The Scholarship of Canadian Research University Librarians

By Fox, David | Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, July 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

The Scholarship of Canadian Research University Librarians


Fox, David, Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research


Abstract

This paper reports the results of a national survey of Canadian research university librarians conducted by the author in 2006. The study deals with the motivation of librarians to engage in scholarly activities, the requirement for scholarship by librarians at Canadian research universities, the perceived importance of scholarship as a criterion for promotion and tenure, levels and forms of participation in scholarship, and librarians' assessment of various types of support for scholarship. The study concluded that 13% of the sample population could be considered active scholars, and suggests that there may be a correlation between level of scholarly intensity and gender. The paper concludes with questions for further study.

Keywords: Scholarship, scholarly activity, research, Canadian research university librarians, Canadian Association of Research Libraries, CARL

Introduction

In a survey of 690 U.S. universities, Mitchell and Reichel (232) determined that the vast majority of research, doctoral, and masters-level institutions either required or encouraged some degree of scholarship by tenure track librarians. While there have been numerous studies of the scholarship of university librarians in the United States, little is known of the nature and extent of the scholarly activities of Canadian university librarians.

Librarianship has traditionally been a practice-oriented profession. Most university librarians have significant year-round schedules of assigned duties that present challenges to the engagement in sustained, meaningful scholarship. Furthermore, the present study has demonstrated that there are no commonly agreed upon norms for librarians' time commitment to scholarship.1 However, the establishment of such norms clearly has implications for librarians' workloads, for appropriate librarian staffing levels, and consequently for library and university budgets.

What motivates practicing Canadian research university librarians to engage in scholarly activities? In what forms of scholarship do they participate? What are the expectations for scholarly work by librarians in Canadian research universities? What degree of institutional support do Canadian research universities provide for librarians?

This study attempts to document the scholarly activities of Canadian research university librarians. The study also investigates the perceived importance of scholarship in the criteria for promotion and tenure for librarians at Canadian research universities. It seeks information on the level of support for librarians to engage in scholarly pursuits, including time for scholarship, and funding for research and travel.

Literature Review

Most of the literature on the scholarship of librarians has been produced by U.S. researchers. Joswick studied journal articles published by 1,294 Illinois college and university librarians between 1995 and 1999 (340-49). Weller, Hurd, and Wiberly studied the contribution to peer-reviewed literature by practicing academic librarians in the U.S. from 1993-1997(352-62). In 2006 Wiberly, Hurd, and Weller updated their 1999 study to cover the period from 1998-2002, and also discussed patterns of co-authorship and identified institutional leaders in refereed publications (205-16). Crawford examined the nature of articles published in C&RL and JAL in 1996 and 1997 (224-30). Bao analyzed the content of 682 refereed articles in C&RL and JAL from 1990-1999 in relation to the 1992 ACRL Research Agenda (536-44). In 1997 Floyd and Phillips studied the question of whether pressures felt by librarians to publish within the constraints imposed by their institutions are affecting the quality of the library literature (81-93). In 1999 Mitchell and Reichel investigated the influence of scholarly requirements on librarians' ability to earn tenure (232-43). Kingma and McCombs looked at the opportunity cost of faculty status for librarians in an article published in 1995 (258-64). …

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