Soon after starting on an academic librarianship track at UMSI, I learned that library science research is a component of many librarian positions in academic libraries. At the time, I was unfamiliar with the breadth of research librarians engage in, but I was interested. However, I hadn’t participated in systematic academic research as an undergraduate, more due to scheduling concerns than lack of interest, so I wasn’t entirely sure how I could meaningfully engage in research activities as an academic librarian.
When I joined the Library Assessment in Student Learning Lab, I was excited to have an opportunity to participate in library-based research. During my summer internship, I had administered a survey, but the primary goal of that survey had been to measure patron satisfaction with a service, not in-depth, academic research. Over the past semester working with two librarians and three other UMSI students in this lab, I have learned a lot about how library research works.
First, I’ve learned about the sheer amount of planning that goes into research projects. I’d known about IRB approval and survey piloting, so those parts didn’t surprise me, but there was more. Angie and Doreen, our librarians, had spent the summer writing and refining the survey before piloting. Our entire team continued to debate for several weeks the wording of one of its questions. New team members had to complete several IRB training modules. Once the survey was finalized, Angie and Doreen had to coordinate distribution with the other learning librarians. Once we started to receive responses, we started developing a codebook for our open-ended responses, and that took a couple of months to draft and revise.
Then, we waited. We now have roughly 600 responses to our survey, but that didn’t happen overnight. Students took the survey during library instruction sessions that took place between September and November, and their responses gradually accumulated over that time period. Before, I’d only used a previously-developed codebook, and had direct experience with two surveys: the customer service-oriented survey I mentioned earlier, and a survey that was a course assignment. We were able to distribute the service survey to all potential respondents at once from an email list, and the course assignment came with a tight deadline, so neither of those surveys was open for more than two weeks. Sometimes last semester, I worried we were “falling behind” or otherwise taking too long. But, I’ve realized, that is the nature of academic research. It takes time, and I’m glad that I fully understand this now, so that I don’t have to learn it while adjusting to an unfamiliar job and institution.
Now that we are ready to analyze our survey, I’m interested to see what we learn, and to gain experience with additional research methods.
Gina Genova is a second-year UMSI student focus on academic librarianship. Her interests are in instruction, assessment, and health sciences.