Examining the prospects of library use data integration in university information systems: the Spanish and Greek library stakeholder's perspective

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Examining the prospects of library use data integration in university information systems: the Spanish and Greek library stakeholder's perspective

 

[Versió catalana]


Stavroula Sant-Geronikolou

PhD student in Library Science
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Daniel Martínez-Ávila

Assistant lecturer
Department of Library and Information Science
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

 

Abstract

Objective. To collect the richly textured viewpoints of academic librarians and students on obstacles to library integration in institutional information systems, namely student success technologies and learning analytics. The aim is to contribute with an initial set of recurring themes to baseline knowledge on Spanish and Greek public university libraries' prospects of engaging in this new type of intervention.

Methodology. Interviews were conducted between June and November 2016 in two universities in Spain and Greece and were continuously cross-checked against current literature on the academic climate in an interdisciplinary approach. This process helped to effectively outline a conceptual framework for understanding organisational forces and operational issues that could affect the process of connecting library use data to wider student support systems.

Results. Interviewees' feedback revealed that the practical difficulties involved in systematically tracking in-library student activity workflows and connecting them with campus-wide or even interinstitutional learning analytics initiatives are only some of the operationalisation challenges. Infrastructural capacity-related considerations, the professional development of librarians, user control and strong teacher bias concerns are all high on the stakeholder list of inhibitors that, if they are not tackled, could eventually jeopardize a co-creation and service innovation opportunity of unique value. Easiness of use, voluntariness and feedback were reported among the main criteria with which library data integration in learning analytics systems must comply. A change in data collection practices, the active pursuit of stakeholder engagement and the reconsideration of existing resources, namely infrastructures and funding, were also given as major strategic priorities for the successful implementation of this type of intervention.

Resum

Objectiu: recollir els punts de vista rics en textures dels bibliotecaris acadèmics i els estudiants sobre els obstacles pel que fa a la integració de les biblioteques a sistemes d'informació institucionals, concretament tecnologies d'èxit estudiantil i analítiques d'aprenentatge. La finalitat és contribuir-hi amb un conjunt de temes recurrents de coneixements bàsics sobre les possibilitats que les universitats públiques espanyoles i gregues puguin implicar-se en aquest nou tipus d'intervenció.

Metodologia: es van dur a terme entrevistes entre juny i novembre de 2016 a dues universitats a Espanya i Grècia, i es van confrontar de forma continuada amb la bibliografia actual sobre el clima acadèmic mitjançant un enfocament interdisciplinari. Aquest procés va ajudar a perfilar un marc conceptual per tal de comprendre les forces organitzatives i les qüestions operatives que podrien afectar el procés de connexió de les dades d'ús de les biblioteques amb sistemes de suport estudiantil més amplis.

Resultat: la informació aportada pels entrevistats va revelar que les dificultats pràctiques a l'hora de realitzar un seguiment sistemàtic dels fluxos de treball de l'activitat estudiantil a les biblioteques i vincular-los amb iniciatives d'analítiques d'aprenentatge a tot el campus o, fins i tot, entre institucions són només alguns dels reptes organitzatius. Les consideracions relacionades amb la capacitat de les infraestructures, l'evolució professional dels bibliotecaris, el control dels usuaris i les profundes preocupacions pel que fa al biaix del professorat són qüestions que encapçalen la llista d'inhibidors que, si no s'aborden, podrien posar en perill una oportunitat de cocreació i innovació en el servei de valor únic. La facilitat d'ús, la voluntarietat i la informació de retorn van ser alguns dels principals criteris indicats amb els quals ha de complir la integració de dades de biblioteques a sistemes d'analítiques d'aprenentatge. Un canvi en les pràctiques de recollida de dades, la cerca activa de la implicació de les parts interessades i la reconsideració dels recursos existents —concretament, de les infraestructures i del finançament— també es van esmentar com a principals prioritats estratègiques per a la implementació reeixida d'aquest tipus d'intervenció.

Resumen

Objetivo: recoger los puntos de vista ricos en texturas de los bibliotecarios académicos y los estudiantes sobre los obstáculos relativos a la integración de las bibliotecas en sistemas de información institucionales, concretamente tecnologías de éxito estudiantil y analíticas de aprendizaje. La finalidad es contribuir con un conjunto de temas recurrentes de conocimientos básicos sobre las posibilidades de que las universidades públicas españolas y griegas puedan implicarse en este nuevo tipo de intervención.

Metodología: se llevaron a cabo entrevistas entre junio y noviembre de 2016 en dos universidades en España y Grecia, y se confrontaron de forma continuada con la bibliografía actual sobre el clima académico mediante un enfoque interdisciplinario. Este proceso ayudó a perfilar un marco conceptual para comprender las fuerzas organizativas y las cuestiones operativas que podrían afectar al proceso de conexión de los datos de uso de las bibliotecas con sistemas de apoyo estudiantil más amplios.

Resultado: la información aportada por los entrevistados reveló que las dificultades prácticas a la hora de realizar un seguimiento sistemático de los flujos de trabajo de la actividad estudiantil en las bibliotecas y vincularlos con iniciativas de analíticas de aprendizaje en todo el campus o, incluso, entre instituciones son solo algunos de los retos organizativos. Las consideraciones relacionadas con la capacidad de las infraestructuras, la evolución profesional de los bibliotecarios, el control de los usuarios y las profundas preocupaciones en cuanto al sesgo del profesorado son cuestiones que encabezan la lista de inhibidores que, si no se abordan, podrían poner en peligro una oportunidad de cocreación e innovación en el servicio de valor único. La facilidad de uso, la voluntariedad y la información de retorno fueron algunos de los principales criterios indicados con los que debe cumplir la integración de datos de bibliotecas en sistemas de analíticas de aprendizaje. Un cambio en las prácticas de recogida de datos, la búsqueda activa de la implicación de las partes interesadas y la reconsideración de los recursos existentes —concretamente, de las infraestructuras y de la financiación— también se mencionaron como principales prioridades estratégicas para la implementación con éxito de este tipo de intervención.

 

1 Introducing the new higher educationnarrative

"Technology is at the center of much of the turbulence in our times. It will also be among the solutions that help us weather this period." (Picciano, 2012, p. 9).

The fact that learning is no longer seen as an individual process (De Jong, 2010, p. 2) has led education theorists and higher education leaders to enquire whether pedagogies are adequately engaging and educating the current generation of students (Farkas, 2012). It has also prompted a reexamination of the role of digital technologies in enhancing the relevance of learning and teaching and promoting pedagogical innovation (EHEA, 2015). In turn, this has accelerated the development of more personalised systems and more effective, immersive learning experiences based on continuous monitoring (De Freitas et al., 2015; Redecker et al., 2011) in a new learner-centred service ethos. It has fostered the leap from a 'small data set' of canonical student record data such as students' courses, modules and grades, to the 'big data set' of detailed student activity. However, the inclusion of big data from a range of digital and physical world sources and resources such as libraries and tutors, resulting in a more complete learner profile, represents a growing challenge for those who would like to integrate data into technologies that support student success and retention (student advisory technologies and learning analytics).

The significant shift from teacher-centered learning to student-centered learning has been influenced by progressivist and social constructivist education ideologies (Trowler and Wareham, 2008) and has brought about a significant change in librarian identity (Gregory and Lodge, 2015). The new norm for higher education, marked by the introduction of project-based learning, has made libraries and their resources a fundamental part of teaching and learning processes and increased academic libraries' integration and attractiveness on campus. With pedagogy becoming a major driver for library design, the newly established learning and research resource centres (LRRCs) have started to provide social areas within academic spaces where learning happens as a "by-product of socialising" and interdisciplinary thinking is promoted (Bilandzic and Foth, 2013).

Increased specialisation as well as collaboration, customisation, hybridity and blending in university strategies, structures, services, systems, spaces and skills (Van Trigt, 2016) has engaged librarians in deciphering the dynamic nature of academic success and retention. This situation has also led librarians to proactively pursue conversations with the academic community. This process, which gradually moves libraries closer to non-teaching university staff, such as those in student support services and student affairs, and towards the development of partnerships between libraries and teaching staff, is both a challenge and an opportunity and is regarded as positive, even if it impacts on the librarian's role in a fundamental way (Dodd, 2007).

However, helping students to build thinking bridges with the wider world (Jaeger, 2007) and collegiality with teaching staff requires the reinvention and enhancement of library spaces and practices, especially those related to current metrics and library data reports, to reaffirm the place of academic libraries as learning spaces (Sinclair, 2009). In the grim economic climate of the last decade that reduced higher education budgets and placed pressure on delivering better value, the lack of full understanding of what students need to know and which resources are the most appropriate (Dodd, 2007) eventually deprived library planning of both focus and cohesion, making it difficult to effectively demonstrate how library services could be valuable for users (in terms of 'value-as-results' or 'value-in-use') (Saracevic and Kantor, 1997).

Under these new circumstances, library executive and administrative staff have begun to see the capacity of emerging technologies, namely big data and analytics, to capture and connect the frequency and breadth of resource and service usage for student learning and success. This promising approach can illustrate ways that academic libraries contribute to institutional productivity and academic achievement (Jones and Salo 2018; Cox and Jantti, 2012). The library community's interest in keeping track of in-library user activity and associating this recorded personalised information with wider institutional information systems is growing rapidly. In fact, information science experts believe that this operational change will be the next step in responding to public and private pressures to demonstrate the impact of libraries on student outcomes and their contributions to institutional missions and student success (Oakleaf, 2010; Pritchard, 1996).

By stressing value and not merely revenue in their strategic vision and aligning with stakeholders' interests and expectations, academic libraries are starting to see the collection of data about physical library activities as an additional form of library "living intellectual capital" that can be both the input and output of organisational activity (Gibbons, 2007; Snyder and Pierce, 2002). This asset, if identified, measured, and systematically evaluated (Gallego and Rodríguez, 2005) through new processes, tools and services, could provide the necessary balance between teaching staff and student expectations and the institution's philosophy of student development. It could also help prevent misalignment between an academic library's assessment processes and stakeholders' needs and goals and the subsequent short- and long-term negative consequences of this misalignment, including reduced ability to benefit from current opportunities, partnerships and collaboration actions; communication gaps; discontinuation of projects; loss of secure funding sources; and increased risks to the viability of the system and staff (White and Blankenship, 2007).

In a nutshell, the transition from librarian engagement in learning assessment, self-reported measures and simple compilation of statistics to involvement in learning analytics, seen today as the third wave1 in higher education (Brown, 2011), assessment of collections beyond return on investment (ROI) and establishment of a vision that focuses on the importance of information about library users (Cox and Jantti, 2012; Germano and Stretch-Stephenson, 2012) is gaining momentum. As part of the intelligent campus model,2 this new scenario is driving the development of a variety of innovative interdisciplinary tools and methods to collect and capitalise on library paradata3 (Paulin and Haythornthwaite, 2016). Fortunately, the permeable borders of the field allow for the expansion of practicioners' and decision-makers' vision into more fields and beyond narrow disciplinary perspectives. Within this realm, the conceptualisation of in-library student activity data integration in the learning and teaching processes as a co-creation and service innovation opportunity has been central to a growing body of research since 2008 (e.g. the Jisc LAMP project,4 LIILA,5 CLLASS,6 LALA,7 SHEILA8 and GWLA9) within the broader learning analytics' community network (as illustrated in Figure 1, based on Scopus research results for "learning analytics" filtered for Social Sciences, 2008–2016). Major goals of this stream of research include facilitation of professional discourse in the field by investigating correlations between the pattern of use of library space, services and products (workshops, research consultations, reference service, etc.) and student success.

 
Figure 1. An image of the learning analytics bibliometric network (VOSviewer - Leiden University)
 
Figure 1. An image of the learning analytics bibliometric network (VOSviewer - Leiden University)

Figure 1. An image of the learning analytics bibliometric network (VOSviewer - Leiden University)

 

2 The pulse of the international higher education community

Anecdotal evidence from mini surveys and conversations with a heterogeneous pool of academic library stakeholders (university teaching staff, university administrators, library science researchers and librarians) during the 2017 Higher Education Advances (HEAd17-Valencia, Spain), the Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER17-Patras, Greece) and the 2018 Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in Libraries Conferences (Chania, Greece) helped outline the way the international setting is addressing the topic of in-library student activity data collection.

When asked to express opinions about the way data are collected in their institutions, state-funded institutions' university teaching and administrative staff, mainly from Brazil, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Egypt, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, argued that libraries are taking significant steps to expand the collection of usage data, primarily in the form of anonymous aggregate data. At the same time, they expressed the need to expand the scope of data collection.

Generally, they felt that the systematic collection of academic library use data could be critical to benchmarking library services and realigning library operations with institutional strategic goals, while their perceptions on its usefulness included the following statements:

"…telling the library story, connecting library actions and goals to institutional goals and priorities."
"Demonstrating ASPECTS of the value of the insitution's financial investment in the library."

These insights also support the contention that intra-institutional conversations about learning analytics are not widespread and the integration of library use data in learning analytics initiatives is not yet envisioned in universities' strategic planning. Overall, key informants were not very optimistic about the feasibility of connecting in-library student activity data with learning management systems and other student success-related technologies. However, they expressed the conviction that students would eventually accept these interventions.

Library administrators selected library integration in the educational process as one of the first three "hot topics". They also agreed on the feasibility of achieving balance between privacy and the benefits of library data integration in learning analytics systems to promote student success and retention. When asked to envisage ways of involving the library more dynamically in the learning and teaching process, they stressed the need to share the vision with other institutional partners. Their remarks basically revolved around the following areas:

"Librarians should collaborate with curriculum designers to integrate services throughout the curriculum."
"Librarians should have greater involvement in curriculum committees."
"…[the need to] become a truly embedded librarian."

With respect to the critical question of whether library use data should be viewed and handled as part of educational records, the mixed reaction was indicative of the controversy surrounding this new perspective and of ambivalent feelings when the issue is examined under the lenses of privacy, user consent and confidentiality. Finally, the library administrators considered that decision-makers and students are expected to be the stakeholders that benefit most from learning analytics interventions.

 

3 The perspectives of the Greek and Spanish academic library community

The aim of examining librarians' and students' opinions of sharing data with other university departments was to identify tensions between current and potential practices within the Spanish and Greek higher education context. Interview questions (see Appendix, Table A) focused on whether active library involvement in institutional analytics projects is a real opportunity for libraries to use this data and expertise to create new knowledge and develop new or improved services that enhance student experiences, and to discover connections between library contributions and institutional outcomes.

In a time of profound change, this research to raise awareness about key problems as identified by Spanish and Greek university libraries' stakeholders was designed and implemented under the overarching goal of offering library practitioners and library policy-makers useful insights that would extend their understanding of factors that impact library data capabilities. This would further contribute to decisions on the critical adjustments that are needed to truly, adequately and effectively support the learning and teaching process.

 

4 Methodology

For the purposes of this study, the researchers explored stakeholders' perspectives through open-ended interviews in which informants were encouraged to speak freely about their experiences. Once analysed, the findings were compared with the most relevant literature.

Although small, the participant sample was nonetheless sufficient for an initial exploratory study, as experiences from a large number of phenomenographic studies have shown that data from twenty informants is usually enough to discover all the ways of understanding the phenomenon in question (Lundborg, Wahlström and Dall’Alba, 1999, p. 5; Sandberg, 1994). Comprised of ten female and six male respondents, the sample extends to five stakeholder categories, namely library executive staff, directors, undergraduate students, postgraduate students and interns, with the respondents from the three student categories drawn a range of disciplines, to better represent the community (see Appendix).

During the design of the questionnaire, efforts were made to avoid language that was outside the common knowledge of the participants, in order to prevent subjective interpretations that could almost certainly influence the answers. For this purpose, the researchers chose to paraphrase many concepts related to learning analytics because this terminology is not widely used in academic environments yet. According to Drachsler and Greller (2012) and Mattingly et al. (2012), the tool is still under development. Although semi-structured interviews were administered using Sclater's taxonomy10 of logistical, ethical, legal and privacy dimensions and literature-derived aspects relating to infrastructural, competential, communicational, collaborational and organisational culture, coding was inductively extracted from the text during the analysis phase, in a Straussian grounded theory approach that would help generate theory for areas where little information was available (Corbin and Strauss, 2008).

Library staff respondents were recruited via chain referral while student participants were randomly selected at the case settings. Interviews were conducted in the participants' native languages in various institutional library locations, depending on the participant's preference and location availability. Each participant was interviewed once for 10 to 50 minutes (average time per interview: 30 minutes; interview corpus overall duration: 310 minutes) for the Spanish research segment, and for 14 to 27 minutes (average time per interview: 18 minutes; interview corpus overall duration: 113 minutes) for the Greek part of the research.

Following a semi-structured interview protocol, an informed consent form reassuring participants about anonymity and confidentiality issues in the publication of the analysis and results was signed by both parties, interviewees and interviewers, at the beginning of each session. Interviews were terminated when theoretical saturation was reached, which occurs when no new theoretical concepts emerge in terms of redundancy and variation with any new data. The amount of observation time required to collect reliable data for this study was analogous to the time needed to establish a comfortable degree of rapport with the people, situations and settings involved.

 

5 Findings

A systematic, iterative review of the interviews resulted in the development of an emergent codebook in a mixed content analysis approach that recorded the frequency of occurrence of words and phrases and grouped together terms with the same meaning and patterns. The assigned label categories were adopted from the available literature and the researchers' own experience.

In more detail, the micro-analysis of findings (see Appendix, Table B) regarding participant inter-group perspectives revealed that library directors seemed to be concerned by issues related to time, space and budget constraints, data collection over-aggregation, information silos and inflexible organisational structures.

In contrast, apart from low library automation, students mentioned several operational issues that are associated with non-systematic library use data collection, institutional isomorphism, user/librarian disconnect and user demotivation. In their words:

"I firmly believe that no library use data are kept."
"As to in-library use, no detailed data are being kept, there is no personalised data collection."
"Departmental libraries all follow the same space planning, operational and organisational patterns."

Overall, affordability and governance concerns seem to outweigh privacy considerations, while up to 70 % of respondents acknowledged an information training deficit among professionals. Their comments included:

"There is little room for change where staff professional development and funding is concerned."
"I think they [librarians] try hard to stay updated but there is insufficient training and development….I wish the institution could do things for the staff."

 
Figure 2. Inhibitors to library use data integration in language analytics initiatives

Figure 2. Inhibitors to library use data integration in language analytics initiatives

 

According to the macro-analysis of the transcripts that juxtapose inter-country differences (Figure 2), communication culture, organisational structure and data management issues seem to dominate respondent groups' concerns while institutional isomorphism, user demotivation, time constraints and librarian workload were the least statistically significant issues reported. When the analysis was carried out at the level of potential language analytics compatibility11 issues with existing structures and processes, infrastructure, privacy, teacher bias and routine library operations (business as usual) were acknowledged as the main conflict areas that could eventually hinder future initiatives (Figure 3).

 
Figure 3. Interviewees’ compatibility concerns

Figure 3. Interviewees’ compatibility concerns

 

Finally, most respondents expressed the opinion that library use data integration in institutional information systems, namely student success technologies, could be much more beneficial than existing processes (relative advantage)12 and more socio-cognitively relevant (see Appendix):

"…Databases are disconnected. Library systems don't have anything to do with online educational resources, Moodle or registration data whatsoever. It's all quite disaggregated."
"Everything is done with a delay… I can't say for sure whether someone is processing library use statistics."
"…We currently have data that reveal which service is used more or less frequently. But we aren't very aware of what they need… They [students] don't know the number of services we offer…it would be absolutely great if we knew how to motivate them."

They further commented on the importance of:

" know[ing] what students think of the library… inside the library, we are fairly paternalistic. We are the ones who say what the users need."
"The intellectual capital that is library-based student activity is not been exploited… The current organisational structure doesn't facilitate dialogue in a bottom-up approach…. The way things are organised today leaves little room for initiative."

They also shared the opinion that systematic tracking and sharing of in-library student activity should go through real-time aggregated or voluntary anonymised pipelines.

 

6 Discussion

Influenced by groundbreaking advances in technology and education, efficient libraries are becoming important assets for higher education institutions in the highly competitive international environment (Blin, 2009). These developments are driving university administrators' focus on the relationship between library services and grades, retention and achievement. In their effort to make the librarian portfolio more integrated in the educational, professional, pedagogical and didactic lifecycle, administrators model a "significant turn" in assessment and evaluation as they come to realise the importance of tailoring information services to better match user expectations (Vassilakaki, 2016, p. 8 &18).

However, despite the proliferation of studies and fascinating research on how libraries can link their work to institutional data, the current analysis reveals that library data are still not systematically collected or are siloed away from the rest of institutional student information databases. The current educational environment is offering librarians the opportunity to accelerate a reform (Rader, 2004) that envisions making the educational process more effective, functional and productive through systematic library use data collection and its integration into learning analytics. However, the Greek and Spanish university ecosystem is still hesitant to embrace this transformational change that would help develop an even stronger profile within the context of institutional missions and outcomes.

Notably, many of the stakeholders' considerations do not stem exclusively from the fact that analytics is a tool under development and part of an emerging field that will likely evolve dramatically in the near future (Mattingly et al., 2012) and nor do they relate only to big data-associated challenges in volume, velocity, variety and veracity (Heilala, 2018). Reservations about library involvement in institutional analytics projects could also be attributed to a number of context-specific peculiarities. According to Kajberg et al. (2009), European librarianship represents a patchwork of academic traditions, structural specifics and course profiles that weigh heavily on the systems' capacity to address institutional alignment challenges and societal demands in a timely way.

Additionally, a dichotomy between education-oriented and research-oriented libraries (Blin, 2009), dramatic differences among library science programmes, doubt and uncertainty plaguing library and information science education (Goodsett and Koziura, 2016; Abadal, 2015), and high variability between libraries in terms of the level of statistics that are collected and even the types of statistics to which libraries have access represent yet another set of challenges at the time of embarking on new projects. As to tertiary education investment in student success and advising technologies, European universities seem to be progressing at a slower pace than their US counterparts in recent years. Within this realm, Greece belongs to the "limited technology users" category, with institutions not reporting widespread use of any advising technology. Spanish universities seem to be among institutions that increasingly see themselves as successful in advising and they report rising levels of collaboration (Tsai et al., 2018). Nevertheless, neither of these contexts shows signs of strong alignment and coordination on student success initiatives in this new LA landscape.

Furthermore, according to the Public Funding Observatory Reports for 2016 and 2017 (European University Association, 2016; Pruvot et al., 2017, 9 & 13), Spain and Greece were among the thirteen European higher education systems in public funding decline between 2008 and 2015. Their funding decreased while student numbers grew, and both also ranked low in terms of university independence according to the National Bank of Greece Higher Education Sectoral Report 2017 (Mylonas, 2017). Therefore, while librarians around the globe are streamlining their transformation through key drivers such as education trend watch, competitive intelligence and technology vigilance, intensive use of information and communication technology, implementation of total quality management and changes in their organisational culture, Greek academic librarians are struggling to make the best of their decimated resources with a number of shortfalls, while both Greek and Spanish public academic libraries are still suffering the effects of similar staff and expenditure cuts during the recession (Giannakopoulos et al., 2014; Simón-Martín et al., 2016).

It is no surprise that major concerns expressed by both sides were associated with funding, librarian workload, changing organisational structures and the need to move towards an innovation-oriented culture that would eventually help develop an appreciation of the benefits of library integration in wider language analystics initiatives. Both respondent groups stressed the severe implications of the economic downturn on the library service, and especially the need for proactive rather than defensive approaches to demonstrate library value and contributions to the learning and teaching process. Respondents also underscored the importance of continuing professional development to equip librarians with the skills to:

  • revisit and rethink their roles and mandates;
  • move beyond traditional information literacy work to take on larger and more fundamental roles in learning and teaching;
  • remedy the lack of technological know-how, collaborative culture and incentives that oppose and hold back innovation.
 

The interviews also brought to light a worldview mismatch or difference of opinion between high- and low-ranking library staff in terms of organisational facts and figures, along with the existence of organisational subcultures and the inability to transform informal discussions on unit-level issues into organisation-wide conversation topics. Views of libraries' missions, which are often sought by librarians themselves, may enrich debates on the evaluation of library services. However, they also reveal a considerable communication gap.

The situation is further exacerbated by the existence of widespread paternalism. Librarians imagine themselves in ways they assume users think or feel about the library and which, in the case of learning analytics, could cause further pragmatic implications as force-fitting this type of intervention could create conflicts between individual users and larger groups, especially in the absence of a robust model to address the speed of developments and help pave the transition to the new student success support paradigm (Ambrose, 2005; Willis, 2014).

The lack of a clear understanding of how academic librarians and library directors can internally communicate library contributions to university administrators responsible for funding decisions (Murray, 2014) is yet another issue that increases the need to rethink ways to involve staff in meaningful communication, reflection and growth with an eye on new trends. Cultural incongruence and its resulting organisational communication issues often inhibit an organisation's ability to perform at the highest levels of effectiveness (Cameron and Quinn, 2006). Under these circumstances, it seems improbable for the local context and audience to become ready to appreciate emerging measures in the future.

The analysis of library professionals' responses also revealed that library directors are more sensitive to the technical, operational and administrative challenges associated with disruptive change and the difficulty of transcending the institutional strategic planning framework as stated by a central administration. As noted repeatedly, Spanish and Greek libraries, which are halfway through the process of integration or convergence with the LRRC model, have not received adequate levels of institutional support (Pacios and Ortiz-Repiso, 2010; Sant-Geronikolou, 2017). Thus, many of their future projects have been relegated to the rhetorical realm. Inflexible, static or rigid university organisational structures and philosophy, which force libraries to work on insitutional awareness and inspiring a vision among those who do not regard them as part of the plan to stimulate innovation in the university, were given as reasons for not having achieved full transformation yet (Pacios, 2015). 

Although librarians usually express their confidence in the adequacy of their skills to cope with present job requirements, the researchers recorded concerns about skills that will be valued in the future and the system's inability to approach the continuing professional development issue in a systematic, proactive way (Sant-Geronikolou, 2017). Librarians have traditionally concentrated on producing accountability data rather than pursuing "the transformative thinking necessary to improve learning, research and service" (Simmons-Welburn et al., 2008, p. 130), and they are more concerned with financial and infrastructural issues and less optimistic about the relative advantages of implementing new operational processes where library use data is concerned (see Appendix, Table B). European librarians seem to share many of the considerations of their US counterparts, as recorded in the Spec Kit 360 American Research Libraries' survey (Asher et al., 2018)13, especially those related to privacy/ethical dilemmas, lack of institutional support, ambiguity surrounding campus needs and uses of library data and decentralisation. Nevertheless, they consider the systematisation of library data collection among possible solutions to mitigate upcoming university merger-induced challenges like role overlaps or miscoordinated collection development, as acknowledged by Huang and Zhang in 2000.

In contrast, students' responses reveal a rather outdated conceptualisation of the library. As stated in several studies (Tevaniemi et al., 2015; Snavely, 2012; Walton and Matthews, 2013), this is based on an idealised version of libraries as information repositories that, despite the many and recent physical transformations of libraries, are not necessarily regarded as spaces for informal study or learning.

The fact that affordability and governance concerns outweigh the interviewees' privacy considerations can be potentially attributed to students becoming increasingly accustomed to personalised, data-driven experiences of the digital and physical environment. This statement is supported by the findings of the Educase Report: The analytics landscape in Higher Education (Yanosky and Arroway, 2015, p. 10) on institutions' concerns about breaching student privacy rights and Drysdale's (2013) argument that as students are living in a world where more and more daily interactions are personalised, they expect the same from their university and overall learning experience. The student participants in the current study seem be unfamiliar with the scope and purpose of institutional data and learning analytics, as were the SHEILA project's student focus groups (Tsai et al., 2018). They recognise the importance of library data integration in student support technologies, as long as progress and privacy are balanced. They also firmly believe in its relative advantages and benefits that include timely personalised information, improved curriculum development, enhanced student achievement and motivation.

The interviewees' comments suggest that the success of any given or envisioned library analytics system is dependent on library use data processing matching the users' reasonable expectations of how their data will be used: "the more clearly acknowledged and expected it is in the community and by data subjects that the controller can take action and process data in pursuit of these interests, the more heavily this legitimate interest weighs in the balance" (Article 29, Data Protection Working Party in Cormack, 2016). It is equally important to implement a clear "functional separation" between the analysis and intervention processes.

Most respondents felt that systematic tracking and sharing of in-library student activity should go through real-time aggregated or voluntary anonymised pipelines. This is similar to Rogers' Low-N SUNY Potsdam survey findings (Farkas, 2018) on students' understanding of privacy, in which students exhibited zero tolerance to the collection of identifiable library data. Finally, none of the current study's interviewees considered that university teaching staff and students together were among the most benefited stakeholders from this new type of interventions. This finding could become the subject of future research.

 

7 Study value and limitations

To date, numerous country-specific studies have been carried out on user perceptions of service quality and librarian skills. However, the authors did not find any studies on the specific context of Greek and Spanish libraries that examine academic library stakeholders' perceptions of fators that could inhibit libraries' dynamic involvement in the learning and teaching process through integration of library data in learning analytics initiatives.

Despite the small number of respondents, the representation could be considered adequate as the content of the answers was detailed. The reliability of the study was also enhanced by the connections made with a substantial number of analysed sources, such as those gathered in the literature review, as recommended by Connaway and Powell (2010). However, readers should be cautious about drawing far-reaching conclusions on the Greek and Spanish higher education contexts because of the fluidity of the current educational scenario and the exploratory nature of this phenomenographic research, whose limitations do not differ from the validity and generalisability issues inherent in any other qualitative research. Nevertheless, discussion generated by these findings will help to deepen knowledge of some of the context-specific complexities that are involved.

 

8 Conclusions

Some international experiences show that interactions between library and educational services driven by learning analytics add a new chapter to the library narrative and can provide a new perspective on library development as they help the education service become more aware of the library's potential. Such experiences inspired the current study. Using the research vehicle of semi-structured interviews in Greek and Spanish public university libraries during the second half of 2016, researchers sought to investigate the library climate and operations under the language analytics lens. Their principal aim was to examine whether stakeholders are prepared to understand and come to terms with the prospects of library use data integration in campus-wide learning analytics systems, given that the success of any such intervention could be jeopardized if the community's traditional understanding of library data collection functions were maintained.

The analysis of transcripts offered researchers the opportunity to explore new and old theoretical perspectives that could (1) contribute to the development of an initial conceptual model of factors conducive to library use data integration in learning analytics initiatives, (2) further support stakeholder buy-in and (3) enhance analytics uptake in the country-specific academic library context. According to the respondents' insightful comments, before deploying any systematic library data collection solutions it is vital to understand library data collection as part of a broader process. It is equally important to acknowledge the critical role of university teaching staff and mitigate communication and collaboration barriers and mistrust between librarians and teachers. Findings indicate that teaching staff do not yet perceive librarians as valued collaborators in student learning, so librarians are left rather alone to craft the future of their profession (Long, 2016). Therefore, teacher and student involvement through training and intra- and inter-departmental communication on the impact that these developments may have on the community holds great potential for strengthening stakeholder engagement. It will probably be one of the keys to wider user acceptance, if learning analytics tools are to serve the intended objective of improving the educational process.

The Creative Research paradigm aims not only to formulate context-specific recommendations but also to open up potential avenues for future research and action that enhance professional development and practice. Under the paradigm, this study that capitalises on stakeholder willingness to discuss new solutions for the enhancement and exploitation of library use data collection beyond traditional operations could also serve the following purposes. First, it could add to a knowledge base that would constitute a data pool of initial user requirements for the purpose of designing future library analytics interventions. Second, it could inform the design of professional development and user training activities. Stakeholders stressed the importance of ensuring that the organisational culture is prepared with the policies and skills needed to successfully distill actionable intelligence from the use of learning analytics systems. Hence, current research results can also provide baseline information for the design of professional development activities (workshops and seminars) that build on identified organisational and operational issues to foster the community's understanding of the new LLA scenario's implications. Especially in the case of future information professionals, an early initiation regarding library stakeholders' mindset on language analystics prospects could be highly advantageous, as the success of any innovative intervention depends on clear information about library user needs.

With libraries gradually transforming to academic commons, and higher education advancing closer to the intelligent campus scenario while redrawing the boundaries of privacy, a series of context-specific training and development actions could find purchase as stakeholders acknowledge institutional culture as the most important factor in determining the success of future library involvement in the institutional analytics realm. This appreciation also extends to benefits associated with the integration of the library into wider learning analytics initiatives, to enhance understanding of learning and provide efficient ways to support the university mission.

 

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank all participants for their valuable contributions. The paper builds upon a poster entitled 'Greek and Spanish university community perspective of challenges affecting library integration in learning analytics initiatives', presented at the Tenth Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries International Conference (QQML2018), Chania (Greece), 22–25 May 2018.

 

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Appendix

Table A.

Dimensions Indicative questions and probes
Infrastructural, logistical Which student in-library use data (e.g. writing lab, consultations, equipment check in/out, space use, information literacy, circulation, interlibrary loan, workshops, seminars and study room use) are currently recorded?
Logistical On which level are they collected and analysed in your library (regular, occasional, aggregated, personalised, siloed or integrated in student success-related technologies)?
Effectiveness Do you believe that the way library use data are currently collected and shared effectively supports the provision of personalised library service?
Logistical Are these data connected to student information systems?
Collaborational Are these data reported or shared with the teaching staff? If so, in what way and with what frequency?
Educational Do you think that systematic collection and capitalisation of student activity workflows within the library walls would be useful or necessary and to which aspect of the student experience?
Attitudinal On which level do you believe that such data collection should be implemented and analysed in your library (regular, occasional, aggregated, personalised, siloed or integrated into student success technologies)?
Attitudinal Do you think students would welcome library involvement in campus learning analytics systems?  What do you think they need to know in order to fully support it?
Logistical, ethical Do you have any practical or ethical considerations associated with library use data integration in campus-wide student information systems?
Legal, ethical Do you consider that personally identifiable library use data should or could be viewed and handled as educational data?
Educational Given current public university status, what practice would you consider optimal to supporting the teaching and learning process: real-time, periodic (trimestral, biannual) or annual summative in-library student activity reporting? Please, justify your answer.
Competential Are you familiar with the emerging learning analytics field?
Attitudinal In your opinion, is your library ready to contribute data to this type of student support technology? When do you estimate this could be feasible?
Attitudinal Does your organisational culture support such a development? 
Communication Are there any formal or informal conversations about the need to systematise library use data collection?
Professional development From a financial, technical, attitudinal and competential perspective, do you consider academic librarians capable to effectively cope with the implications and requirements of such innovation? Please, justify your answer.
 

Table B.

Origin
Category
Relative advantage
Sociocognitive relevance
Privacy, governance concerns
Infrastructural, financial concerns
Spain Assistant librarian High Not mentioned Low High
Spain Assistant librarian Not mentioned Moderate High Not mentioned
Spain Doctoral student High High High Not mentioned
Spain Librarian High High Low High
Spain Librarian High Low Low High
Spain Library manager Moderate Moderate High High
Spain Undergraduate High High Low Not mentioned
Spain Undergraduate Moderate Low High Not mentioned
Spain Undergraduate High High High Not mentioned
Spain Undergraduate/
intern
High High Moderate Not mentioned
Greece Librarian Moderate Not mentioned High High
Greece Librarian High High Low High
Greece Library manager Moderate Not mentioned Moderate High
Greece Undergraduate High High Moderate High
Greece Undergraduate High Not mentioned High Not mentioned
Greece Undergraduate High High Low High
 

Notes

1 As the third wave, learning analytics is the metacognitive component that allows individuals and institutions to understand learning and make informed decisions about resource allocation and required interventions to promote learner success.

2 The intelligent campus R&D project is one of five new ideas that emerged from co-design consultations with stakeholders. More information is available at: <https://www.jisc.ac.uk/rd/projects/intelligent-campus>.

3 Information on how, in what context, and by whom resources are used can supplement educational metadata and can provide additional contextual weight to learning resources, which along with other data emerging from online learning environments, can be leveraged toward personalisation that provides tailored learning for individuals, but also potentially for learning communities.

4 Library Analytics and Metrics Project information available at: <https://www.jisc.ac.uk/rd/projects/library-analytics-and-metrics-project>

5 Library integration into institutional learning analytics, IMLS, National Leadership Grants for Libraries, 2017. More information available at: <https://library.educause.edu/-/media/files/library/2018/11/liila.pdf>.

6 Connecting Libraries and Learning Analytics for Student Success, IMLS, National Leadership Grants for Libraries, 2018.

7 LALA Project. Learning Analytics in Latin America. <https://www.lalaproject.org/es/inicio/>.

8 SHEILA Project. Supporting Higher Education to Integrate Learning Analytics <http://sheilaproject.eu/>.

9 Inspired by the academic library value report (Oakleaf, 2010), this was a comparative analysis across the GWLA spectrum in 2015, with the participation of 12 institutions, to inform their institutional priorities by investigating the effect that library instruction has on the academic success of college students. Findings from 2014–2015 reveal that library instruction is closely associated with student retention from fall to fall for first-year students with highly significant results for eight of the 12 institutions (p<.05) (Blake et al., 2017).

10 A taxonomy of ethical, legal and logistical issues of learning analytics v1.0, Niall Sclater, March 2015, Available at: <https://analytics.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2015/03/03/a-taxonomy-of-ethical-legal-and-logistical-issues-of-learning-analytics-v1-0/>

11 Compatibility is the degree to which innovation is perceived as consistent with sociocultural values and beliefs, existing practices or user needs, saving effort and time and enhancing efficiency.

12 Relative advantage occurs when the innovation is perceived as being better than the idea or service it supersedes.

13 The purpose of this survey in 2018 with the participation of fifty-three of the 125 ARL libraries was to illuminate current practices, policies and ethical issues relating to libraries and learning analytics.

Recommended citation

Sant-Geronikolou, Stavroula; Martínez Ávila, Daniel (2019). "Examining the prospects of library use data integration in university information systems : the Spanish and Greek library stakeholder's perspective". BiD: textos universitaris de biblioteconomia i documentació, núm. 43 (desembre). <http://bid.ub.edu/en/43/Sant-Geronikolou.htm>. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1344/BiD2019.43.11 [Consulta: 06-12-2019].