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.