Library School – Research Methods module

Research Methods was the summer module and was in my opinion the weakest. It was certainly very student-led/flipped classroom/independent learning focused. It was intended to be a prep module for doing your dissertation and also to prepare for doing research in the real world, which is becoming more common for librarians. The entire module consisted of reading the textbook, then writing ‘optional’ posts on the discussion board and a literature review assignment that wasn’t really a literature review.

Thankfully the textbook was excellent (Research Methods in Information, 2nd edition by Alison J. Pickard). Very readable with lots of real-life examples, it covers the major components of planning and undertaking qualitative or quantitative research, and also mixed methods. I didn’t know what the difference was between qualitative and quantitative before reading this book, having mostly done historical research previously, so I had a lot to learn. I highly recommend the book and imagine I will be dipping into it a lot in the future during my dissertation.

The assignment was meant to be a “literature review,” but actually involved selecting a bunch of studies to critique and therefore was not particularly comprehensive, so hence the scare quotes. I did enjoy the process and to be fair it was a good way to cement your understanding of the various research methods. I chose the topic of evaluation of library services for my review. I chose studies with a broad range of research methods to critique. Some studies were very good and some the more you looked at them, the more things you noticed that were problematic. On the one hand, you felt bad for being super critical in the review, but on the other, that is what the tutor wants to see, so you have to make those critiques. Several of the studies were about the LibQUAL method of library evaluation which I find really interesting. It is a gap analysis survey instrument, where you are measuring the gap between users’ expectations and perceptions about the service quality of the library. Another interesting study (Botha et al., 2009) set out to measure the impact of the library service and how users engaged with the library during the research process. ‘Impact’ was defined in terms of the user being changed by the service. The idea was to show the actual benefits of the library service to the user rather than just that the library was effective or efficient or that users were satisfied.

[Some really cool space science this week as British astronaut Tim Peake completed a space walk including a selfie.]

Now onwards, and upwards – I attended the dissertation study school at Northumbria last week which provided a terrific jump start to my dissertation ideas. More to come.

British vs. American Driving – I’m on the road

Happy New Year! After much talk and delays, I’ve finally gotten my provisional license and started driving lessons! I’ve done about 10 hours now. My instructor is very good, very old school and very Yorkshire. He’s also pretty straight talking (which I appreciate in a Briton) both when you’ve done something wrong and when you get negative. The biggest challenge for me has been learning to do the manual gears. I was surprised that driving on the other side of the car and road is by far the easiest thing. Driving here has been more difficult because the roads are a lot narrower, generally there are more cars about (though that could be because we’re in a city as well) and people park EVERYWHERE and ANYWHERE they can! Often in really annoying/risky places, like just after a junction. I also am having trouble telling where the front left of the hood/bonnet is. I remember having the same problem in reverse when I was learning last time around.

I am slowly making progress (I’m told) with the gears. And I’m learning how to deal with roundabouts, buses and swerving around parked cars, all new to me. Since I already had a lot of driving experience, apparently I’m a difficult student because I lull my instructor into a false sense of security with my good driving and then stall the car or something and remind him I’m a beginner in some ways. So everyone is being kept on their toes!

I passed my theory test last week so the final hurdle is the practical test itself in March.

Other fun facts I’ve picked up:

  • Phobia of driving is a thing here and my instructor’s colleague specializes in teaching pupils with fear of driving.
  • The theory test consists of hazard perception clips that are all created using computer visuals. Something I was really thankful for after practicing with blurry, poor quality dash cam videos where you couldn’t actually see the hazards!
  • There is an authorized vocabulary for driving. I guess this is a good thing because the lingo is standardized as set by the government for various things like driving. For example,  duty of care, hazard routine, and of course all the road signs. But it’s a bit uncanny when your instructor says the same thing as the Youtube video you just watched!
  • Road rules are tailored to manual transmission cars. This is a little theory of mine. I’ve noticed that road rules such as giving way (aka yielding) signs rather stop signs and the light sequence (green – amber/yellow – red – red and amber together) seem suited to manual cars. You don’t have to come to a complete stop at many junctions. At red lights, there is a prep phase (red and amber together) to setting off again after you’ve come to a stop. Since manuals are hard to get going this is really helpful! Anyway, that’s my theory.

Please share any other driving facts, American or British, in the comments.