Health library benchmarking focus group session

This short focus group session gives the participants a possibility to take part in a benchmarking project of three health libraries by commenting and discussing benchmarking as a method.

What is a focus group?

A focus group is a moderated discussion with 5 to 10 participants. The purpose of focus groups is not consensus building, it is to obtain a range of opinions from a representative set of people to create a picture of the attitudes, beliefs, desires, and reactions to concepts that exist among the participants.

The idea behind the method is to create a context for group interaction in which participants “play ball” with each other. Input from others and evoking thoughts, stimulates creativity and interpretation. The method is useful not only to find the range of views, but also for the participants to learn from each other, and to generate a sense of social cohesion.

In such groups, usually some people take a more dominant role than others do, and some are more modest with their views. Each user’s point of view is of interest and it is the moderator’s task to encourage each user to express their unique points of view. The moderators also have the responsibility to steer the conversation in order to maintain a focus on themes and issues to be covered.

A semi-structured interview guide structures the discussion. This makes the conversation open and flexible so that one can follow threads and details that arise. An advantage when using focus group is to observe the participants’ reactions and study the discussions that occur between different participants. This can give an extra dimension to the discussions.

Focus group is a qualitative method, the results cannot be generalized to a population (e.g. all participants at the EAHIL workshop), but can say something about trends and point out features and patterns that recur.

Focus group on benchmarking

In our session we look for perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes about

  1. our benchmarking project so far, see
  2. the pros and cons of data comparison
  3. the pros and cons of site visits, see
  4. the possibilities of implementing best/good practices, see
  5. how the project should proceed
  6. something else that emerges during the session

We will take notes but participants will also be asked to put a word or two on post-it notes. We will then sum-up the results in a blog post after the workshop.

If you will be attending our workshop session, please, before Friday 12th June, 2015, introduce yourself very shortly (name, organization, main tasks) by commenting this post. You can also very shortly explain why you chose this session.

The project so far and plans for the future

The project started with preliminary plans in February 2013. See background information. Library data and statistics were gathered, shared and compared spring 2013 – spring 2014. There were several online meetings between spring 2013 – autumn 2014. The blog started in October 2014, aiming to report the site visits during and after them. The three site visits took place in October (Trondheim), November (Brussels) and December (Kuopio) 2014.

During each visit week we had many talks with library staff members and with library users, and also had a chance to talk with the library director of each university library.

In Trondheim we discussed with Lisbeth Tangen about these topics

  • campus development implies library development
  • NTNU is focusing on innovative learning technologies and library has be part of that
  • in measuring the impact of the library the connections between quantitative and qualitative indicators must be set
  • libraries have to pay attention not to become hidden services: students are now the only visible users in the library; currently the library space is mainly a working place for students
  • digital resources are very expensive and need to be constantly marketed
  • new activities to develop, especially for research aspects: publication funding, open access, bibliometrics, etc.
  • ==> new competencies are needed in the library: we need more university librarians and staff with good ICT competences, plus “something new” that remains to be discovered or invented. It is time to design future library roles and to market them.

In Louvain-la-Neuve we had lunch with Charles-Henri Nyns and talked about among others

  • library statistics and economics
  • comparing statistical data of universities is not easy due to divergent funding and financing models, even among French speaking university libraries in Belgium; but it is important to seek out at least some comparable indicators nationally and internationally
  • library advocacy — how to convince the decision-makers and justify not only the existence but the enhancement of library services

In Kuopio we discussed with Jarmo Saarti who originally proposed this benchmarking project. We talked about

  • how to proceed with the project
  • statistics and other data useful as background information
  • next steps could include formulating questions for the measurement of the impact of the library collections on users, and how well the money on the digital resources is spent; but this kind of follow-up project would require ICT persons and statisticians — maybe with funding from Horizon2020?
  • how and where we could and should report the experiences and findings of the benchmarking; one possibility could be a presentation at LIBER conference 2016
  • implementing ideas and best practices from each others’ libraries
  • learning also from working cultures, different points of view and lifestyles

Our next steps include a face-to-face meeting in Brussels in February (in connection with another meeting), writing more blog posts during spring 2015, sharing our benchmarking experiences and the project-so-far with colleagues in June in EAHIL 2015 workshop, planning a conference paper for year 2016, and writing a journal article.

Blogging about benchmarking

We are three librarians working in health/medical libraries in Brussels (Belgium), Kuopio (Finland) and Trondheim (Norway).

In February 2013 we started planning a benchmarking project together. Since then we have collected and shared data and statistics, and had (Skype) meetings.

Soon we will make site visists to each other libraries. Exiting!

This blog is meant for sharing the experience and immediate reporting. Later we will also report more formally.

We welcome comments on the topic of benchmarking, especially between libraries, and even more especially between health libraries.

Ghislaine, Karen & Tuulevi