Reflections on LIS Research

16 Jul

How ironic is it that true research in the field of Library and Information Science  has only recently been effectively conducted?  The shoemaker’s children, I guess.  A profession made up of individuals who assist people every day in creating new knowledge just started creating new knowledge themselves to advance the field they work in.

Research is important in any field.  An established base of knowledge and theory is needed for a profession to be carried out effectively.  For a field to improve, individuals within the field need to be dedicated to creating new knowledge and improving theory.  Sometimes, this is just because the previous knowledge was flawed.  Many times, it is because new factors enter into the sphere that can transform how a profession is practiced.  Librarians, for example work in the information field.  If you ask virtually anyone – no matter their education, profession, or personal interests – what the biggest change in their lifetime has been, anyone over the age of 15 will probably say that technological advancements in how information is accessed have revolutionized the world.  Maybe not in those exact words, but surely, that’s the gist.  So librarians especially need to generate this new knowledge and advance their field!

Research is also important for improving service to their communities.  And this is crucial, because libraries can be expensive to maintain, and if their service is not serving real needs in the best ways possible, they may be deemed “irrelevant” by some, and be in danger of reductions in funding, which further reduce their ability to serve, which diminishes their value even further.  It’s a vicious cycle, and professionals who create high-quality new knowledge to improve the field can help only to an extent.  The rest of the gap must be filled by non-researching librarians who consume this knowledge, disseminate it and activate it in their own practice to positively impact libraries, librarians, and communities.

(Written in response to: “Chapter 15 – Research’” by Ron Powell in The Portable MLIS: Insights from the Experts[2008].

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