Doing Qualitative Research over the Internet: An Information Practitioner's View

Article excerpt

A few years ago, James Matarazzo wrote about research needs and issues in special librarianship. He inferred that corporate librarians invariably choose not to publish or do research because they receive very little recognition or monetary reward for their efforts. Irene Hoadley, in the same book, asserted that research was part of the fabric of librarianship, but some of the obstacles were lack of time, institutional funding or support, and expertise.

Not long ago, I was invited to write a chapter on personnel issues in a book titled Managing Business Collections in Libraries. Concerned that it could consume much work time as well as personal time, I asked my editor to assign a co-author. She wisely selected a practitioner who had already published a book about library support staff development. As business librarians, both of us knew key secondary sources for defining personnel terms and functionalities. But we also wanted to test a hypothesis about business library managers' treatment of personnel issues. Were these managers different from peers in their organizations who managed other functional areas, such as marketing or external relations? We agreed W conduct a survey, but utilized the Internet as our communication tool since neither one of us had much in institutional funds. SLABF-L, SLA's Business & Finance Division listserv, was our main vehicle - although we also obtained names of business librarians from contacts we had.

In all, we selected 12 people from academic, public, and corporate libraries. Because personnel management is a very sensitive area, we promised anonymity to those who answered the survey consisting of 26 questions which we sent via e-mail. The answers were then faxed or mailed back to us. One person was interviewed personally. We quoted only those who gave their permission to share their novel ideas or who succinctly described terms better than we could.

Fortunately, my co-author and I were able to meet over a weekend to put together the sections we had written in a coherent fashion. We were not terribly surprised by the results - most business library managers tend to treat their information centers as business units just like other functional managers. They don't feel the need to know everything about personnel regulations. Instead, they rely on personnel departments. We were very impressed by some of the thoughtful comments that we felt could display trends in library career ladders and illuminate issues about certification within the association. …