SKIP Project Research methods

1. Introduction

Qualitative research methodologies were used throughout the project. These included:

Micro and macro approaches were adopted for the research methodology. This twofold approach aimed to:

The research methodology is presented in chronological order below.

2 The methodology

2.1 Review of the literature

This was the first task to be undertaken. The aim of the literature review was as follows:

2.2 Review of ‘library school’ curricula

Departments of Information and Library Studies (DILS) were contacted with a request for copies of their current prospectuses. This exercise was undertaken with the aim of establishing the extent to which new skills, especially those aimed at equipping staff to work in the electronic and networked environment, are reflected in current education programmes. Approved Departments of Information and Library Studies are those listed by the following professional organisations:

A critique of library school curricula can be found at Appendix C.

2.3 Review of the work of the Lead Bodies

The Information and Library Services Lead Body (ILS-LB)) was contacted in April 1996, with a request for information on Scottish and National Vocational Qualifications (S/NVQs). The Information Technology Industry Training Organisation (ITITO) was also contacted to facilitate comparisons between the structure and content of the qualifications in the two sectors. The results of this exercise can be found in Appendix C.

2.4 Programme of visits

The main bulk of the research data was gathered via a programme of visits to selected participating institutions. This process comprised:

The selection process

A list of 50 higher education HEIs (HEIs) was drawn up by the Project team. The initial selection comprised HEIs which had been identified as having a strong IT focus within information service provision. The initial identification drew on the literature and on the SKIP Project Director’s personal knowledge, and it was anticipated that these institutions would be potentially rich sources of data in the SKIP project’s area of research.

The final group of participants comprised those who formally confirmed their willingness to take part - the majority of whom were ‘new’ universities. The identities of the participating HEIs remains confidential, but where they are referred, for example in Appendix B, a coded reference is used. This reference indicates the type of institution involved (for example the prefix ‘new’ ‘old’ or ‘IHE’ to denote a new, or old university, or an institute or college of higher education). The following is a break down of the participants by type and geographical distribution:

3 Welsh institutions

2 Scottish universities

5 ‘old’ universities

3 colleges/institutes of higher education

10 ‘new’ universities

18 in total

Sixteen HEIs were visited between October 1996 and March 1997, and one in May 1997. Each visit took place over a period of two days. The remaining HEI agreed to take part in a telephone interview.

The interview programme

The number of staff interviewed at each HEI varied, as this was left to the discretion of the named contact person, and was dependent on staff availability, and their willingness to be interviewed. A total of approximately 150 staff were interviewed.

A range of staff, from heads of service to library assistants, were interviewed. SKIP was particularly interested in interviewing staff in new posts, or those whose roles and/or skills requirements had changed, due to the impact of electronic and networked information resources. We were also interested in paraprofessional staff and subject specialists, as both groups have taken on new roles in response to changes in the teaching and learning environment, and were identified in the Fielden Report as likely to continue to be affected by change. [1]

Designing the interview questionnaires

A set of semi-structured questionnaires were designed, one for each of five groups of staff:

The questions, copies of which are attached at Appendix D, were designed to provide a range of qualitative data, which would operate on several levels:

Collation and evaluation of information on institutional resources

The majority of the participating institutions forwarded documents which provided useful background material on the library and information service This was supplemented by materials found on institutional Web sites, and acquired during visits to institutions. The material included:

This documentation enabled a composite picture of each information service to be built up, and provided background information for the interviews.



1. John Fielden Consultancy. Supporting expansion: a study of human resource management in academic libraries. (A report for the Management Sub-group of the Library Review). Bristol: HEFCE, 1994. (The Fielden Report) paras. 2.51, 3.5, 3.24-3-30, 4.13

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