us to a new word ‘libricide’, which refers to the ‘killing’ of a book as part of a wider discussion about the erasure of cultural heritage and collective memory. Often, heritage collections are targeted as a means of oppression – the majority attempting to force assimilation by destroying the culture of the minority. This was a really interesting and engaging research area and was certainly very well received by the attendees. You can find Sonja on twitter as @Sonja_Kujansuu.
LISDIS was a really fascinating event. The presentations were very engaging and demonstrated an enormous range of research areas from across the LIS field. For those of us on the FLIP team who need to choose a dissertation topic in the near future, the day was of particular interest. Hearing about each of the dissertations gave us a real insight into the range of topics and methods our dissertations might comprise of. We certainly left the event with a lot of food for thought.
All the slideshare links to the presentations can be accessed here, through the LISDIS website and there is also a storify available to view here. The FLIP team would like to say another massive thank you to the organisers Jess, Michelle, Emily and Rosie (follow them @bookelfleeds, @libmichelle, @heliotropia and @rosiehlib) for a great day. Needless to day, after the conference was over the majority of us headed out for pizza and drinks, which gave everyone a chance to socialise a bit and continue some of the discussions highlighted during the day. We are already incredibly hopeful that LISDIS will return in 2016.