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The Value of Our Research

April 29, 2013

A recent article by Gay Helen Perkins and Amy J.W. Slowik entitled “The Value of Research in Academic Libraries” and published in College & Research Libraries (March 2013, v. 74, issue 2, pp. 143-157) examines the value of academic librarians’ research to themselves, to their own libraries, to their parent institutions, and to the profession.  This prompted me to contemplate my own research work and consider its value in a different light.  We regularly applaud the value of research in the undergraduate experience, and the value of research for faculty development is implicit, but how often do we reflect on ways that our own research can add to the value of libraries?  As the ACRL has deemed the demonstration of value to the parent institution as one of the ten most important trends for academic libraries (http://crln.acrl.org/content/73/6/311.full.pdf+html), librarians should take advantage of multiple means of demonstrating value – professional research publications and presentations are one such avenue.

Perkins and Slowik found, through their telephone survey with twenty-three library administrators, that there are numerous advantages inherent in librarians’ research.  These can be designated in four categories, given below, along with some examples of those benefits.

1.  Benefits to the librarian

  • Cross-disciplinary and collaborative partnerships with faculty that can stem from research ventures
  • Richer relationships with faculty members
  • Professional development and growth
  • Stronger awareness of broader trends in libraries and the professional literature

2.  Benefits to the library

  • Highly applicable changes resulting from studies (i.e. enhancements to services or programs offered, tailoring services or collections to student or faculty preferences, special collections development, and greater understanding of study patterns and needs)
  • Increased marketing for the library
  • Grant funding that can be connected to research projects

3.  Benefits to the college or university

  • Recognition for the college or university garnered from publications
  • “End products” resulting from research (i.e. new information literacy delivery programs, creation of digital repositories, and enhancement of teaching and instruction programs)
  • Collaborative research that strengthens programs and moves toward institutional goals
  • Grant proceeds connected to research projects

4.  Benefits to the profession

  • Enhancements to the profession through information and idea sharing (i.e. publications and presentations at conferences)
  • Development of partnerships and consortia
  • Exploration of services delivery

With all of these potential benefits, to ourselves, to our libraries, to our colleges and universities, and to our profession, are we giving our own research sufficient time, energy, and resources?  It may be at least partially selfish motivation, but Perkins and Slowik have prompted me to think that perhaps this aspect of our jobs is worth additional consideration and time.  If we want to promote a culture of perpetual intellectual curiosity, we should lead by example, always striving to explore the world of libraries and sharing what we find with the broader community.

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