Competency L

understand the nature of research, research methods and research findings; retrieve, evaluate and synthesize scholarly and professional literature for informed decision-making by specific client groups;

Research as an activity needs to be understood and embraced by librarians and libraries. Depending on the library, the patrons will be conducting different kinds of research and the librarians will need to be able to provide assistance. While the patrons will inevitably need help with their research, librarians need research skills for evaluating programs as well as implementing them. Publish or perish also applies to librarian with faculty status, just like professors. Other librarians will need to research an idea or proposal, and then test the program’s success or failure. Additionally, research in library science also needs to be done. For my professional goals, an important part of being a web librarian is doing user research. As a librarian, I need to know if patrons are productive and successful using the web tools created for the library. “Research is also often thought of as a process that leads to the dependable resolution of problems or things about which we want to know more.” (Powell, 2008, p. 168) To make a sweeping generalization, it is reasonable to say patrons and librarians want to expand their knowledge base, which is what drove them to the library.

As an activity, research is done throughout the educational process. Students’ projects grow more and more complicated from the beginning projects in elementary school to the larger ones completed at the university level. Librarians involved with an educational institution’s library will help patrons and students find their way through the research process. In the universities, students regularly work with the reference librarians to find citations, periodicals and instruction on how to proceed with a particular assignment. The librarian’s task is to find the materials and instruct the student, if willing.

Throughout my time in this program, I researched projects at the public and university library. When I finally took the methods in research class, I learned skills that would have been extremely useful much earlier in my career as an adult student. The final project for this particular class is submitted for evidence of my understanding of research and this competency. My topic for the paper was to study the students’ usage of digital or print resources at the King library. In the end, the assignment’s aim was to have a project that could be worked into a thesis project. It is a good example of original research because it includes following: a hypothesis to prove or disprove; a literature review; a detailed methodology for completing the study; a schedule for the whole process; details on the access and qualifications of the researcher; justification of its significance to the profession as a whole; and a sample survey. Other papers and essays completed for the program are not as rigorous as this particular piece. Rather, those papers laid the groundwork before I could complete this research project. Just as a student must learn how to tell a reliable source, I needed time to practice my research skills.

Not only does the librarian need to be able to perform and understand original research but she also needs to be able to evaluate existing research. When looking at a possible idea to implement in her library, it is critical to look at the research around the idea to see if it is sound and valid. The second piece of evidence is a critique of an article evaluating a library redesign. A library in the Oakland area redesigned its space to better suit teenaged patrons. The article discussed the evaluation of the redesign, testing the success or failure of the project. In the critique, I was pleased to see the qualitative nature of the study. The patrons were interviewed at different times of day to get a variety of responses. However, the article only mentioned 20 interviews and no mention of going back for more interviews. This is too small of a study to base large and expensive remodels on. Without having a better understanding of research techniques, I might not have seen the weakness in such a small sample. Since libraries tend exist on public or donated funds, librarians are bound to spend that money wisely and taking the time to research a project thoroughly is part of the job.

To show understanding of the steps and concepts in research, in my Angel postings document I collected four postings dealing with the process of creating my final project. In the posts, I discuss and propose my topic as well as critique and make suggestions on topics posted by the professor. Since surveys can have a large role in research, the class critiqued several surveys and made suggestions. Some of the problems I noticed were awkward formatting which led to contingency questions being unclear as well as making the form difficult to fill out. When asking patrons to take their personal time to help the library in completing a survey, the survey should be flawless in its design. This way, the form itself does not cause frustration and the patron can focus on the questions. Again, the core service issue is making it simple for the patron.

The process of research, particularly social research has a particular order of tasks to complete. For example, if someone were to do experiments on humans, the researcher has to be certified by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Extramural Research. This is to protect the participants. Then the process needs to be formulated on how best to prove the theory. What group is to be studied? What will be the sampling frame? How will participants be selected from the frame? Will it be random? Will the researcher make sure that the participants are a true example of the population? So, in my research proposal, I want to study the students at San Jose State University. My sample needs to represent the diversity reflected in the general student body. I should not only talk to graduate library science students. As noted in my postings artifact, other decisions will need to be made such as what are the dependent and independent variables or will this be a qualitative or quantitative study? What about surveys? How will those be rated and scored? Only after planning all of these factors can statistical analysis be completed.

In the end, I wrote a research proposal that would not be carried out. However, the process of creating the proposal was educational when reviewing others’ research. Now, I will be better prepared to review the field research and be discerning on quality. Being able to determine what quality work is will help my library because I will be less inclined to accept studies without careful review. I created surveys as part of the research, both independently and with the project group. Surveys are commonly used in libraries as an inexpensive method to evaluate current or new services. With some knowledge of research methods, the results surveys should provide more accurate results.

Writing about research as a competency for librarians made me think about the different facets of experiencing it. Not only does the librarian help others create original research, but she also conducts her own. On top of that, she critiques and reviews the new research for her own library. This is where there is innovation in the library. She can take a proof of concept used elsewhere, like the way Amazon has photos of book covers and then implement it in her own catalog. This idea of letting others prove an idea before choosing to implement it can save the library a lot in research. The key to the method would be for a librarian to be a good researcher. By understanding the technical steps in research, she can better choose how to improve existing services and create new services.

References

Haycock, K. & Sheldon, B. E. (Eds.). (2008). The portable MLIS. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Artifacts

Critique of an evaluation research article

Usage patterns at King Library

Research Angel postings