Danielle Cooper will present “Innovating with Evidence Collaboratively and Cross-Institutionally: Ithaka S+R’s Religious Studies Conference” at the 9th International Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Conference in Philadelphia. Her talk will begin at 11:30 on Tuesday, June 20. For more information, please visit the conference website


Objective: What resources and services do faculty members need to be successful in their research? The answer likely depends on their discipline. By embracing multi-institutional approaches to evidence collection academic libraries can develop more expansive approaches to innovating services for their scholars. This paper shares the methods, findings and outcomes from Ithaka S+R’s Religious Studies project, which enabled academic libraries to collaboratively collect evidence about their scholars’ evolving research activities in that discipline.

Methods: Ithaka S+R coordinated library research teams at 18 participating academic libraries and provided research instruments and methodological training. The participating libraries conducted qualitative research with their institution’s religious studies scholars through semi-structured interviews and photography. Each institution analyzed their own data and created local reports with the option of making those reports publicly available. Ithaka S+R analyzed a sample of the transcripts from across the participating institutions to create a publicly available capstone report.

Results: Ithaka S+R’s findings across the participating institutions highlight the dis-junction between religious studies scholars’ research practices and emerging priorities in higher education that necessitate new approaches to library services pertaining to: international research, new digital research methods, and open access approaches to publishing. The local reports corroborated these findings and led to institution-specific outcomes that complimented the insights developed from Ithaka S+R’s discipline-wide research.

Conclusion: The project’s model is an example of how a sustainable and collaborative multi-institutional library research project can be successfully designed and implemented. By concurrently providing opportunities for participating institutions to conduct research on the needs of their own scholars while also creating aggregate analysis that provides a discipline-wide perspective, the project provides opportunities for libraries to embrace dynamic forms of evidence when developing their services. The open, collaborative approach also fosters a wider culture of evidence sharing across academic libraries more widely.