Evidence-Based Practice

There were two articles we had to read this week that complimented each other very well I thought. They both discussed two different approaches to problem solving; evidence-based librarianship and practitioner research, essentially juxtaposing research and trial-and-error techniques. In fact, put that way, it’s rather odd that the 7 step practitioner research process has no step emphasising research when Rebecca Watson-Boone’s article is all about distinguishing librarians who practice from librarians who implement their research into their practice. I feel as though the EBL process, with it’s emphasis on research and evidence, belongs more in her article.

In the article in question, “Academic Librarians as Practitioner-Researchers” (2000), Watson-Boone makes the following observation:

“Within academic librarianship, it may be that the major difference between being a practitioner and being a practitioner-researcher is not one’s publication rate, but rather how deliberately each librarian incorporates these steps into routine work habits” (Watson Boone, 2000).

But I rather think that the major difference between being considered a practitioner-researcher and a mere practitioner is publishing one’s research as any academic librarian who employs evidence-based practice should be considered a researcher as well as an academic librarian. Ironically, it’s only a matter of evidence, of documenting your work (for KM as much as anything).

When it comes down to it, I think the best approach to take is to decided on your own process at the outset. Let’s say a patron gifts a large donation of Louis L’Amour, first editions in her will to a public library with an emphasis on providing books for patrons and not valuable collections. Then let’s add the complication of the head librarian discovering that her predecessor had never required a gift policy be included in the collection development policy.

What is the most time-sensitive issue?
– Temporary, condition-sensitive storage for the collection until a decision can be made.

What is the core issue?
– A policy is needed, and not just one that addresses this specific donation.
– KM. An assessment of library policies need to be made to seek out other possible gaps before they are discovered at an inconvenient time.

And what does either issue require of library staff?
– Is there even a librarian whose responsibility it is to deal with donations?
– If there isn’t, a similar KM assessment of staff qualifications and responsibilities needs to be made to assign the role.
– If there is, how have they been dealing with donations? Do they have a personal policy? Have they documented it?
– Library assistants and technicians will be more in touch with possible storage areas than librarians or other management staff.

Only after all this is complete, can a decision be made on what type of process to use (you could go either way; an in-house developed donation policy would be more tailored to the library’s needs, but researching other donation policies would help to make sure you cover all possibilities).


Eldredge, J. (2006). Evidence-based librarianship: the EBL process. Library Hi Tech, 24(3), 341-354. DOI 10.1108/07378830610692118

Watson-Boone, R. (2000). Academic librarians as practitioner-researchers. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 26(2), 85-93.

Further Reading

Here’s a good slideshow produced by staff at my university’s library on EBL: http://www.slideshare.net/eservice/use-it-or-lose-it-14374944

And here’s a picture I found when I Google Image Searched EBL:

cat in botanical gardens crop

I thought it was bad tagging and zero knowledge of SEO, but … nope. Click on the image to see the original site.









Photo by Sheila Webber: Cat in botanical gardens, November 2012.


Chun Wei’s article, “Working with knowledge: how information professionals help organisations manage what they know” is written for a conference of librarians, but it focuses on business organisations. In her explanation of explicit knowledge (codified knowledge being the domain of libraries), she discusses how intellectual assets indicate the worth of an organisation, often because they’re the source of innovation. My question is, how does this work in libraries? Aside from a few exceptions such as private law libraries, libraries are public service institutions; they don’t earn money (aside from fines that commonly cover the cost of a loss), they don’t cost money to use, and they also don’t usually have intellectual assets. So how do we determine the worth of a library in terms of KM?

You're All Just Jealous Of My Jetpack

You’re All Just Jealous Of My Jetpack

Libraries do not own the intellectual property that has led to recent innovations in information science, such as the digitalization of print media and increasingly convenient access points to information on the internet, so how can they bank in on the worth of it? Libraries have certainly benefited from these innovations and their needs and the needs of their users have stimulated new knowledge management innovations, but the only value is in the third point Chun Wei discusses, an increase in the organisations reputation and accountability.

One of the other articles we had to read this week was “A Review of Knowledge Management in the Irish Civil Service” by Joanna O’Riordan who displays KM in a completely different way. O’Riordan focuses more on KM as a process rather than the types of knowledge being managed. In fact, the KM process reads a lot like a system analysis of the type I’m learning about it my Systems Analysis and Design class where you study the system in place, identify issues, design a solution, test it, and implement it.

The case study of the Knowledge Audit at SEI wasn’t very helpful because I don’t know anything about the kind of data an energy organisation would be working with so even though this was a real-life example it was still abstract and theoretical to me. As such, I’m having trouble thinking of a KM project that I’ve been involved in personally. I have done plenty of inventories in bookstore and libraries, which at a stretch could be described as a knowledge audit, but at best these were audits of the codified knowledge. Basically, I’ve only ever managed the containers of knowledge.

I also found this article by Failte Ireland really interesting: http://www.failteireland.ie/FailteIreland/media/WebsiteStructure/Documents/2_Develop_Your_Business/1_StartGrow_Your_Business/Knowledge-Management.pdf.


Chun Wei, C. (2000).Working with knowledge: how information professionals help organisations managewhat they know. Library Management, 21(8), 395.

JoannaO’Riordan. (2005). A Review of KnowledgeManagement in the Irish Civil Service. Institute of Public Administration.