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Thursday, 31 July 2014

“Build it and they will come”: Evidence based practice from the literature

By Mary Anne Kennan

Little library
This article was first published in the special issue of Incite “Build it and they will come”. The intention was to examine how libraries and other information organisations promote and celebrate their services and the profession. If one searches on the string “Build it and they will come” in the Proquest journal database which comes to us as a part of our ALIA membership there are 84 articles in this relatively small LIS subset of the database from 1994 to the present which have the phrase in their title,  text or references.  The articles vary from research, to reports of services offered in particular libraries and what has worked (or not), to scholarly (and other) opinion pieces. Many of these types of publications we can use as evidence to inform our practice as information professionals for day to day decision making, developing new services, improving the quality of existing services and understanding our users. So let’s see what some of these papers say about “build[ing] it and they will come”.

There is not enough space in this short article to reprise even the small proportion of articles on this topic in this database, but what we can draw attention to, is broadly what the message seems to be: that is that it is not enough to just build a wonderful service. What the literature seems to say is accompanying the building of “it” – whatever the “it” is (a service, a digital collection, a repository, a building, a change) there needs to be a strategic approach to understanding user, and potential user, needs and their environments, communities and goals in the development of the service (e.g. Moyer& Coulon 2012; Salo 2008; Schlosser & Stamper 2012). It is not enough to think you may know what those needs are; your service is more likely to be successful if you reach out and consult, or even partner, with users and potential users (e.g. Kenney 2014; Moyer & Coulon 2012; Salo 2008; Schlosser & Stamper 2012) at all stages - service development, implementation and use.

Then of course are the other key elements in building a new service - well known and mentioned frequently in this issue - so covered only briefly here: promotion and marketing. Outreach is critical – make the new service visible. Social network, both online and in person. Leverage other media, such as the press, radio, and local bloggers (e.g. Doster 2013; Kenney 2014; Moyer & Coulon, 2013; Schlosser & Stamper 2012). In some cases, particularly involving new technology or practices, it is necessary to educate users and staff (Salo 2008). And to give the final words to Kenney (2014) “Meet people where they are – not where we want them to be”.


Doster, A. (2013). Friday night: library lights. American Libraries, 44(11), 30-32. Retrieved from  

Jones, N. B., & Mahon, J. F. (2012). Nimble knowledge transfer in high velocity/turbulent environments. Journal of Knowledge Management, 16(5), 774-788. doi:  

Kenney, B. (2014). The user is (still) not broken. Publishers Weekly, 261(4), 19-n/a.  Retrieved from 

Moyer, M., & Coulon, A. (2012). LIVE at your library! American Libraries, 43(11), 46-48. Retrieved from

Salo, D. (2008). Innkeeper at the roach motel. Library Trends, 57(2), 98-123. Retrieved from 

Schlosser, M., & Stamper, B. (2012). Learning to share: Measuring use of a digitized collection on flickr and in the IR. Information Technology and Libraries (Online), 31(3), 85-93. Retrieved from 

Mary Anne Kennan is the Higher Degree by Research and Honours Coordinator and Senior Lecturer at the School of Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Can you be remote in a digital world?

By Heather Todd

Explanatory Practice for Learning 2:0 Based on a Cumulative Cumulative Analysis of the Value and Effort of ’23 Things’ Programs in Libraries (2013) by Michael Stephens.  Reference and User Serves Quarterly, Vol 53, No 2, p 129-39

Whether you are a librarian or a student distance is no longer a barrier to information as it used to be as evidenced by two recent articles.  

Kansas State University Libraries have undertaken a survey to assess the awareness and use of library services by distance education students and faculty staff members. They used the results as an indicator to make some changes but the solutions also impacted on the entire scope of their services and resources.  The concept of Universal Design (that design of products and environments be useable by all people) was used in all the initiatives – which included implementation of a web scale discovery tool to improve access to print and digital collections, redesign of a database directory, electronic delivery of book chapters and journal articles, the digitisation of local collections, enhanced chat services, collaboration with instructional designers who undertook usability studies on webpages and also created online tutorials, and last but not least improvements in the marketing and promotion of library services. 

As befitting universal design all the changes have provided benefits to all clients so ‘rather than compartmentalizing distance patrons, it is important to focus on helping them to have an experience that is as much like an on-campus patron as possible.

Regardless of location the importance of ongoing professional development is recognised and programs such as ’23 Things’ are now available to all.  The original ’23 Things’ was launched in 2006 at the Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenburg County, USA and since then there have been hundreds of adaptions to cater for new areas of focus and technologies.  Michael Stephens has undertaken an analysis on the impact of this multi-week, fully online self-directed program that has become a popular professional development activity for librarians around the globe.  The study is based on the exploration of the impact and effect of the program on library staff in Australia and USA from 2009 to 2012. 

As well as exploring the impact on library staff the study also looked at how the model has been used for library patrons.  Several libraries have adapted the program for its clients to grow their digital literacy skills.  One library developed their own program aimed at helping parents explore and experience technology with their children.  The State Library of Queensland offers a version of the program called ‘Looking at 2.0” for their customers.  This program offers 13 topics, arranged into beginner, intermediate and advanced modules which are aimed to get customers online and using web technologies.   

The study concluded that the programs can have ‘a positive effect on participants and their confidence and ability to use technology in their profession and personal lives’

There is a wealth of self-development opportunities available to us all many of which are listed on the ALIA website or delivered to your email account via the ALIA PDPostings service.  You are no longer remote in a digital world. 

This post was first published in InCite, August 2014.

Heather Todd is the Director of Scholarly Publishing and Digitisation Service at the University of Queensland Library and a member of the ALIA Research Advisory Committee.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Educating for print disabilities

By Katherine Howard

Senf, K., Black, F.A. and Mann, D. (2010) Education and Training for Serving those with Print Disabilities: Exploring the International Scene
Feliciter 56(3) pp. 102-4.
What exactly do library staff need to know in order to serve people with a print disability? What is a print disability anyway?

There are various definitions of ‘print disability.’ In essence, it refers to people who have difficulty with text-based (print) documents. The reasons for this are varied, with perhaps the most apparent being blindness or a vision impairment. However print disabilities extend to people who have a learning disability such as dyslexia, or a physical disability in which it is difficult for them to hold and/or manipulate a hard-copy book.

Users with print disabilities – indeed any disability – deserve the same rights to access as any other user. Digital technologies have had a positive impact on adaptive and assistive technology, not least of which is the availability of accessible formats and the relative ease with which files can be transferred from one format to another. However funding (or in most cases, lack of) has meant that many libraries struggle to meet the needs of this distinct user group. The purchase of the technology is one thing. Having staff who have the necessary competencies to work with this equipment (which can also include knowledge of compatible hardware/software that the client may own) is another.

This brief article reports on research that was conducted in Canada, with respondents from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Both LIS Programme Directors and Library Managers from these countries were surveyed to “establish the level of knowledge directors and managers encourage and require in their graduates and employees […]” (Senf, Black and Mann, 2010, p. 102).

Of the library managers who responded to the survey, 98% have library users who have a print disability (the article does acknowledge the biases that are inherent with ‘self-selecting’ surveys). These managers also believe that their staff should be well-informed with regard to print disabilities, incorporating knowledge on what is involved in serving this user group. In Australia, this would include knowledge of our complex Copyright legislation and the circumstances (exceptions) under which printed documents may be made digital (digitized). Unfortunately, 49% of managers responded that the new graduates that they had hired “did not have adequate knowledge of print disabilities” (Senf et al., 2010, p. 104).

This is not surprising, given that the majority (approximately two-thirds) of LIS Programme Directors noted that providing information about special needs groups is not a formal objective of their programme. Students tend to be made aware of the print disabled population predominantly through elective options as opposed to learning it in required courses.

Attempting to incorporate knowledge of special needs groups into already bursting LIS curricula would require an amazing juggling act on behalf of LIS educators. Similarly, as much as our professional ethics and our own conscience may want to be able to provide access to everyone in a format and on a device of their choosing, funding realities for public institutions are such that this may not happen. However, this does not mean that we cannot do our utmost and use our passion for lifelong learning to determine the best way to serve people with print disabilities within these very real constraints.

You can read the full article via the ALIA online journals at
It was originally published in InCite, September 2013
Katherine Howard is a PhD Candidate at the Queensland University of Technology and Lecturer at the University of South Australia

Friday, 18 July 2014

Connecting with new information landscapes: information literacy practices of refugees

Drs Annemaree Lloyd, Mary Anne Kennan, Kim M. Thompson, Asim Qayyum
Journal of Documentation, Volume: 69 Issue: 1; 2013

By Annemaree Lloyd
The purpose of the research was to understand how refugees learn to engage with a complex, multimodal information landscape, and how their information literacy practice may be constructed to enable them to connect an be included in their new information landscape. The study was framed through practice and socio-cultural theories. A qualitative research design was employed including semi-structured face-to-face interviews and focus groups which were thematically explored through an information practice lens.

The findings of the study indicate that refugees encounter complex and challenging information landscapes that present barriers to their participation in their new communities. Social inclusion becomes possible where information is provided via sharing through trusted mediators who assist with navigating the information landscape and information mapping, and through visual and social sources. The study highlighted the role of, and importance of social and visual information sources and the key role of service providers as mediators and navigators.

The article was awarded the Most Outstanding Article by the international Journal of Documentation. It is freely available here.

Annemaree Lloyd is Senior Researcher at the School of Information Studies, Charles Sturt University