Have the Most Relevant and Answerable Research Questions Facing Librarians Changed Between 2001 and 2006?

Suzanne Lewis, Lisa Cotter

Abstract


Objectives - To examine the similarities and differences between research questions asked by librarians in 2001 to those posed in 2006, and to explore to what extent the published research supports the questions being asked.

Methods - Questions collected in 2001 by members of the Evidence-Based Librarianship Implementation Committee (EBLIC) of the MLA Research Section were compared with questions collected in 2006 at a cross-sectoral seminar introducing evidence based library and information practice to Australian librarians. Questions from each list were categorized using the domains of librarianship proposed by Crumley and Koufogiannakis in 2001, and examined with reference to a content analysis of the library and information studies (LIS) research published in 2001 by Koufogiannakis, Slater, and Crumley in 2004.

Results - In 2001 and 2006 the most commonly asked questions were in the domain of management (29%, 33%), followed by education (24%, 18.5%). In 2001 questions in the marketing/promotion category ranked lowest (1%), however representation was much greater in 2006 (18.5%) ranking an equal second with education. Questions in the lowest ranked domain in 2006 (collections, 6%) had been more common in 2001 where collections ranked third, representing 19% of the questions. Koufogiannakis, Slater, and Crumley’s content analysis of LIS research published in 2001 revealed that the most popular domain for research was information access and retrieval (38%) followed by collections (24%). Only 1% of published LIS research (seven articles) was in the domain of marketing/promotion. In contrast, 36 articles originally assigned to one of the six established domains could more appropriately have been included in a proposed new domain of professional issues.

Conclusion - The disparity between questions being asked by practitioners and the evidence being generated by researchers suggests that the research-practice gap is still an issue. A content analysis of more recently published LIS research would be a useful comparison to Koufogiannakis, Slater, and Crumley’s analysis of research published in 2001.

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