Research for Special Libraries: A Quantitative Analysis of the Literature

Article excerpt

The increasingly important role that information plays in society has dramatically changed the environment in which information professionals work. To be effective special librarians, we must understand our information environment as well as the impact of society' s shifting foci on our work. We must, as Miriam Drake wrote, "gain a greater understanding of [our] clients and their interaction with content, data, graphics, and information systems. [We need to] understand the value of information in the company, government, university, and the economy. Most importantly, a special librarian needs to learn how an information center can contribute to the achievement of the goals of the parent institution - goals which will become increasingly information-based."[1]

In 1989, the Special Libraries Association's Board of Directors affirmed the importance of research to our field by establishing the SLA Research Program, including the formation of a standing Research Committee, setting a research agenda, and supporting research related to special librarianship through the Steven I. Goldspiel Memorial Research Grant, among other grant programs.[2] SLA's efforts to support research for and by its membership are described by Matarazzo up to 1991.[3] Matarazzo describes a resurgence of interest in research by SLA but what remains to be seen is how this has engaged special librarians and others with interests in special librarianship, if at all. With research as a stated priority of SLA and other professional associations, little is known about research activities of special librarians. This fact, combined with this writer's experiences on SLA and MLA research committees, has resulted in the project described here, the goal of which was to examine current research activities of special librarians. The study described in this paper is the first phase of a two- part project which will quantify current research activity and knowledge among special librarians. The purpose is to gather data that may be useful in targeting resources to specific groups and/or programs in support of research that will assist special librarians in their work.

Table 1
Descriptive Statistics for all Articles

                                All Articles      Research Articles
Variable                          (n=277)               (n=53)

Number of authors
(Mean for all articles=1.4, for research articles=1.5.)

1                                194 (70.0%)           34 (64.2%)
2                                 66 (23.8%)           13 (24.5%)
3                                 10  (3.6%)            5  (9.4%)
4                                  3  (1.1%)                    0
5+                                 4  (1.4%)            1  (1.9%)

Number of pages
(Mean for all articles=8.4, for research articles=13.0.)

1-5                              121 (43.7%)           16 (30.2%)
6-10                              97 (35.0%)           19 (35.8%)
11-15                             30 (10.8%)            3  (5.7%)
16-20                             15  (5.4%)            7 (13.2%)
21+                               14  (5.1%)            8 (15.4%)

Number of citations
(Mean for all articles=7.6, for research articles=12.0.)

0                                 99 (40.1%)            8 (15.1%)
1-5                               44 (17.8%)            9 (17.0%)
6-10                              48 (19.4%)           12 (22.6%)
11-15                             21  (8.5%)            6 (11.3%)
16-20                              6  (2.4%)            3  (5.7%)
21-25                              9  (3.6%)            2  (3.8%)
26-30                              8  (3.2%)            3  (5.7%)
31-40                              6  (2.4%)            1  (1.9%)
41+                                6  (2.4%)            3  (5.7%)

Institutional Affiliation

Academic health sciences          71 (25. …