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.

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