Publish or practice, never that simple: C-EBLIP Journal Club, November 17, 2015

by Selinda Berg
Schulich School of Medicine – Windsor Program
Leddy Library, University of Windsor
University Library Researcher in Residence, University of Saskatchewan

As the Researcher-in-Residence, I was very eager to convene the November gathering of the University of Saskatchewan Library’s C-EBLIP Journal Club. I think that this initiative by the Centre (C-EBLIP) is incredibly valuable to librarians: It expands our understanding of the research landscape; increases are understanding our colleague’s research interests; and diversifies our perspectives and deepens our knowledge about research.

The article we discussed in November was:
Finlay, C. F., Ni, C. Tsou, A., Sugimoto, C. R. (2013). Publish or practice?: Examination of librarians’ contributions to research. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 134), 403-421.

In this article, the researchers share the results of their investigation into the authorship of LIS literature with an emphasis on understanding the contributions and attributes of practitioner scholarship. The article intersects well with my own research interests, as well as aligns with many of the ongoing conversations about the research outputs and the research productivity by academic librarians. The conversation was lively, informative, and thoughtful.

The article was well-received by those at journal club with members highlighting the article’s clear methods and style of writing. The discussion was diverse and lead us to many different conversation, but three themes did emerge.

Other possible interpretations and explanations:
The authors found that there was a decrease in the proportion of article published by practitioners between 2006 and 2011. The authors made a couple of suggestions as to why this may have occurred, including the increase in non-traditional publications and the decrease in expectations for research. In addition to these explanations, we discussed other possibilities including a movement away from LIS journals as librarians’ research interests become more diverse; a decrease in tenure-track/tenured librarian positions (resulting in more contract positions without research opportunities and perhaps more practice heavy positions); and/or a change in the nature of articles with a movement away from a focus on quantity of articles to a focus on quality research.

Application of method and findings to the development of institutional standards and a disciplinary research culture:
The discussion led to interesting conversation about how contributions to scholarship are measured, both in relation to our disciplinary research culture as well as institutional standards. As scholarly communications evolve, is the counting of articles in respected journals the only (or best) was to evaluate research contributions? This discussion led us to further consideration about how disciplinary differences in research culture make a difference in the interpretation of contributions, and in turn, the relatively young and immature research culture in academic libraries makes it difficult to name our disciplinary criteria and in turn develop institutional standards.

Related research questions:
The article was really well-received and from good research comes more questions. The article raised some interesting discussion about related research questions that were not within in the scope of the research article. There was an interest in knowing more about the qualities and attributes of the librarians who have been publishing (including their position, their length of service, their motivations for research, and the factors that determined where they publish). There was also questions as to whether these librarians who are contributing to scholarship through “traditional” scholarly venues are also contributing to the scholarly conversations though non-traditional formats (blogs, open publishing etc.). Lastly there was an underlying assumption that these two bodies of literature by two set of authors, LIS scholars and practitioner-scholars interact and impact each other; however, there was an interest in knowing how these two bodies literature, written by two groups of authors actually do interact- for example: are they citing each other, or do they cite their own communities?

Great discussion ensued at the meeting and some stimulating ideas were generated from the many interesting findings within the paper and beyond. Some very thoughtful discussion emerged during journal club—looking forward to Janurary!!

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

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