The Research Commons: a new creature in the library?

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Performance Measurement and Metrics

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University of Cape Town

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the use made of the Research Commons during its first year of operation in an attempt to establish whether it actually provides a genuinely new and different service from the point of view of the end‐users, and whether a facility such as this could indeed be presumed to support research and enhance research output at the university. Design/methodology/approach – Using Lippincott's assessment grid, an attempt was made to assess activities in the Research Commons according to the dimensions of extensiveness, efficiency, effectiveness, service quality and usefulness. Methodology was mixed, with quantitative and qualitative components that logged the extent and nature of the use of the various facilities in the Research Commons and sought to establish from stakeholder perceptions whether the services on offer are regarded as substantially different from those in the undergraduate Knowledge Commons and whether they are indeed seen to be supporting research activities. Findings – It was found that a combination of numerical and qualitative measurements has yielded sufficient evidence for the drawing of preliminary conclusions. The evidence gathered demonstrates that the Research Commons, designed primarily as a site for the creation of new knowledge in the form of original writing by researchers at postgraduate and academic level, is indeed an advance on the well‐established "library commons" concept, and that its creation represents an instance of "parallel invention" – the "new creature" that the title refers to. Originality/value – This paper provides a multifaceted perspective on the activities taking place in a new library facility and should provide librarians and researchers with evidence‐based insight into how meaningful research support may be provided to young researchers from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds as part of an academic library service in a middle income country.

This is a post-print/preprint of an article published by Emerald in Performance Measurement and Metrics, VOL 11, available: