Sunday, March 22, 2009

Talk about questions..!

I'm looking through association statements about research in librarianship, so this morning I note the following, from an 1998 ACRL report entitled Academic Librarianship and the Redefining Scholarship Project: A Report from the Association of College and Research Libraries Task Force on Institutional Priorities and Faculty Rewards (the highlighting in red and footnotes are mine):


As previously noted, a major proportion of the work done by librarians (1) qualifies as scholarship.


Librarians have applied a wide range of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies in advancing the discipline's knowledge base. They engage in the scholarship of inquiry in order to apply their findings to the everyday challenges of providing library services (2). Especially important areas of inquiry for librarians include:

  • conducting citation studies (3);
  • analyzing how people seek and use information;
  • constructing means for organizing bodies of data and information, and designing methods for precise and efficient information retrieval;
  • establishing methods for evaluating the effectiveness of library services and processes;
  • researching the effects of environment and library practices on the "life span" of the various information media found in libraries;
  • discovering the communication modes and related factors that lead to the most effective reference interview, one that has the best chance of determining any given user's precise information needs;
  • preparing analytical bibliographies;
  • investigating the history of the book and recorded knowledge.


(1) I wonder if this assumes 'academic' and not all librarians. I also am wondering if this statement is not one intended more as motivation, as opposed to being a reflection on the actual state of our work. Argh - there is no reference here to 'previous' notations.

(2) What's assumed here - the role of 'librarians' as academic researchers, or even academic librarians as academic researchers? How are academic librarians doing it right (and non-academic librarians, not), if this statement is actually true?

(3) This makes me wonder why we have not already developed some kind of tool for the evaluation of our work, if it's so focused on citation analysis!


From an earlier section of the same document:
In "Making a Place for the New American Scholar," Eugene Rice describes Ernest Boyer's Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate as having "called on faculty to move beyond the tired old 'teaching vs. research' debate . . . What moves to the foreground is the scholarly work of faculty, whether they are engaged in the advancing of knowledge in a field, integrating knowledge through the structuring of a curriculum, transforming knowledge through the challenging intellectual work involved in teaching and facilitating learning, or applying knowledge to a compelling problem in the community."(2) These four types of scholarship, which we shall call inquiry, integration, teaching, and application, provide a framework for considering how the activities of academic librarians may fit into the broader, more complete understanding of what constitutes academic work(1). Such a reexamination is very timely in light of the similar efforts being carried out in the Institutional Priorities and Faculty Rewards project by dozens of other professional associations on behalf of their academic disciplines.

(1) I understand this to be an attempt to categorize academic library 'scholarship' as a broad concept, with 'research' (here called 'inquiry') as a sub-category. How does this affect the model for EBL, where inquiry (the 'important questions for the profession,' to paraphrase Andrew Booth*) is intended as the driver, with integration encapsulating all the other aspects of application, including teaching and evaluation of outcomes?

* Booth A. (2006). Clear and present questions : formulating questions for evidence based practice. Library Hi Tech, 24(3):355-368.

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