EBLIP conference presentation from Legal Aid Queensland

I was fortunate to attend the recent, excellent 8th Evidence-Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP8) conference, hosted at Queensland University of Technology. The program is available online.

To get a taste of the conference, have a look at the Twitter stream or view the recording of the ‘Evidently Practical’ panel discussion. There were many interesting and thought-provoking sessions, but one of particular interest to ALLA(WA) members was “A training needs analysis case study at Legal Aid Queensland” by Claudia Davies and Richard Vankoningsveld.

The aims of their project were to develop a sustainable training needs analysis (TNA) methodology for the organisation and also to assess whether appropriate evidence of users’ needs was being collected.

They deliberately avoided clients’ self-assessment of their needs. Instead, they focused on empirical evidence, using a multi-faceted approach with 5 components:
  1. Query logs (i.e., clients’ searches on in-house databases)
  2. Usage statistics from vendors
  3. Records of research requests
  4. Client observation (i.e., librarians shadowed lawyers during their work day)
  5. Client stakeholder interviews
By using these varied sources of evidence, they were able to develop a holistic picture of their clients’ behaviours and needs, which in turn now informs their service delivery and provision of training. A few interesting tidbits from their findings include:
  • Based on vendors’ search logs, people tend to only view 1 or 2 documents per search result set
  • In databases like LexisNexis, users searched by keywords 90% of the time rather than browsing, except for the criminal law commentary sources
  • quick links to key resources by topics are very popular, accounting for around 80% of all catalogue activity
  • Many of their research requests are simple reference queries. The reasons for this need further investigation (lack of time or lack of skill?)
  • Clients prefer face-to-face rather than online training
In the end, Richard confessed that all of this data collection took much longer than anticipated, but it appears that it was worthwhile for the insight they gained. Perhaps this project can serve as inspiration for other law librarians to use evidence to inform their practice—not just as a ‘special occasion’, but as a normal way of working (to paraphrase keynote speaker Virginia Wilson).

The presentation also noted that there is a gap in the literature with regard to legal professionals' information seeking behaviour, perhaps because the legal profession is quite ‘proprietary’. Ready for a research project, anyone?

ALLA(WA) Secretary - Megan Fitzgibbons. 
Librarian, University of Western Australia.

Talks

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