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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Reflection on Powell’s Research Chapter: An Opportunity?

In an earlier blog, I suggested that further research into the core competencies provided by librarians and their value to the librarians’ communities was required in the face of public funding cuts. Using the research methods presented in Ron Powell’s chapter in The Portable MLIS as a guide, I will highlight how I would design a study to quantify school media specialists' value to their communities.

I would target a population of school media specialists and survey enough of them to build a statistically sound result. (Powell, 2008, 171-172). The survey would elicit details on the work the librarian completes in a day including work completed in support of long-term goals (ex: information literacy, improved school test scores), daily tasks (selecting material to support classroom lessons, booktalks, etc.) and the percentage of time spent on each item. Comparing the data (comparative librarianship), I would create a statistically accurate composite of the school media specialist’s role. (Powell, 2008, 174).

Admittedly, determining the value of the school media specialist to the community, would be more challenging. First I would define the communities to study (school, school district, greater community). Next, I would deconstruct the composite school media specialist role and devise focus groups within each of the targeted communities to determine the qualitative value the community places on the librarian's work. (Powell, 2008, 173). In order to impact policy, quantitative studies within the community would be required as well perhaps through statistically relevant surveys. (Powell, 2008, 174).

I have had some experience quantifying intangible value in my profession. To do so, we might ask the community to rank order lists of items that have known, quantifiable value. In each unranked list furnished to the subject, I would also include a school media specialist responsibility that is not readily quantifiable. As a result of the subject's ranking of the list, we may be able to pinpoint a quantifiable value range for the school media specialist's services.

Powell’s disclosure that LIS research “has not been as rigorous or as plentiful as would be ideal” surprised me. (Powell, 2008, pp. 177-178). Despite some reservations about joining a profession without benefit of scholarly studies to support its mission, I view this as an opportunity. I look forward to investigating this over the next two years and joining the academic conversation.


References

Powell, R. (2008). Research. In K. Haycock & B. E. Sheldon (Eds.), The portable MLIS: Insights from the experts (pp. 168-178). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

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