Library Research – A standard method?

Thanks to a colleague’s recommendation I have been introduced to the work of Andrew Abbott. Abbott is a sociology professor at the University of Chicago. He has done some interesting work on library use by students. His sociological interest in professions and division of labor led to interesting work about librarianship. This week I’ve been reading his 2008 article on a theory or model of library research (The Traditional Future: A Computational Theory of Library Research. College & Research Libraries, v.69(6), 524-545.)

Abbott argues for the need for a theory of library research something akin to the established research models for the sciences and social sciences. A theory of library research would give librarians and scholars a framework for evaluating the efficacy of library technologies.

Abbott points to a missing element in both library science and humanities scholarship: a clear model on how to do research. As an instruction librarian this is of obvious interest to my day to day tasks. A few years ago I considered doing a PhD in Library Science because I was very interested in researching the impacts that library technologies have on library-based scholarship (humanities). As Abbott points out lacking a model of library research it is very hard to determine what impact library technologies have on scholarship produced primarily from library-based research.

Abbott raises some good questions and I’d like to explore these questions in future posts. I’ll set the stage by listing the questions here:

1) Does the concept of a neural net accurately capture the essence of library-based research? If so, how can the computational concept of the neural net be applied to improving library technologies?

2) If library research depends on prepared minds, how can we librarians and professors best prepare students’ minds for research?

3) Have recent ‘advancements’ in library technologies focused too highly on the unskilled research? Are library technologies contributing to the production of “intellectual juvenilia” (540)?

I hope that you’ll join me in this discussion. I’ve invited my husband, doctoral candidate in theology at Marquette University, to contribute his thoughts. And I hope to include a few of my colleagues at UWM as well.


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