In order for a library to be a community center, it must know and understand its community. Or as American poet Edmund Clarence Stedman said, “One must spend time in gathering knowledge to give it out richly.” Ongoing research is thus an essential task for any successful community library. Throughout my MLIS program, I have had the opportunity to learn about different research methods and techniques and have had the chance to put these concepts into practice.
The research proposal that I drafted for my Research Methods course describes a prospective study on the impact of library after school programming on youth educational achievement in Oakland, California. I demonstrate an understanding of qualitative and quantitative methodologies by discussing the ways in which my research project will use these methods to test a hypothesis. l also discuss the limitations of my research design and potential for bias, which are two of the ways that the value of all new research is assessed. The creation of a research proposal using real-world data demonstrates my solid background in research theories and techniques.
While many libraries do not have the resources to conduct their own research, there are local, state, and national research studies that libraries can use to inform their operations. I evaluated one such study and extracted information from it for a project I undertook in my Community Analysis course. Using a community needs assessment prepared by the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth, and their Families, I examined the techniques the researchers used for collecting and analyzing the data. I used the information I gained to evaluate the reliability of the findings they reported. I also looked at the information that was collected from the perspective of a librarian hoping to learn more about a particular community.
While I will be finishing my MLIS degree in a couple of weeks, I expect that I will be conducting and evaluating research for the rest of my life. So far my research experience has been mainly limited to coursework but in the future I hope to use the research methods and techniques that I have learned in my career as an information professional. When making decisions about library policies, acquisitions, cataloging, and programming I will have the skills to research available options and make informed choices.