Sunday, January 27, 2008

Research agendas in library science

One of my class assignments this semester is to conduct a small research project in an area of interest to me within LS that informs an issue. Having just finished writing an article for the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science on serials collection and management, I've been thinking about the importance of serials to librarians, particularly academic librarians, and how little I learned about them in my master's in librarianship program. My experience in NASIG leads me to believe that this is the case in general and I wonder why. So the issue I've tentatively settled on for the assignment is whether or not MLS programs should put more curricular emphasis on serials.

After discovering more about research agendas last week, I started to look for research agendas in LS, especially among professional organizations and grant funding agencies with a focus on serials. I looked at NASIG, ALCTS-CRS, UKSG, ALISE, OCLC, and IMLS. What I discovered is that most of them lack explicit research agendas but have missions, goals, areas of study, and/or themes in which a research agenda is implied. Some are more research oriented and some are more praxis oriented. For instance, it's evident from their web pages and their conference programs that both NASIG and UKSG are much more focused on the practitioners' side of librarianship.

ALISE and ALCTS-CRS also have implicit research agendas (as far as I tell, there is one place on ALISE's web site that mentions a research agenda but I couldn't find the agenda itself). Both organizations are clearly interested in and supportive of LIS research although the types of research differ between them. ALCTS-CRS's agenda is evident in it's committees and their charges. Their themes include education, research and publication, serials standards. ALISE's agenda is more related to education (for obvious reasons) and includes scholarship and research as well as pedagogy and curricula. Of these four organizations, ALISE is the only one that makes grants to fund research.

Both ALISE and OCLC give research grants (in fact, they give one together the results of which are presented at ALISE's annual conference) as does IMLS. In fact, based on my experience at ALISE's annual conference a couple of weeks ago, IMLS is one of the biggest grant funding agencies for librarianship. So it is interesting that they also do not have an explicit research agenda but instead have "goals":
  • To promote improvements in library services in all types of libraries in order to better serve the people of the United States.
  • To facilitate access to resources and in all types of libraries for the purpose of cultivating an educated and informed citizenry; and
  • To encourage resource sharing among all types of libraries for the purpose of achieving economical and efficient delivery of library services to the public. (still from the "about" page linked above).
So, there's a summary of my work and thinking so far. Next I'll tackle developing my own research agenda, at least a first draft of one. With so few really relevant examples I feel as if I'm flying by the seat of my pants. Perhaps I will take a little bit of time to look for scholars in LIS to see if any of them have their own research agendas published somewhere public.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thinking about research agendas

The syllabus for my Research & Issues course this semester says that for
"Saturday, Feb. 2. Each seminar participant should be prepared to report briefly on the research agenda of the professional associations and major grant agencies related to her area of interest. Each participant will bring multiple copies of a one-page statement of her own research agenda."

1. what IS a research agenda?
2. can a professional association HAVE a research agenda?
3. the syllabus says of the course "format (oncampus, distance, conference)
Hybrid in Concept (individualized research but in a common frame and communicated to all
specialists under the umbrella of LS)" does that mean that we will all frame our research using Friedson's model?

The first thing we did in class was to differentiate between a problem and an issue (the focus of this class) so I'm thinking that the place to start is by providing support for my claim that my issue is an issue using the definition we've adopted. In class, we talked about:
How does one know when there are issues? When people disagree about what should be done.
What are some signs of disagreement? Conflict, obviously; Policy Statements, by implication.
What are the sources of the issues relating to the doctoral program?
So, what kinds of research inform a resolution of the issue?
Once the research is done, how will the issue be resolved?
Once the issue is resolved, how will the resolution be implemented? New problems, new issues.

The issue I'm interested in addressing [researching?, resolving?] has to do with teaching more about serials and electronic resources in library school.

Sample research agendas: (this one is a paragraph or two) (this one is 19 pages long, both include "themes", the longer one also contains sections that give the background and context, assessments of resources, techniques, and strategies) (this one is 60 pages long!!! and is structured similarly to the first two) (here's one about a woman in LS who has created a research agenda for digital preservation)
Another one I found broke the research project down into phases.
From, "
CIHR consists of 13 "virtual" institutes, each headed by a Scientific Director and assisted by an Institute Advisory Board. They work together to shape a national health research agenda for Canada. The institutes bring together researchers, health professionals and policy-makers from voluntary health organizations, provincial government agencies, international research organizations and industry and patient groups from across the country with a shared interest in improving the health of Canadians." (makes it sound like a system for prioritizing a group of research projects) "The Special Libraries Association (SLA), an international professional association that represents 14,000 information resource experts, is a key influence in defining and meeting the research priorities of the special library community. In June 1986, SLA's Board of Directors formed the Special Committee on Research with the charge of determining if a research program was a necessity for SLA, and, if so, to establish a'comprehensive research strategy, in particular focusing on issues especially relevant to special librarianship and information management. In June 1988, The Board of Directors voted to establish an in-house research department and a standing Research Committee, which formulated a research agenda subsequently approved by the Board in June 1989. SLA's research agenda sets forth priorities and serves as the keystone to all research conducted by and for the Association. In June 1990, the SLA Board of Directors reaffirmed the Association's commitment to research by approving the Strategic Planning Committee's recommendation that research be one of the top priorities for the next five years. This article reviews SLA's research agenda, current research activities and future priorities, and comments on the importance of research to the special library community." Abstract The author proposes a research agenda for libraries focusing on ten problem areas: rising costs, shrinking funding, electronic provision of services, deterioration of materials, use of document delivery services, changes in copyright and licensing, out-sourcing, staff training, organizational challenges, and redefining the library’s role.
ACRL Research Agenda for Library Instruction and Information Literacy:
SLA's research agenda:

So I've got a better idea of what a research agenda is and I can see that it IS possible for a professional association to have or support a particluar research agenda. It seems to me that the pertinent associations for my issue are:
4. ?
...and, of course, the next question is which "major grant agencies" might be supportive of research on this issue?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

NASIG Board Member at Large - not this year

It was with some trepidation last fall that I accepted a nomination to run for member-at-large to the NASIG Executive Board again this year. I was nominated, ran, and lost the election last year. I lost to a couple of friends who I knew would do a good job so I was only a little disappointed. This year I was nominated again and was feeling a little more confident about it. But Thursday I received an email to tell me that of the 65 (!) nominations for member-at-large I had not been selected to run. And once again, I find myself a little disappointed but also a little relieved. It took a few days to shake the feeling that I now had a gap in my time for the next two years that needed to be filled immediately and embrace the feeling of relief; now I can concentrate on finishing my doctoral class work and have time at work to accomplish some of the goals my department set at the beginning of the fiscal year. And besides, if by chance the University (TAMUCC) accepts my proposal to adopt information literacy as our quality enhancement plan (QEP), I"m sure I'll be kept plenty busy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

ALISE side effects

I returned home last night and arrived at work this morning in time to attend the beginning of semester faculty meeting (which librarians are 'strongly encouraged' to attend, even though we are not technically faculty) and an interesting thing happened: I felt like one of them! I always have to some extent (although there are always going to be some snobs) but this I really have to credit to spending four days at the ALISE conference visiting and getting to know library school faculty and other doctoral students. I was made to feel (at ALISE) very welcome and was treated like a peer (which I had hoped for based on my other small conference experiences but didn't quite dare expect based on some of my experiences with faculty at TAMUCC). I think that institutional and intradiscipline culture sometimes creates local norms for faculty - doctoral student interactions AND faculty - librarian interactions. There's something interesting to study!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

PAR, Future LIS Faculty, and, of course, Information Seeking

More good sessions today at the ALISE conference. This morning's guest speaker was Jean Schensul from The Institute for Community Research. She described some of the methods she and the staff at ICR use to conduct what she calls community based research but which is essentially participatory action research. Not surprising that she was the second key note speaker since the theme of the conference is fairly PAR oriented and no disrespect but PAR or CBR just isn't my thing. It's interesting from a methodological standpoint but just not really up my alley. 'Nuf said.

By far the best session I attended today was about recruiting and training the next generation of library and information school faculty (there's an emphasis here that there is a difference between the two). The first part of the presentation was a report on a program called Project Athena which is an IMLS funded project designed to identify, recruit, and prepare LIS faculty. The second part was a report on a program with a similar vision but no grant funding.

Project Athena is well staffed and funded and focuses on preparing teaching faculty by partnering with LIS programs at other institutions and giving their fellows the opportunity to teach. Results of research conducted on the program include recommendations that existing networks and campus resources as well as cross institutional collaboration be used to increase the pool of potential LIS faculty, that new networks and role models/mentors be used to increase the diversity of the pool, and that doctoral students whose intention it is to teach be better prepared to navigate the organizational culture of various institutions, balance teaching and service commitments, and disseminate their research post-dissertation.

Elizabeth Figa at the University of North Texas School of Library and Information Science has implemented a mentoring program for doctoral students in their interdisciplinary doctoral program that is unfunded (at least formally, she solicits funding as needed for particular students from her dean and provides some of it herself) and seems a bit less structured and more information than Project Athena but certainly no less ambitious.

I find it interesting that none of the four "example" graduate students from these programs who spoke about their experiences in the programs had backgrounds in academic librarianship so I asked about it during the q&a session at the end of the program. The UNT SLIS program was (and remains as far as I can tell) focused purposefully on students with backgrounds in public libraries and as school library media specialists as does Project Athena since neither school's masters level programs are focused on academic librarianship (and so, presumably, they are directing their recruiting efforts predominantly at students graduating from their programs).

Personally, I think that it may also have to do with the fact that many academic librarians have experience with promotion and tenure and the academic culture having already had to learn to navigate it as librarians.

I did find very interesting comments by both speakers about the "graying of the profession" leading not only to the need to recruit librarians but also to recruit library school faculty. One of them went so far as to point out that there are currently more faculty positions than PhDs to fill them.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

ALISE conference 2008

This is a nice conference. I met lots of graduate students at the "works in progress" poster session last night.
And this morning I heard Yvonna Lincoln speak! I heard afterward that some were disappointed with her keynote address because they were looking forward to hearing her speak about research methods when what she really spoke about was "serving democratic needs for information & literacy". She talked about how libraries, specifically academic libraries could help to reduce the digital divide (a term she prefers to "haves and have nots") using their physical, digital, human and social resources. It was all based on a quote from Benjamin Franklin to the affect that the benefit of democracy is that power lies with the people and if the people lack the "enlightenment" to use their power responsibly the thing to do is educate them, not to take the power away from them.
I confess that I would have liked to hear her speak about research methods too but I got some really great ideas from her address for the TAMUCC Information LIteracy QEP proposal that I just wrote so I wasn't disappointed. The first idea is to involve students in service learning projects (possibly as a component of a class) that would take them out into the community to teach what they learn (information literacy). And the second was having librarians hold "office hours" in the academic departments to which they are liaisons.
She talked a little bit about assessment and outcomes, saying basically that the idea was to go out and ask people 'how has your life changed as a result of X' which seems really simple but is something that I'm not sure is heavily emphasized in the ARL information literacy standards.
I had lunch today with the Research Methods SIG which ended up being about seven people talking about teaching research methods courses in LS programs at the masters level. Very interesting. And this afternoon I've been listening to various people (doctoral students and faculty) talking about their research. In that respect, at least, it's been lots of fun.
Over all, everyone has been welcoming and pleasant. I was a little worried that it wouldn't compare well to the other small conference I always go to in the summer where everyone is particularly warm and welcoming. But I'm happy to say that everyone here has been nothing but warm and welcoming. I have ribbons on my name tag that identify me as both a student and a first time conference attendee and lots of people have stopped me to introduce themselves and to ask me about myself so I feel right at home.

I also feel right at home because all of these people are interested in the same types of things that I'm interested in: research in library science. I've already attended several workshops, meetings for people with like interests, and poster sessions. I've heard about historical research methods in library science (interestingly, women were the first librarians to conduct surveys of library users, not men even though men originally dominated the profession).

I also attended a session given by Bill Moen and Sherry Vellucci describing MERIC which stands for Metadata Education & Research Information Commons. Its a repository for and community for sharing ideas about course related materials (lecture notes, powerpoint slides, tests and quizes, etc.) for teaching cataloging and metadata courses. This is a very cool idea. What you'll find at their website is a prototype.

This afternoon I attended what amounted to a research showcase. Three presenters gave an overview of research in progress. Kate McDowel presented on "The Unspoken Influence of Women and Children's Services in Professional Librarianship 1882-1906" and for historical research it was very interesting. She credits women librarians with introducing survey research into library and information science as a way for female librarians to support and express their own opinions in a male dominated (at the time) profession.

Suellen Adams presented research that she and Mary Lynn Rice-Lively are conducting into the relationship between personality and LIS researchers' choice of methodology. In interviews, they've discovered that research questions tend to be socially or politically relevant, that researchers like to merge their various interests into one topic, and that, when asked to describe their research, subjects were far more focused on their research topics than on their research methods. The next step in this project is to look for correlations between research methods and the researchers' personality (via the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator protocol).

Finally, Heather Hill presented her investigation into the collection of a privately managed public library system. Also not even remotely something that I'd normally find an interest in but, again, presented so well that I found it fascinating (in that perfect world where I don't need to sleep this would be something I'd choose to read about).

If anything in this (far too long) post has captured your interest, you can find abstracts and contact information for the researchers at the ALISE web site at

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