Everyday Evidence-Based Practice in Academic Libraries: Case Studies and Reflections

ACRL announces the publication of Everyday Evidence-Based Practice in Academic Libraries: Case Studies and Reflections, edited by Claire Walker Wiley, Amanda B. Click, and Meggan Houlihan. This new book collects excellent, thorough examples of evidence-based practice across functional areas of academic libraries and includes many evidence types in a variety of contexts.

Learn more about Everyday Evidence-Based Practice in Academic Libraries in this excerpt from the Introduction, © the editors.


The most important part of the title of this book, Everyday Evidence-Based Practice in the Academic Library: Case Studies and Reflections, is the word “everyday.” We believe that these chapters contain excellent, thorough examples of evidence-based practice (EBP) in numerous functional areas of academic libraries. It is possible that you may read one of these chapters and feel discouraged, or that you don’t have the skills, resources, or time to engage with evidence-based practice in an effective way. This is absolutely not our intent. The goal of this book is to emphasize the importance of everyday EBP while highlighting well-designed projects to inspire the work of others. An EBP project might look like a yearlong study with many types of evidence collected, or it might look like a simple assessment that helps you make a small adjustment to your work. EBP is a way of operating day-to-day. It’s not just something to turn off or on—it is embedded in the way that we approach our work.

Let’s say that you’re interested in making improvements to your information literacy program assessment process. You could conduct a review of the literature, analyze instruction statistics, run focus groups with students, survey faculty, and schedule one-on-one conversations with every teaching librarian. But it’s crucial that your EBP process fits your reality. Perhaps you don’t have the time to collect all of this evidence. You may face institutional hurdles when collecting student data. Maybe your faculty suffer from survey fatigue. Once you’ve considered your context, adapt an EBP cycle to your needs. We like the evidence-based library and information practice (EBLIP) cycle developed by Brettle and Koufogiannakis (2016), and you will see it referenced many times in these pages. Perhaps you could spend some time with instruction statistics this semester and/or recruit a colleague to help you scan the literature. Next semester (or next year!), have coffee with some targeted faculty to get their perspectives and collect feedback from your colleagues using the process that works best in your library culture. EBP doesn’t have to be exhaustive (or exhausting), and it doesn’t have to move lightning fast. It does, however, need to be flexible and appropriate for your context.

EBP Foundations

Denise Koufogiannakis and Alison Brettle’s 2016 book, Being Evidence Based in Library and Information Practice, provides the foundation for our work. Their book introduced a new framework for EBLIP including a “holistic and cyclical approach to considering evidence” (2016, p. 4). Koufogiannakis and Brettle also encourage librarians to take the principles of EBLIP and “emphasize an overall approach to practice that is about being evidence based” (2016, p. 3). Everyday Evidence-Based Practice in the Academic Library: Case Studies and Reflections aims to provide real-world examples of librarians who embody this call. LaFitte (formerly Koufogiannakis) and Brettle also graciously contributed to this edited volume, writing the first chapter titled “The Evolving Model of EBLIP in Research and Practice” that explains the history of EBP in libraries, describes the ways that the scholarship and practice in this area have evolved and grown over the years, and makes predictions for the future.

The cyclical approach to the EBLIP process proposed by Koufogiannakis and Brettle includes five steps: articulate, assemble, assess, agree, and adapt (2016, p. 4). The authors emphasize that this process is designed to foster a “continual cycle of improvement” (2016, p. 7). In the following chapter, they provide additional insight into the cycle. In addition, the EBLIP framework encourages librarians to consider three categories of evidence to be used in combination (pp. 29–43):

  • Research Evidence: Literature reporting on the previous research that is related to the question at hand.
  • Local Evidence: Forms of data specific to your institution or context, either that you already have or that you specifically gather in order to answer your question.
  • Professional Knowledge: What we learned in school and on the job and from mentors, peers, and professional development opportunities.

Each category encompasses many types of evidence in order to allow for the process to be “as broad and complete as possible, depending on the problem faced or question posed” (p. 28). Table 1 includes examples of different types of evidence that are described in chapters from this book. These examples provide a preview of the “everyday” focus of this book. You won’t find any randomized control trials or meta-analyses here! We acknowledge that these are valuable types of evidence for many research questions, but they are less commonly used to answer questions in library and information science practice.

Research EvidenceLocal EvidenceProfessional Knowledge
Literature review on librarian-faculty scholarly collaboration (chapter 3)Focus groups with first-generation college students (chapter 2)Liaison librarian knowledge of essential resources (chapter 10)
Literature review on research support services in academic libraries (chapter 5)Building sweep data, which provides snapshots of library usage (chapter 4)Collaborative partnerships with librarian colleagues (chapter 14)
Literature review on the open access citation advantage (chapter 19)Collection Advisory Group feedback (chapter 18)Benchmarking phone calls with peer and aspirational libraries (chapter 11)
Systematic review of the literature on research data management practices and services (chapter 6)Observations of students in information literacy workshops (chapter 13)Previous assessment experience from team members (chapter 12)

Table 1. Examples from Chapters of Everyday Evidence by Evidence Type              

Building the Evidence Base

Thorpe’s (2021) proposed sixth step in the EBLIP cycle is announce/advocate, which involves communicating the EBP work that we do. She proposed four benefits that could result from more announcing, advocating, and communicating as part of the EBP cycle: “to advocate and influence, to contribute to the profession’s evidence base, to demonstrate professional expertise, and to build organizational capacity and maturity” (Thorpe, 2021, p. 121). This book is our announcement, our attempt at contributing high-quality evidence from a variety of perspectives to the library and information science evidence base.

It is our hope that this book inspires a commitment to evidence-based practice in your day-to-day work and perhaps even in your library culture. We look forward to seeing many announcements of your work as the evidence base grows.

References

Koufogiannakis, D., & Brettle, A. (Eds.). (2016). Being evidence based in library and information practice. Facet Publishing.

Thorpe, C. (2021). Announcing and advocating: The missing step in the EBLIP model. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 16 (4), 118–125. http://doi.10.18438/eblip30044.