by Kristin Hoffmann
University of Western Ontario
I have noticed that conversations about librariansi doing research often lead to discussions about whether librarians can or should do research that isn’t related to librarianship or library and information science (LIS). Most often in those discussions, librarians express a desire to do research in any discipline or bemoan the fact that their institution’s policies or practices don’t permit or support them to do research that is un-related to librarianship.
In a recent study that I did with two colleagues, Selinda Berg and Denise Koufogiannakis, we surveyed academic librarians who work at universities across Canada to explore how various factors are related to research productivity. As part of our survey, we asked participants to report their LIS-related research output over the past five years. A handful of participants remarked on the idea of LIS-related research with comments such as:
“What is LIS research? Is it only research that has been published in LIS journals? The research that I do is primarily focused on teaching and learning. I believe that this also informs LIS, but am unclear if it would be considered strictly LIS research?”
“My area of research is not LIS-related, but librarians [at my university] are restricted to ‘work-related’ projects when applying for sabbatical.”
“Peer-reviewed, published research in non-library fields raises the image and acceptance of librarians as faculty and participants in post-secondary activities in my opinion.”
I admit having had a strong personal opinion on the matter: that librarians should do research related to librarianship. It has seemed like common sense to me that we research within our discipline. I also feel that “librarianship” is vast, far beyond the realm of “related to what I do as a librarian,” and so I haven’t perceived this boundary as a restriction.
But I find myself now wanting to be less fixed and more open to considering other ways of looking at this. I am curious to explore the issues around research that is and is not related to librarianship. Questions that interest me include:
What does “research related to librarianship” mean, and how might that meaning differ for librarians who are more or less interested in doing such research?
How does collective agreement languageii affect the kind of research that librarians do or the kind of research that they want to do?
How do subject expertise and other advanced degrees influence librarians’ research interests or confidence to carry out research, either related to librarianship or not?
I hope that this exploration will help me, and others, to better understand what is at the root of various perspectives about research that is or is not related to librarianship, so that we can better support and encourage each other as researchers.
iMy experience is limited to conversations about academic librarians doing research.
iiIn Canada, most academic librarians are members of faculty associations and their responsibilities, including research or scholarly activity, are outlined in collective agreements or similar documents.
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.