I recently attended a joint research conference with the university library and the school of library information science here at IUPUI. The conference mascot was the titmouse, a bird that was known for being able to survive because of it’s information sharing nature. It was really great to hear what library faculty and SLIS (School of Library Information Science) students were doing their research on, as well as their methodology. In our program, taking a research class is a core requirement, which is really good because as library and information professionals, we all deal with research one way or another, whether it’s helping a patron or conducting your own.
There were so many great ideas that I took from this conference, and the keynote speaker, Steven Bell, had a very provocative presentation on “Putting the Science back in Library Science”. He talked about the difference in how other disciplines approach research and how the librarians could try to incorporate those techniques into their own research. Here are some highlights from his presentation:
- Doing research is good for the profession and should be good for the end user, the patrons. Don’t do research just to have something to put on your c.v., make sure it means something and can produce results for your library.
- Get out from behind the desk and design studies that involve people. I know I have filled out my fair share of list-serv surveys and polls. Through reading academic articles, we’ve seen the bulk of library research is done is through this sort of passive means. Instead, we could look at how social science fields approach studies and experiments.
- Library schools should incorporate design thinking into the curriculum. This point really stood out to me but I need to follow up on what he meant by this. He showed a brief clip of a interdisciplinary think tank who used creative techniques to solve problems. Perhaps, as LIS students, we need to learn how to think more creatively about our research approach and problem solving. A little more info this can be found here.
- Reading from outside the LIS discipline helps us keep up with current trends. Then you can invigorate your own research by incorporating an interdisciplinary approach. It’s easy to stay within the same circle, but your information can get stale.
I was also very impressed with the students who went up to present their research. They all agreed that it wasn’t too difficult to get up and talk to all of us about what they have been working on. One presentation was a collaboration between a librarian and a SLIS student. It’s hard for students to take the initiative to do their own research because it might seem intimidating, so I thought it was wonderful that a librarian would be willing to find a student to work with, as opposed to another faculty member.
In general, I have found there to be a disconnect between the university librarians and the students in the program. I’d be interested to hear if other library school programs have a similar problem or if the university library and the library school program are more connected. Anyway, this research conference is an effort to bridge that gap. It was pretty awesome to see the SLIS professor who teaches an Intro to Research course ask one of the presenting librarians about her research methodology. Just from hearing their exchange, I saw the difference in academic culture, what the professor (who holds a PhD) thought about case studies and the librarian who is doing her first research project for publication. We’re all in the same building but it doesn’t mean we interact with each other on a regular basis, which was why this conference was so great.
After the conference, I thought about what a great opportunity this was for students to get the ball rolling on presenting. I had never been to a library conference before, so now I have an idea of what sort of things to expect . The professors are already encouraging students to think about doing our own research and presenting it next year. It would be a good way for students to develop their own professional interests, network and work with faculty members, and get experience talking in front of a lot of people.