Monthly Archives: March 2010

Communicating Change – Application to Community Led Work

When considering integrating Community Led activities into a library system, there are a few fundamental questions which you should ask yourself – and which need to be clearly communicated with staff at various levels of the organization.  Peter De Jager from the University of Toronto School of Information Management has a webinar online (see Webinar – will open in windows media player) which provides a number of items to think about addressing with staff when introducing change within an organization.  Although the talk is not specifically targeted at the Community Led approach, I believe that the points he raises about clearly communicating change should be taken into account when introducing this new service model within library systems.  Some of the key issues Peter talks of when addressing change with staff include:

  • Why is the change necessary?   (Staff may feel any change is unwarranted if this is not answered.)
  • What is in it for me? (What is the benefit to the employee?)
  • What do we do differently on Monday (actually not just Monday – but in the future.  This is about involving staff in the process – viewing staff as an internal community much like we approach external communities.  Staff may not know what you mean by the changes you are proposing if you do not talk about this.  Also, if they feel they are excluded from the process they are less likely to have ownership and want to see and be involved in change.  At a minimum – they may not know their role in the change process.  Staff also want to know about the risk of implementing change – admit it is a process where new things will be learned and how risks will be mitigated.  This will help to build trust and make the implementation of the community led approach more likely to succeed.)
  • What will remain the same? (It is easy to react to change and believe, especially when talking about community led work, that we are advocating throwing (excuse the pun) the baby out with the bath water.  Instead, as I talked about in the previous blog posting, we are talking about different skills.  The approach to working with community could and should be viewed as developing and building upon our current skills – and should not be viewed as ‘threatening’ our professional librarian identities.)

Please view Peter’s webinar.  This webinar can be applied to a wide range of change management processes!


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Filed under community development, public libraries, The Profession

Ethics & LIS Vendor promotional goodies

Last month, law librarian Sarah Glassmeyer wrote some blog posts about exorbitant LIS vendor giveaways that ignited no small controversy and conversation in the legal biblioblogosphere. The conversations raised several interesting questions about LIS vendor gifts and librarian professional ethics, including:

  • How big of a gift is enough to sway someone’s opinion toward or away from a product like a database or publisher?
  • Are most librarians even aware of whether any gift acceptance guidelines apply to them (e.g., academic librarians in a state university whose state has gift acceptance guidelines for public employees)?
  • Should our professional associations offer some guidance on accepting gifts from vendors? If they had such guidelines, would they be enforceable in any way?

I’ve wondered about some of this, myself. It probably would never have crossed my mind that lunch, or a pen, or even winning an iPod in a draw, from a database vendor, would be inappropriate, had I not become a health librarian.

Health professionals, No Free Lunch & Information professionals

As a health librarian, I am acutely aware of issues of conflict of interest in medicine. I’ve written about this before in regard to open access and also medical publishing ethics.

Having worked with medical students and HTA researchers alike, I’m familiar with groups such as No Free Lunch – an organization of “health care providers who believe that pharmaceutical  promotion should not guide clinical practice” who “discourage the acceptance of all gifts from industry by health care providers, trainees, and students”

No Free Lunch’s statement of belief says:

“We believe that there is ample evidence in the literature–contrary to the beliefs of most heath care providers– that drug companies, by means of samples, gifts, and food, exert significant influence on provider behavior.  There is also ample evidence in the literature that promotional materials and presentations are often biased and non-informative. We believe that health care professionals, precisely because they are professionals, should not allow themselves to be bought by the pharmaceutical industry: It is time to Just say no to drug reps and their pens, pads, calendars, coffee mugs, and of course, lunch.”

My guess is that few of us prefer that our health care professionals be accepting goodies from vendors such as pharmaceutical companies.

However, when it’s time to apply the same standard to ourselves, providers of helath information rather than direct health care, are we making flimsy excuses? Are we – just like many doctors – saying that while other people may be influenced by promotional goodies, we are intellectually above that?  Are we – just like some health professionals – of the belief that there is an acceptable small amount of value under which promotional giveaways have no influence?  I have seen studies that quite convincingly assert that even drug samples – which may seem like a boon when you get “free” medication at the doctor’s office – actually raise costs and influence hospital formularies in non-evidence-based ways. When is opening a free trial of a database to the public a useful evaluation tool and when is it a way to get someone “hooked” on an expensive toy?

Do we condone our own free lunches with the belief that databases and other information sources are that much less important then medication and diagnostic tests?

I don’t have much of a vendor swag collection, myself. Maybe a few reusable grocery bags from conferences, imprinted with vendor names, and a couple of writing utensils. I admit that I haven’t been above taking particularly fun-seeming pens off display tables to bring home to my kid. Even though I’m sure that, were I a medical student, I’d join No Free Lunch, I still have that Ovid pen rattling around in my desk somewhere. When I acquired that pen (in a database training session) I was a brand new librarian and liked the insider status I felt, whipping out my database vendor pen. Maybe it’s time to get rid of it now.

Despite the fact that I don’t make a lot of collection development decisions in my current job, I’ve resolved that I won’t be collecting pens, bags, t-shirts, etc. from vendors at this year’s conference season.

The bigger issue: CE sponsorship

However, pens are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to vendor goodies, as much of our CE is underwritten by vendor sponsorships. I am less sure of what to do with this piece. I can’t think of any major library association conference, in health or general librarianship, which does not rely on vendor financial support. I am not currently willing to boycott library association conferences, and I’m not sure what sources are available to replace vendor support in the role of underwriting librarian CE.

With our little local chapter health library CE, we can follow the No Free Lunch model, and poll our membership about whether they’d prefer to pay out of pocket or have vendors supply lunch after CE. However, for large-scale national or international conferences, the costs are so much greater that it’s daunting to take on replacement of the income – particularly right now with so many professional development funds slashed or frozen due to generalized budget woes.

Of course, it’s our employing institutions who are indirectly underwriting these conferences, by paying these vendors enough that the vendors have the advertising budget to promote themselves by supporting our CE. However, reversing this trend – making sure that if we stop asking vendors to sponsor and advertise at our conferences, they pass along the savings to our employers, and that our employers likewise return that amount of money into our professional development coffers, is a challenging proposition! (One that might, perhaps, be likened to documenting that hybrid OA journal publishers actually reduce subscription rates relative to their pay-for-OA income…)

Any thoughts? Is there a rational reason information professionals (in general, or in health in specific) should be held to a different ethical standard from health care professionals? Are we librarians thinking/talking about this, blissfully oblivious, or wilfully ignoring an ethical elephant in the CE classroom? Is there a way to reverse the trend of LIS CE being vendor-underwritten?



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Community-Led Evaluation: Impact on Community

In an academic setting, the research question drives the method used to collect data (quantitative or qualitative). When talking with Annette in Vancouver she indicated that when working with people and trying to determine impacts and outcomes, the most important aspect of community based evaluation is the narrative. The narrative (based on qualitative based methods) injects a human face into the evaluation process.

When working with the community led service model, in theory (and hopefully in practice) the community should be involved in the evaluation process, throughout each step of the service/program planning process.

What does this mean?

When doing a community assessment (developing relationships), identifying needs, planning service, and delivering services – during each of these phases – community members should be asked for their evaluation based feedback. Evaluation DOES NOT come at the end of the process. Ultimately, this provides community members with the ability to influence the development and implementation of relevant services and programs – that will have the greatest impact on their lives. If it is not having an impact, community members can be active participants to create change, so it is having an impact.

Now of course, this may increase the complexity of evaluation. When we initially develop clear and pre-determined outcomes and impacts (in traditional evaluation), this is based on what we feel and determine will be important for community members at the beginning of the process (and to be honest maybe what community members initially feel should happen).

However, the entire community led service model is a process. People change with experiences. Perhaps, the people involved in the process may even change. Community’s interests and needs may also change. Therefore, by building evaluation into the entire process, program and service development will have to change in order to maintain its relevance.

For example when working with need, this method or approach allows library staff to hear community need, interpret the feedback they received in a library context, and discover the direction the community wants the process to proceed. The need that was initially identified may change!

It is our responsibility as librarians when following the community led approach to constantly talk with community members to ensure that the need has been correctly contextualized within a library context, and is still relevant to the people we are working with.

When evaluating it may be important to ask yourself and the community (can anyone think of others? Please share):

• What is the role for evaluation (reword when talking with community!)?

• How will you know when or if there is a difference in your life?

• How do you know when what we are doing is working? What is working?

• How do you know when it is not working?   What is not working?

• How involved are you in the process (community members and staff – self reflection)?

• Is or will the program/service become self sustaining (ensuring community based capacity building)?

• How can or should staff/community facilitate the process?

Ultimately, we have to trust the process. The community led process, based on relationship, allows us to observe and begin understanding needs (see patterns). Evaluation allows us to ensure that we stay on the correct path, as determined by our communities, when we move into service and program development.

~ Ken


Filed under community development, public libraries