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OLA Super Conference 20061 Communities of Practice for Subject Librarians: Making Connections across the Profession to Enhance Interaction and Knowledge.

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Presentation on theme: "OLA Super Conference 20061 Communities of Practice for Subject Librarians: Making Connections across the Profession to Enhance Interaction and Knowledge."— Presentation transcript:

1 OLA Super Conference Communities of Practice for Subject Librarians: Making Connections across the Profession to Enhance Interaction and Knowledge Sharing Linda Lowry (B.Com MLS MA) Business & Economics Librarian James A. Gibson Library, Brock University St. Catharines, ON

2 OLA Super Conference Presentation Outline What is a Subject (Specialist) Librarian? What are Communities of Practice? Purpose of Study & Methodology Phase One Results: Background, Workplace, CPE & Professional Communication Phase Two Results: Socialization and Information Seeking Applying the Framework of Communities of Practice Distributed Communities of Practice for Subject Librarians

3 OLA Super Conference What is a Subject (Specialist) Librarian? A librarian qualified by virtue of specialized knowledge and experience to select materials and provide bibliographic instruction and reference services to users in a specific subject area or academic discipline (or subdiscipline). In academic libraries, subject specialists often hold a second master's degree in their field of specialization. Also refers to a librarian trained in subject analysis. Reitz, Joan M. (2004). Subject specialist. In ODLIS: Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. Retrieved December 12, 2005 from:

4 OLA Super Conference Subject Librarians: Examples from Academic Librarianship Business Science & Engineering Humanities Social Sciences Medical Legal Centralized Libraries or Branch/Divisional Libraries Sole Responsibility or Shared Responsibility Separate Branch Libraries Shared Responsibility

5 OLA Super Conference Academic Business Librarians Accidental business librarians Few (15-20%) have an academic background in Business Some may have corporate library experience Varied organizational models Branch vs. centralized Roles & responsibilities Sole vs. shared

6 OLA Super Conference What are Communities of Practice? Social theory of learning Situated or contextual nature Legitimate peripheral participation: the process by which newcomers become included in a community of practice Lave, Jean & Wenger, Etienne. Situated Learning. London: Oxford University Press, 1991.

7 OLA Super Conference What are Communities of Practice? Meaning: Learning as experience Practice: Learning as doing Community: Learning as belonging Identity: Learning as becoming Wenger, Etienne. Communities of Practice. London: Oxford University Press, 1998.

8 OLA Super Conference What are Communities of Practice? Groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis. Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W.M. Cultivating communities of practice: a guide to managing knowledge. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.

9 OLA Super Conference Community of Interest vs. Community of Practice vs. Network of Practice Community of Interest Purpose is to be informed Members share an interest in a topic (e.g. Japanese Anime) Community of Practice Purpose is to create, expand, and exchange knowledge and develop individual capabilities Members are practitioners who develop a shared practice (e.g. Insurance Claims Processors) Are subsections of larger Networks of Practice

10 OLA Super Conference Community of Interest vs. Community of Practice vs. Network of Practice Network of Practice Work-related network linking people together who share occupational or work-related practice and knowledge in common Members are loosely connected, may never meet face-to-face, and rely on indirect links or third parties to keep in touch Allows professional or disciplinary knowledge to flow across organizational boundaries via conferences, newsletters, discussion lists and web pages

11 OLA Super Conference Purpose of Study To investigate the communication, information seeking and continuing professional education activities of a community of academic business librarians to better understand how they acquire and share knowledge related to their professional practice To determine the extent to which this population can be characterized as a Community of Practice

12 OLA Super Conference Population Criterion-based purposeful sampling strategy 20 Ontario universities Must offer business (or related) degrees Must use the Subject Specialist model of library service Individuals were identified based on job title Population: 25 individual academic business librarians employed at 15 different universities in Ontario

13 OLA Super Conference Methodology Two-phase multi-method research design Phase One: web-based questionnaire 23 closed and open-ended questions Designed to elicit information on the communication, information seeking, and professional development of academic business librarians used to create and administer the questionnaire Phase Two: In-depth 1 hour interviews with 8 librarians

14 OLA Super Conference Phase One Results: Demographic Profile Response rate: 84% Gender: 14.3% male 85.7% female Age distribution: < 30: 9.5% 30-39:42.9% 40-49:14.3% 50-59: 23.8% 60 +: 9.5%

15 OLA Super Conference Educational Background Undergraduate Background English, History most often cited Only 3 of 21 had studied Business or Economics Date MLIS degree obtained Prior to 1989: 28.5% 1990 – 1999: 23.8% 2000 or later: 33.3% No MLIS: 14.3%

16 Comparative Years of Experience MinMaxMeanMedianNumber of Respondents As a librarian As an academic business librarian At your current institution In your current position

17 OLA Super Conference Workplace and Current Position Size of university 1500 – 67,000 FTE students Mean: 23, 776 FTE students Type of library Branch: 43% vs. centralized: 57% Nature of responsibility Reference, collection development, instruction, liaison Sole: 29% vs. shared: 71%

18 Current LIS Association Memberships Association NameYesNoNo Answer Canadian Library Association (CLA)795 CLAs Business Information Interest Group 1109 American Library Association (ALA)786 ALAs Business Reference and Services Section 498 Special Libraries Association (SLA)858 SLAs Business & Finance Division768 Ontario Library Association (OLA)1353 OLAs Ontario College and University Libraries Association 1155

19 Overlap of LIS Association Memberships AssociationsNumberPercent CLA, ALA, SLA, OLA14.8% ALA, SLA, OLA29.5% CLA, ALA, OLA14.8% CLA, OLA314.3% ALA, OLA314.3% SLA, OLA14.8% CLA only29.5% ALA only00% SLA only419% OLA only29.5% Did not belong to any of these29.5% Total21100%

20 OLA Super Conference Continuing Professional Education Activities LIS conference attendance within last year Yes: 19 of 21 Which conferences do they attend? OLA – 13 WILU – 4 CLA – 3; ALA Midwinter – 3 Conference presentations Yes: 10 of 21

21 Continuing Professional Education Activities by Type of Information Provider Type of Information ProviderExample Activities Professional Association or Library Organizations Library Management Workshop (ARL); Data training (CAPDU/DLI); Choosing and using government documents (OLA Institute online course); RefWorks (OCUL); Visioning libraries of the future (ACRL) Internal (within own library, business school, or university) Leadership & supervisor training (university); active learning (library); what MBA students think about teaching (business school) Database vendorsDatabase demonstrations and training sessions for: Business Source Premier, Datastream, Factiva, Mergent etc. College or University Continuing Education courses Canadian Securities Course; Dreamweaver; Excel

22 OLA Super Conference Professional Communication Habits BUSLIB-L subscriptions Yes: 11 of 21 5 of 11 read it daily No: 10 of 21 Comments I used to monitor BUSLIB, but the value of the interactions declined quickly I find it less useful as an academic librarian than when I was in corporate.

23 OLA Super Conference Other LIS list subscriptions Lists sponsored by professional associations Lists on specific topics Restricted lists Data-related lists ABEL-O (not a real listserve) Professional Communication Habits

24 How often do you post queries to LIS- related discussion lists? FrequencyNumberPercent Often (several times / month)00% Sometimes (several times / year)628.6% Rarely (once a year or less)942.9% Never523.8% Other14.8% Total21

25 How often do you respond to queries from LIS-related discussion lists? FrequencyNumberPercent Often (several times / month)29.5% Sometimes (several times / year)838.1% Rarely (once / year or less)942.9% Never29.5% Other00% Total21

26 How often do you communicate directly with other business librarians outside of your own institution? FrequencyNumberPercent Often (several times / month)419% Sometimes (several times / year)1571.4% Rarely (once / year or less)14.8% Never14.8% Other00% Total21

27 How frequently do you use the following communication methods when communicating with other business librarians? MethodOftenSometimesRarelyNever Chat (e.g., MSN Messenger Face-to-face31060 Fax02312 Mail00710 Telephone51140 N=20 (rows do not total 20 because respondents skipped part of the question)

28 OLA Super Conference Communication Media Choice Media selection framework (Lengel & Daft, 1988) Rich media (face-to-face or telephone): for non-routine messages, convey cues of personal interest, caring and trust Lean media (mail or ): for routine messages, maintain and strengthen weak ties Other factors: proximity, recipient availability, desire for task closure (Straub & Karahanna, 1998) Social & occupational norms

29 OLA Super Conference Phase Two: Methodology In-depth 1 hour qualitative interviews with 8 individuals (7 female, 1 male) that explored information seeking behavior Information seeking: a conscious effort to acquire information in response to a need or gap in your knowledge (Case, 2002, p.5) Background (educational and work experiences) If recently hired (<4 years): reflect back on how they learned their job All respondents: discuss problems related to business librarianship that required them to seek out information

30 OLA Super Conference Phase Two Results: Information Seeking Frequency Frequency varied according to: Individual background factors Educational background Career stage Organizational contextual factors Type of Library: centralized or branch Nature of Responsibility: sole or shared

31 OLA Super Conference Information Seeking Incidents Core themes Socialization strategies: learning the job as a newcomer to the position Role-related information seeking: information needs arising out of the daily practice of business librarianship

32 OLA Super Conference Socialization Strategies Organizational socialization theory (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979) 6 tactical dimensions: Collective vs. individual Formal vs. informal Sequential vs. random Fixed vs. variable Investiture vs. divestiture Serial vs. disjunctive

33 OLA Super Conference When I first came here, number one thing I noticed was there was nobody who could train me. Because whoever did it before took her expertise with her. There was no one else doing joint work or shared work so that someone else could teach me how to do it. I was dropped right into the position but there was nobody to ask for help and so I was on my own to begin with.

34 OLA Super Conference Business librarianship in academic libraries… my impression is that nobody wants to do it. At least in Canada or in a lot of places where there is a general library. [In my library] this portfolio gets passed around to the newest librarian. Nobody wants it. [My predecessor] was so happy when I got here so she could get rid of it.

35 OLA Super Conference New librarians with sole responsibility Disjunctive socialization process – no role models Tactics to overcome professional isolation and uncertainty proactive information seeking behaviour use of third parties (external information sources), direct questioning, observing Socialization Strategies

36 OLA Super Conference Socialization Strategies New librarians with shared responsibility Serial socialization process – internal role models Colleagues showed them the ropes Less need to build network of external contacts

37 OLA Super Conference Advice for employers and future subject librarians! Training sessions for new academic librarians Should facilitate relationships with external contacts including introductions to subject librarian peers at other institutions Such contacts are very important for solo subject librarians who experience a disjunctive socialization process See Oud, J. (2005). Jumping into the deep end: training for new academic librarians. Feliciter, 51(2),

38 OLA Super Conference Socialization Strategies Job transitions in later career stages Serial socialization – smoother transitions because they were internal job transfers Less uncertainty, greater role clarity Shared responsibility – trained by colleagues Sole responsibility – was already familiar with the requirements of the position and knew how to proceed

39 OLA Super Conference Role-related information seeking Roles: Reference services Collection development Instructional & liaison Continuing professional education Frequency of information seeking Impact of shared vs. sole responsibility Impact of lack of subject background

40 OLA Super Conference Reference Services Role Information needs Complex business reference questions Data & government documents questions Information sources Internal colleagues Data experts Business database vendors discussion lists

41 OLA Super Conference The problem with collections, the major problem is the collecting of databases. Because there is so much overlap from one to the next. And yet … each one is unique in its own way. They are extremely expensive. The major obstacle I came across, not having used these tools myself as a student or in research, I dont really know how they are used. I can only make an educated guess. I can only get as much information from students or faculty as I can dredge out of them. …It is frustrating… Collection Development Role

42 OLA Super Conference Collection Development Role Information needs Challenge of making business database recommendations Sole vs. shared responsibility Information sources Database demos and trials Benchmarking against other libraries holdings

43 OLA Super Conference Instructional Role Sole vs. shared responsibility Solos lack internal mentors for teaching business resources – sought advice and mentoring from external sources Shared responsibility – team teaching, act as sounding boards Collaboration and consultation with data or government documents experts

44 OLA Super Conference Continuing Professional Education Role Barriers to participation Lack of time / no backup coverage Lack of relevant offerings Vendor training Attend multiple sessions Barrier: lack of facilities to host training sessions Acquiring subject matter expertise MBA vs. other approaches

45 OLA Super Conference Applying the Framework of Communities of Practice Wengers indicators that a Community of Practice has formed: Sustained mutual relationships Shared ways of engaging in doing things together Rapid flow of information and propagation of innovation Absence of introductory preambles, as if conversations and interactions were merely the continuation of an ongoing process Very quick setup of a problem to be discussed Substantial overlap in participants descriptions of who belongs Knowing what others know, what they can do, and how they can contribute to an enterprise Mutually defining identities Ability to assess the appropriateness of actions and products Specific tools, representations, and other artifacts Local lore, shared stories, inside jokes, knowing laughter Jargon and shortcuts to communication as well as the ease of producing new ones Certain styles recognized as displaying membership Shared discourse reflecting a certain perspective on the world

46 Comparison of Community of Practice and Network of Practice Concepts DimensionCommunity of Practice (Wenger) Network of Practice (Brown & Duguid) Membership Practitioners Nature of Links - Direct (face-to-face) - Know each other and work together - More indirect than direct (through third parties) - Unknown to one another Nature of Knowledge Being Communicated Tacit / ImplicitExplicit Reach of Network LimitedExtended Degree of Reciprocity or Interaction StrongWeak Nature of Network Tight-knit groupsLoosely-coupled system

47 OLA Super Conference Communities of Practice: Wenger, McDermott & Snyder Size (small or large) Duration (short-lived or long-lived) Location (colocated or distributed) Composition (homogeneous or heterogeneous) Development (spontaneous or intentional) Organizational relationships (unrecognized to institutionalized)

48 OLA Super Conference What are Distributed Communities of Practice (DCoP)? Communities that cannot rely on face-to-face interaction as its primary vehicle for connecting members. Such communities often cross multiple boundaries (organizational or geographical) There must be regular interaction via other means (web site, discussion lists, teleconferencing) Is this population a DCoP? No Is there potential to cultivate a DCoP? Yes

49 OLA Super Conference Cultivating a Distributed Community of Practice Identify an extant loose network with potential Find common ground Challenges - Need to devote more time and effort to: Reconciling multiple agendas to define domain Building personal relationships and trust Developing a strong sense of craft intimacy

50 OLA Super Conference Cultivating a Distributed Community of Practice 4 key development activities (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder) Achieving stakeholder alignment Creating a structure that promotes both local variations and global connections Building a rhythm strong enough to maintain community visibility Developing the private space of the community more systematically

51 OLA Super Conference Benefits and Costs of Distributed Communities of Practice Organizational benefits Decreasing the learning curve of new employees Responding more rapidly to customer needs & inquiries Reducing rework and preventing reinvention of the wheel Spawning new ideas for products & services Organizational costs Cost of participation time for members Meeting expenses for travel or teleconferencing Technology costs associated with group messaging or web site hosting Content publishing and promotional expenses

52 OLA Super Conference Benefits of Distributed Communities of Practice For individual subject librarians Ability to share expertise to solve problems and to coordinate activities Develop a sense of belonging and stronger sense of professional identity as a subject librarian Socialization agent for new subject librarians through legitimate peripheral participation Foster professional development among community members

53 OLA Super Conference Benefits of Distributed Communities of Practice Benefits to Library consortia Enable organizations to pool resources to access outside expertise, learn from others experience, develop common training material, assess the merits of different practices, build a common baseline of knowledge Benefits to Library profession LIS students interested in becoming subject librarians could lurk in the community LIS instructors interested in subject librarianship could join communities to better inform their knowledge base and develop stronger ties with practitioners

54 OLA Super Conference Thank You! For More Information: Linda Lowry Business & Economics Librarian James A. Gibson Library Brock University Tel: ext. 4650

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