Magazine article American Libraries

Losing the Foundation of Understanding

Magazine article American Libraries

Losing the Foundation of Understanding

Article excerpt

Today's increasing on-the-job demands are eroding the profession's foundation.

The maturity of librarianship depends largely on the research conducted by its practicing librarians. This maturity has been slowed in recent years due to the diminishing amount of research performed by librarians, especially by academic librarians, who do the bulk of this work. What has caused this "drifting from research" phenomenon?

In recent years, librarians have had less time to engage in research and publish its results. Due to widespread financial constraints, the number of library positions has been shrinking; we frequently hear that library staffs are doing more with less. New technologies have actually placed pressure on librarians to do more work for patrons, and the more we offer them, the more they want. In short, there is less time for thought and reflection on why we are doing what we are doing.

Tenure review a factor?

There has been no recent sea change in the number of academic institutions requiring research and publication for their librarians to achieve promotion and/or tenure. Actually, the number of institutions granting full faculty rank and status to their librarians is rather small; for example, only about 15% of the Association of Research Libraries' university members provide full faculty rank and status for their librarians. In most of the institutions requiring some research and publications from their librarians, the librarians' promotion/tenure portfolio does not go to the institution's faculty review committee, but to the library's promotion/tenure group. Thus, the requirement for promotion or tenure for librarians may be less stringent than that for faculty. The perception of a "less stringent" process may help to reduce the amount of research being done by librarians.

The proof is in the publications

The de-emphasis on both qualitative and quantitative research is clearly indicated in the literature now being published by librarians. There are fewer intellectual and theoretically based library science monographs being published and fewer provocative thought pieces in the literature. Due to increasing job demands placed on librarians, we have come to depend more on "how-to" and recipe-type publications and journal articles to help us do our jobs better. The irony is that now we have more areas than ever before in the history of librarianship that require systematic investigation. …

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