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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The emergence of electronic information services (EIS) in academic libraries has been accompanied by a growing interest in, and need for, research in this area. One of the key issues for both researchers and practitioners is keeping abreast of the development of EIS in a rapidly changing, uncertain environment. Recent developments include the increased integration of EIS into mainstream library services and wider university contexts and an increased drive to assess the impact of EIS on learning, teaching and research. This has been illustrated through a number of recent projects, including the evalued project, which is funded through the HEFCE fund for Good Management Practice. The articles in this special edition of VINE were originally presented at the eVALUEd conference in June 2004. They illustrate the wide range of research currently underway in this area. Opportunities to share this information are often limited, but the conference has allowed a number of researchers and practitioners to exchange experiences and promote good practice. This is further facilitated through the publication of the conference papers in this edition of VINE.
McClure, in his keynote speech, provides an extensive overview of whole evaluation process, offering practical suggestions based on the experiences of evaluation within a wide range of contexts within the USA. He points out that evaluation needs to be conducted with a specific aim in mind. Town adds a cautionary note, examining some of the pitfalls associated with the evaluation of EIS and suggesting where gaps in the various current frameworks for evaluation might exist.
Shepherd reports on the considerable progress made by Project Counter since its formal launch in March 2002 and its contribution towards facilitating the development of more reliable vendors statistics, which is vital for effective quantitative evaluation of EIS in the UK and elsewhere.
There have been a number of national projects in the UK which provide support for library practitioners in their evaluation efforts. McNicol provides an overview of the qualitative user-focused approach to EIS evaluation provided by the eVALUEd toolkit. This is complemented by Conyers’s description of the e-measures project, which is working with SCONUL to develop a national set of statistics to measure the holdings, use and cost of EIS. Coulson and Banwell report on the impact of the JUBILEE toolkit and the experience of integrating it into the research process.
More broadly, Brophy explores the outcomes of a variety of activities undertaken as part of the EDNER and EDNER+ projects, the aim of which is to better understand the use of the JISC Information Environment by students in higher education.
Also included in this edition are a variety of examples of evaluation efforts undertaken at a local or institutional level. In some cases these illustrate how national initiatives have been put into practice locally. Payne et al. showcase two of the projects underway as part of the LIRG/SCONUL impact study. These attempt to assess the impact of EIS on information literacy and to demonstrate the value of, and improve access to, e-resources.
Grace and Bremner detail initiatives adopted by the Open University Library in its evaluation of electronic services. They provide examples of innovative approaches including business reporting.
The issue of electronic resources that are freely available is one that is often neglected. Wynne discusses three possible approaches to the evaluation of free resources focusing on the Arts and Humanities Data Service: the collection of resources in a trusted repository, large-scale of evaluation of available resources, and evaluation for end users.
Together, these papers illustrate the many inherent challenges to the evaluation of EIS. However, they also demonstrate the range of activities undertaken to overcome such challenges. Without such ongoing efforts, libraries are in danger of having to manage such resources with little or no information as to their effects, impacts and usage. Clearly such an approach is naive and does not constitute good management practice. The efforts described are therefore vital in order for libraries to manage their electronic information services effectively and to make informed decisions about their development.
Sarah McNicol and Pete Daltonevidence base, University of Central England, Birmingham, UK