I neglected to remove earlier messages, and the server rejected my first
attempt. So, I've removed a bunch, and I'm trying again ... This was in
response to a message from Suzanne Stauffer.
Janet Swan Hill, Professor
Associate Director for Technical Services
University of Colorado Libraries, CB184
Boulder, CO 80309
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"For we are catalogers, and therefore the elect of God. To read is human;
to catalog, divine." Charity Blackstock. Dewey Death.
From: Janet Swan Hill [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Friday, May 29, 2009 11:11 AM
To: 'Discussion List for issues related to cataloging & metadata education &
training'; [log in to unmask]
Subject: RE: [eduCAT] Whom do you pay attention to?
I'm interpreting research very broadly, and it would probably be best to use
the term we use here at CU: "scholarly work" .... so it includes historical
research; social sciences-type research; heavily numbers-oriented research;
state-of-the-art research; investigative or scholarly essays; case studies;
standards development; transactional analysis; interviews .... what have
you. Whatever is appropriate to the particular purpose. After all,
librarianship is essentially EVERY discipline, and to say that only THIS
kind of research has worth, or only THAT type of scholarly endeavor is
valuable, while THIS OTHER type of work is a throwaway is to misunderstand
the omni-disciplinary nature of the field.
(I'm NOT including things like reviews, reports, newsletter columns,
pedagogical texts, how-to-do-it manuals, journal editorship, etc., though,
which our institution would regard as "service" rather than "scholarship")
My best guess is that you are absolutely correct in your observations about
little such work being done in public libraries (more's the pity), and it's
probably based on public libraries seeming to have a different view of their
overall mission than academic libraries, AND having governing boards/bodies
that are unlikely to embrace (or support) the concept of research and
contributing to knowledge in the field being a part of every librarian's
But if you just glance through the literature of our field, or even just our
subdiscipline, and read the IDs of the authors, I think you'll see that most
of the published papers come from practitioners. There may be a difference
in the types of research projects undertaken by LIS faculty (that would be
interesting to look into, actually), but just in terms of (1) sheer numbers
of LIS faculty vs numbers of LIS practitioners in institutions that
encourage scholarly work, AND in terms of (2) having "up close and personal"
contact with the questions/problems of the day and the laboratory (the
library) in which to observe them, it stands to reason that lots of the
published papers come from practitioners, AND that the type of work they do
may be different in type.
I also think you are right that right now most students would only see
research as important if it were part of their job descriptions, but it's my
opinion that we need to find ways to start changing that.
What I have observed over 20 years here at CU is that a habit of research
and inquiry, and a joy in it is infectious. If your colleagues are doing
it; if YOU develop a habit of it (even if you were initially forced into it
by the job requirements); if you begin to see its benefits in the
effectiveness of your library and the growth of your colleagues; if you
experience the warm and fuzzy feeling of seeing your work in print and
becoming known beyond your own walls, you CATCH it, and you keep doing it.
Something I have observed over the years is that lots of people have great
difficulty "putting themselves out there" -- being confident enough to
relate what they observe, to say what they think in public (print or
orally), either for fear of being wrong, or out of a feeling that what they
might have to say couldn't be important. (My second published paper many
years ago engendered a rebuttal from Michael Gorman. I thought I must have
arrived). And so that's one of the things we need to work at as well ....
figuring out how to convince people that what they think, what they
discover, what they wonder about, may be of interest and use well beyond the
walls of their own institutions, and that scholarly discourse includes the
possibility of being wrong, or being disagreed with, and that's OK -- but
having the conversation and raising the issues is important.
Right now, as the earth is shifting under our feet, we really need people
contributing to the field through scholarly work and publication and
presentation, but getting them to do that is something that we as a field
haven't seemed to be particularly effective at so far.