Why conduct an interview?
The purpose of the interview is to provide qualitative data, to help understand the impact of a specific library and knowledge service. This may include the impact on the individual or help understand how information has been used.
When to use an impact interview
- To collect a ‘story’ which can be used to promote the library & knowledge services
- To gain a deeper understanding of a service you wish to develop
- To supplement data that has been obtained via a questionnaire (questionnaires often provide the numbers but the interview will provide the explanation or “how” and the “why” behind the numbers
When conducting an interview, it is useful to keep the interview purpose in mind, as this will inform you of what questions should be asked.
When the purpose is defined, there are things to consider prior to arranging interviews:
Bias: Who is conducting the interview? It may be more appropriate to obtain an external interviewer. Librarians in neighbouring Trusts may be willing on a reciprocal basis. Think about influencing factors of the surrounding environment. Think about whether the way you have selected the sample could lead to overly positive (or negative) results.
Interview Format: Consider if the interview needs to be ‘in person’ or can it be delivered by email or over the phone.
Selection: Can this be an opportunistic selection of candidates from a group or library visitors, targeted users of a specific service, a list of recommended people to interview by a key individual? It is important to remember that some types of sample selection could provide biased results.
Incentives: Are you offering any incentive to improve uptake e.g. prize draws, give-aways, forgiving library fines.
Timing: Not a hard and fast guide, but approx. 10 mins if looking for a few promotional quotes or up to 60 mins for research you are considering putting forward for publication.
Convenience: Can you meet after a meeting or at lunch-time. Remember to be flexible.
Remember to share this information with participants prior to the interview to help them manage their expectations.
Managing the interview process
Practice: Once prepared, it is a good idea to find a volunteer to test your interview skills on and reflect on the feedback. You may also want to practice using any recording equipment or how you record your notes as this will affect what you can get out of the interview.
Questions: A list of interview questions should be prepared in advance, with suitable prompts to help the participants further understand the meaning of the questions. You may wish to share this with the participant prior to the interview to give them some additional thinking time. Although the framework should be developed for consistency purposes, be flexible in your questions and seek clarification on specific points.
Specifics: When asking about time savings and cost savings it is especially powerful for advocacy and marketing purposes to be able to quote a specific cost saving (eg: £10,000) If the specific cost saving has not been calculated please ask the interviewee to provide an informed estimate of cost savings. If time has been saved how much time is it, and what level of staff, were involved (consultant / nurse, etc.) If other impacts have been acknowledged then obtain enough detail to be able to tell the story of how specifically – for example – “Patient Care” has been improved
Environment: The interview should be as open and informal as possible. The more conversational, then the more useful information you are likely to obtain. Think about how to create a comfortable environment and how to put people at ease.
Skills: The interviewer should be confident at communication and a good listener. Respondents should be left time to think and respond to the questions. The interviewer needs to remain attentive, encouraging and try not to lead the respondent.
Focus: It is important to keep the interview in focus. People have taken time out of their busy days to support you, so remember to keep to the time scale agreed, unless you have permission from the participant to extend the interview.
Consult: When writing up the responses, remember to provide the participant with a copy to confirm the accuracy.
Consent: Remember to get the participant to complete the consent form for the use of data and if they have requested, keep them in the loop on how it has been used.
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