Research-Practice Partnerships: How Collaborative Inquiry Can Inform Youth Services

By Braun, Linda W. | American Libraries, March-April 2017 | Go to article overview

Research-Practice Partnerships: How Collaborative Inquiry Can Inform Youth Services


Braun, Linda W., American Libraries


I've been thinking a lot about the value of research-practice partnerships (RPPs) and how they can advance library services for youth. These partnerships-which undertake collaborative, often multidisciplinary research--lead to outcomes informed by actual practice. They can provide opportunities to gain insight into what makes successful library learning and solutions to the challenges facing youth librarianship. And because RPPs are rooted in real experiences, those entering the field of librarianship can learn, as part of their academic training, what the work ahead actually entails.

The Research + Practice Collaboratory (researchandpractice.org), a nonprofit that develops and tests new approaches to research and practice, says that such jointly conducted research "can produce tools and findings that speak directly to the concerns of educators. This approach may also represent a more ethical approach to education research by giving equal voice to the insights, experiences, and complex working conditions of practitioners on the front lines."

In a 2013 white paper (bit.ly/wtg_rpp), the William T. Grant Foundation produced a framework and five conditions for successful RPPs. They are long term, focus on problems of practice, are committed to mutualism, use intentional strategies to foster partnership, and produce original analyses.

While much of the foundation's work focuses on school classrooms, its recommendations can easily be applied to a public or school library setting. Within a library context, examples of these conditions can be found within two Institute of Museum and Library Services-funded projects, VIEWS2 (views2.ischooluw.edu) and ConnectedLib (connectedlib.test.ischool.uw.edu).

The VIEWS2 project set about to answer the question, "How can we know whether the early literacy focus of our storytimes makes a difference for children learning to read successfully?" In this multiyear endeavor, library staff members worked with researchers to uncover and then articulate essential practices for high-quality storytimes. The results inspired techniques for replicating these practices and methods for achieving outcomes. …

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