Friday, 10 February 2017

Demonstrating value of information services - a view from South Australia

Author: Mary Peterson, BIR Board Member and Health Library Knowledge Manager at Department of Health, South Australia

We often hear or read that one of the key strategies to ensure our survival in the library and information world is to be able to demonstrate our value to our parent organisation. There’s an increasing body of literature on the subject, but when it comes down to doing it, there aren’t too many practical examples.

I work in the health area, managing the South Australian state government’s Department  of Health library service. In health, access to current, evidence-based information can literally mean the difference between life and death, and there’s no doubt that it’s valued by the clinicians who use it. To demonstrate the usefulness of the library and information service, it’s necessary to collect data which can be presented in meaningful ways to senior administration.

Libraries are very good at collecting activity statistics. In themselves, they can be very useful for the tweaking of service delivery, but they may not convey very much to anyone outside the service itself.
Some work has already been done in the health area, and has yielded some significant results. In Australia, a commissioned study by CGS Economics showed that health libraries were returning $9 for every $1 spent. (1) In the USA, one study showed that health libraries and librarians can provide information support and information literacy training which has a direct effect on clinical decision making and results in improved patient outcomes. (2) Another major study conducted over a group of teaching hospitals in the Rochester area of the USA clearly demonstrated that the work of library services had a significant impact on patient care quality. (3) The data from this study is available for use in future research projects.

Replicating such a piece of work isn’t always possible, dependant as it is on commitment and manpower. However, it is possible to collect data which enables the production of documents which will demonstrate the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of a library and information service. We have developed several Key Performance Indicators which have proved to be a way to clearly show our value to the organisation.

When looking for the types of data collection which can be manipulated to give a good picture of the library service business, we’ve looked at answering the following questions:
·       What types of service are being provided? (print / archive collections, database access, e-book access, help with searching for specific information, information literacy training)
·       Who is using the service? (doctor, nurse, allied health,  administrator)
·       What is the information going to be used for? (Research, patient care, teaching, CPD)
·       How has the information obtained been used? (Publication, patient care)
Using a simple, brief survey mounted on Survey Monkey to collect data from our patrons and with librarians collecting and inputting data on the work they do, we have produced KPIs which show:
·       Cost avoidance through services such as document delivery
·       Clinicans’ time saved
·       Summary of service efficiencies
·       Purpose / use of literature searches and information literacy training.

All these can be used to indicate the value of the library and information service to the work of the organisation as a whole. Using infographics where possible, these are presented in one or two pages only to ensure that the messages are clear and the effort required to read the documents is minimal. The data collection is included in the everyday workflow and would be replicable by even the smallest library and information service.

We have prepared an article which will be published in BIR the near future which outlines the processes behind each KPI, with the KPI documents themselves included in order that they might be used or adapted by other library services.

(1)   The community returns generated by Australian health libraries: Final report, September 2013. SGS Economics & Planning: Canberra, 2013.
(2)   Sollenberger, J. Holloway Jr, R. The evolving role and value of libraries and librarians in health care. JAMA. 2013 Sept 25: 310(12): 1231-32.
(3)   Marshall, J. et al. Library and information services: impact on patient care quality. International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance. 2014:27(8): 672-83.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Digital communication, improved knowledge sharing?

Here at BIR we have been looking into the rise in mis-information and fake news – is it a result of the ease of publishing created by social media platforms, or has it always been around?  I think it is certainly more obvious now that it ever was before and perhaps too because some of what is said online can be just too outrageous.  I also think that for me there is an element of having more trust in the printed word rather than the digital one which is perhaps just a generation thing!

I was intrigued by an episode of the BBC programme The Big Questions aired on Sunday 15th January 2017.  The programme was entitled “Is digital media good for democracy?”  With representations from the Guardian, Channel 4, Labour and Conservative parties and UEL (University of East London) to name a few, it was a varied and interesting discussion covering many aspects of communication on social media platforms.  Fake news was a topic covered in quite some depth and it was interesting to note that no form of media was exempt from having produced fake news at some point or other in the past though it was re-iterated several times that TV is covered by the strictest regulations of any form of media now.  When regulation was considered as something needed for social media platforms heated discussions ensued on the importance of freedom of speech and expression on these platforms. 

When we consider that social media platforms are increasingly being relied on as a source of information and news, - Mentioned on the programme was the fact that although some people use traditional sources of media (newspapers and TV) as trusted sources, there are others who solely use digital media sources as their trusted sources for information. – should social media platforms not be subject to similar types of regulations to aid the process of ensuring that what is being published is truthful and reliable?

The full programme is available to view on BBC iPlayer for another 10 days here

To help us combat the deluge of fake news and at least be able to identify what is definitely fake a number of tech products have been developed to help – extensions from Chrome and others have become available since the US election.  Facebook has also developed tech to identify fake news for its users too.  At there is an interesting article reflecting on the topic and the new tech available which you can read here

As however, they point out in this article it ultimately comes down to us as individuals to identify and stop the publishing of fake news.  We can try to fact check everything we read but this is a very lengthy process.  It was pointed out in BBC’s The Big Questions episode on digital media and democracy that it can take days to thoroughly check a fact. The next best thing is to develop a portfolio of trusted sources that you can be absolutely sure are publishing accurate information though this is something that you would still need to personally re-validate every so often.  The challenge of fake news is certainly a complex and difficult one to resolve.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Latest issue of Business Information Review now available

Business Information Review is a journal that is rooted in the idea of evidence-based professional practice, the sharing of professional experience, and the encouragement of professional development. It navigates a path between professional and academic journals drawing on both the real-world experiences of practitioners and the research experience of the wider academic community. The articles in this issue reflect that outlook.

First up is Temilade Adefioye Aina, Louise Cooke and Derek Stephens’ paper Methodology for Evaluating Competitive Intelligence Software Packages. Competitive intelligence is an important topic for the journal, describing the practice of defining, collecting, and analyzing information about products, competitors, customers, or any aspect of the commercial environment impacting on commercial practice. Recent years have seen the growth of software packages designed to make the process easier to manage. Aina et al.’s article seeks to develop a methodology for comparing and evaluating such software packages and to apply that evaluation to a selection of available software. The article was developed out of postgraduate research undertaken at Loughborough University and reflects out aim of bringing the best postgraduate student research in the business information management area to a wider audience.

Next is Ian Hunter’s paper Researching Leveraged Finance, the first of a two-part article addressing the complex area of leveraged finance and business information research approaches and sources. Leveraged finance has become an important market for professional advisory firms including accountancy, banking, and finance sector law firms, particularly in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. It is also a complex area of business research, and Ian’s article provides both a primer in and overview of the area, drawing on his experience as Research and Information Services Manager at Shearman & Sterling (London) LLP.

Staying with the finance theme that has featured in this issue, Joel Chigada from the University of Cape Town and Patrick Ngulube from the University of South Africa explore the retention strategies of the South African Banking sector. The research uncovered a lack of formal retention strategies in the sector and a lack of knowledge management guideline. Instead, the sector was informed by communities of practice, mentoring and apprenticeships, leveraging expertise, and using story telling techniques. 

Our fifth article by new contributors to Business Information Review, Li Pin Tan and Kuan Yew Wong from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia has a similarly international focus. Entitled Importance versus practice of knowledge management constructs in manufacturing companies, the article addresses the status quo of knowledge management practice in manufacturing companies.

Finally, we have an interview with Darron Chapman, Director at CB Resourcing conducted by Claire Laybats. Darron has over 25 years’ industry experience gained from working within a specialist recruitment, training, and consultancy provider. In 2014, he established CB Resourcing with his business partner Simon Burton, with a broader remit encompassing areas such as strategy and market intelligence. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals/Recruitment & Employment Confederation and was the President of the European Chapter of SLA, the information industry body. The interview addresses career management and development for senior executives in the knowledge and information management sector.Darron also gives his views and experiences on the recruitment marketplace for senior executives in this sector.
Regular readers will know that a key part of each issue of Business Information Review are the regular Initiatives and Perspectives columns, which both round up some of the developments in the business information world. In Perspectives, Martin White explores recent publications both in the information world and beyond that have relevance for professional practice. In Initiatives, Alan Foster reviews developments, new tools, and new publications in the commercial information management sector. Both provide an incredibly comprehensive and useful resource that over the years have traced changes and developments that have influenced professional lives.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Implications of UK leaving European Union

Since the announcement of the referendum result we have been discussing, like most, the implications of the decision to leave the European Union, will it spell disaster or will be the best option for the UK for the future? 

I signed myself up for an email news summary on the subject from M Brain (   The feed is a daily summary of highlights covering UK individually but also giving a global view.  It is a free email subscription and is of general interest, covering many different areas.  What does stand out is that there is very little that is clear in terms of predicting future implications.  It is an evolving situation and one we are keen to keep a close eye on here at BIR. 

I spoke to one writer for BIR, Paul Pedley, who is an expert on everything copyright running valuable copyright training courses, on what potential implications there would be for copyright seeing as law on this is tied closely with Europe.  He sent me the following facts reviewing the impact of Brexit on copyright which are also highlighted in his training:

  • ·      The process won’t start until Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty has been triggered
  • ·      Brexit is unlikely to happen until 2019/2020
  • ·      Existing directives which have been implemented into UK law will continue to have effect
  • ·      The Westminster Parliament will have priorities other than copyright to contend with
  • ·      There won’t be major changes occurring quickly
  • ·      Once Brexit has taken place, UK judges wouldn’t have to follow EU case law which could lead to new judge-based law
  • ·      Could lead to breakup of the UK, with Scotland needing to develop its own IP law
  • ·      It is always possible that UK copyright law could become more onerous for users as a way of encouraging people to do business in the UK based on the strength of its copyright law (from a rights holder point of view).
  • ·      In the long run, could mean less and less harmonization, with all the attendant bureaucratic implications that this would involve

To keep up to date with what might happen in regards to Brexit and those laws intertwined with European law the following link may be useful

We would be keen to hear comments or interested to hear from anyone who experiencing consequences (good or bad) in their area as they are happening.  For the moment thanks to Paul for his comments in this area.