Competency L: demonstrate understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods and of the evaluation and synthesis of research literature.
While some may not think about research when thinking about libraries, it is invaluable with many other competencies of librarianship. Research on local demographics is needed before developing programming, purchasing library materials, or marketing library products and services. Surveys examine how well libraries are serving their community. Tracking and analyzing statistics over a range of time assist in identifying trends and shifts in library usage, which prove to be useful when making decisions about operating hours, purchasing or cutting database subscriptions. Asking staff members about the workload at various points in the day or in the week help to determine whether staffing levels should be adjusted or shifted in order to satisfy these surges in use.
Surveys and discussions with staff are examples of qualitative research, which aims to answer the why and how of questions. Why are story times more popular on Saturdays than Sundays? How are people getting to the library? Why do students hesitate to approach a reference librarian? These are all questions best answered by stories or by a small number of feedback or case studies.
Demographics and statistics, mentioned above, are both examples of quantitative research. This includes gate counts, program attendees, the racial makeup of the community, tallies of reference questions, all fall into this category. The key thing that separates this from qualitative research is that these are all “countable.” How many people visited the library this month compared to last month? Last year? Who is going to the library? What do they need to use? This type of information is better taken as aggregate data, and the more data points, the more accurate the information.
Finally, library research is not limited to in-house observations or statistics, nor is it limited to only library literature. It is beneficial to bring in research from other fields and synthesize it, applying it to questions or problems in the library world. For example, when considering a library iPad lending program to serve children with disabilities in order to help them improve their reading comprehension, it would be useful to look at both special education literature and information on the use of technology in classrooms and in therapy. This research then helps to guide the creation of library programs and services.
Statistics has been part of my job description in one form or another. The most common means of tracking statistics in my experience has been the use of hashmarks and scribbled gate counts on pieces of paper that becomes more and more crumpled with use. Interestingly, in my experience public libraries tended to rely on statistics gathered during a specific time frame, which was then extrapolated to the entire year. Gate counts are still tracked daily, but things like books used within the library or the number of reference questions asked were relegated to this short stretch of time.
Academic libraries, on the other hand, were sufficiently slow enough to allow counting of more statistics on a daily basis–primarily reference questions and circulation questions. Academic libraries were also the most interested in qualitative data–in one position, I transcribed much commentary and notes taken during community forums, while another person was responsible for transcribing any written notes made by students on the library instruction assessment forms.
Access databases seem to be the most popular way of tracking statistics. After entering in data into a number of different access databases, I was able to observe how some of them were set up. This helped me to learn how to set up my own Access databases to turn some clunky Excel files into a more powerful Access file, instead. One database I constructed turned out to be superfluous when the statistics were gathered in another way, but the experience in constructing my first database was useful when creating another one for a different set of statistics.
There is an interesting disconnect between DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws, especially with regards to how libraries provide access to their holdings. In this paper, I synthesized legal research and examined the trap that libraries find themselves in when trying to make content accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing. Currently, the only exception for disabilities within copyright and DMCA laws is for the blind, and I argued that these laws must be revised to allow libraries to make captioned version of videos for the deaf.
Bibliotherapy is widely used to treat mental illnesses and to promote healthy psychological development in both adults and children, but there is a good deal of debate about its efficacy. It’s generally acknowledged to be beneficial, but researchers are still studying how bibliotherapy works, how much it works, what books are good candidates for therapeutic use. In this paper, I examined and synthesized the research literature about bibliotherapy, discussing its ethics, guidelines for administering books, and its efficacy.
The bibliotherapy research from the previous evidence helped me articulate the need for a library at St. James Cathedral. It also helped me form a research proposal that would qualitatively and quantitatively examine the use of bibliotherapy among pastors and deacons in order to improve the library’s collection development plan and better fit the needs of the parish and diocese.
I compiled and quantitatively analyzed the public visitor statistics of an university’s science library. The statistics were largely inconclusive due to the fact the data went back only three years; the only useful result from this analysis is that most visitors sought out the library’s medical collection, which is a testament to its collection development policies.
Research is an invaluable component of librarianship since it helps librarians make decisions about library hours, purchases, services, and other information products. Library research can be either qualitative or quantitative, as each type of research answers different kinds of questions. Qualitative answers the why and the how; quantitative answers who, what, where, and when. What kind of research is needed and how the information is gathered depends greatly on each situation and the librarian’s best judgement.
Last updated on November 17, 2012