Evidence-based library and information practice (EBLIP)

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Core skills for the EBL information professional ~ Partridge, 2006
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  • Updated.jpg 5 August 2016


See also Assessment | Clinical librarianship | Evidence-based health care | Knowledge synthesis in medicine | Research Portal for Academic Librarians

What is EBLIP?

" ...evidence-based library and information practice (EBLIP) or evidence based librarianship (EBL) is the application of the interdisciplinary approach known as evidence-based practice (EBP) to problems in the field of library and information science (LIS)..." — Wikipedia def'n

" ...evidence-based librarianship is a means to improve the profession of librarianship by asking questions as well as finding, critically appraising and incorporating research evidence from library science (and other disciplines) into daily practice. It also involves encouraging librarians to conduct high quality qualitative and quantitative research." — Crumley & Koufogiannakis, 2001

Evidence-based library and information practice (EBLIP) is the health librarian's equivalent of evidence-based medicine or evidence-based health care. Its antecedent was evidence-based librarianship which has been superceded by the slightly longer and more awkward evidence-based library and information practice. EBLIP is a set of principles that aid health librarians in making decisions in their daily work and information practices. In one of his many theoretical writings on the topic, Booth characterized EBLIP as "...an approach to information practice that promotes the collection, interpretation and integration of valid, important and applicable user-reported, practitioner-observed and research derived evidence" (2004). Health librarians use various methodologies to conduct research and to evaluate their library and information services. Their empirical research contributes to the advancement of our field and is consulted to bolster local decisions in our libraries. The endpoint for EBLIP advocates is to use more quantitative measures to manage libraries and to make decisions based on the best possible evidence whenever available.

Canadian context 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png

In Canada, specifically at the University of Alberta Library, there is a hotbed of EBLIP practitioners led by those who founded the Evidence Based Library and Information Practice journal. In December 2012, it was announced on Twitter that the University of Saskatchewan passed a motion to create C-EBLIP, a centre internal to the UofS Library that will support librarians as researchers and evidence-based practitioners.

EBL has been led by the American librarian Jonathan Eldredge, Briton Andrew Booth, and Canadians Denise Koufogiannakis and Ellen Crumley and latterly Lorie Kloda from McGill University Library in Montreal. In Canada, there is some skepticism about EBL especially its empiricist/positivist orientation, and whether or not it has a big place in our field. The idea that health librarians can use scientific methods and derive generalizability from scientific research is occasionally criticized behind the scenes. Detractors suggest that health librarians work within more of a qualitatively-driven field. For some, qualitative research is a better, more reliable fit with health libraries. Clearly, there is room for debate on this point.

The 9th International Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Conference will be held in Philadelphida in 2017. See http://library.usask.ca/ceblip/eblip/eblip-conferences1.php

EBLIP debate

For a view into the debate - whether EBL is a new idea or simply a buzzword to describe what we've done all along - see the following EBLIP 2007 debate with Plutchak and Booth. My feeling is that Plutchak wins the debate but over-thinks the issues. Perhaps he took his viewpoint to an extreme to draw out differences between his position vis a vis Booth. My view is that by setting up diametrically-opposed extremes health librarians should neutralize their views by moving the entire debate to the middle ground where most of us practice and view these philosophies. This process entails making decisions based on experience and "empirical evidence" (qualitative & quantitative). I don't believe either extreme as expressed by Booth/Pultchak should be used or adopted; the EBLIP discourse and whether it's a new concept or buzzword is a sterile debate. Health librarians have always sought to improve what they do whether it's improving their management of collections, people or searching through the use of good study design and evidence-based methods. Plutchak seems to agree with that in the video. But since medicine has adopted EBM, the question arises whether health librarians should follow. Do bean counters in administration want us to use the evidence in our decision-making? I don't know any health librarians not under some kind of pressure to innovate or demonstrate and that what they are doing is a good use of resources. Innovation means being ready to do research about library services and to cumulate evidence from the literature. If a majority of health librarians believe EBLIP fits poorly with our work then we need to describe other, more nuanced views of our field. (For insight into this nuanced middle-ground see Bayley L, McKibbon A. Evidence-based librarianship: a personal perspective from the medical/nursing realm. Libr Hi Tech. 2006).

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