Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Article Note: On the Information Seeking Habits of Ethnomusicologists

Citation for the article:

Liew, Chern Li and Siong Ngor Ng. "Beyond the Notes: A Qualitative Study of the Information-Seeking Behavior of Ethnomusicologists." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.1 (January 2006); 60-68.

I read it via ScienceDirect.

The article looks at the research habits of ethnomusicologists. Since music is one my collection development areas, it attracted my attention. The study reported in the article is based on a very small sample in New Zealand (14 ethnomusicologists). However, the study does provide some useful information. In essence, ethnomusicology is a field of study that studies music in its cultural context. One reason this studey is significant is that "libraries often fail to understand the complexity of the needs and the difficulties inherent in the retrieval and use of specialist materials" (60). For purposes of the study, information seeking was defined broadly to include "using libraries and other institutions, searching on the Internet, and networking with colleagues" (60). Some of the findings then:
  • "All ethnomusicologists interviewed used the academic library at their institutions as a major source of information" (62). The scholars cited convenience and the fact that their libraries held relevant collections for their research. However, they use other libraries and collections.
  • "The ethnomusicologists interviewed also established personal collections and deposited their own materials or recordings from their fieldwork into archival institutions with the hope that these materials will be preserved and shared with others--a senses of information sharing and 'giving back' to the society and culture" (62-63).
  • On listservs, they mostly prefer private e-mail for discussions (63).
  • Consultations with people (other scholars and research subjects) is essential (63). Also, participant observation where the researcher observes a community is very important.
The authors of the article offer some recommendations based on their findings:
  • "Librarians can play the role of subject specialists, assessing, selecting, and acquiring appropriate materials, including foreign-language materials, and making them available on in one place in a timely fashion" (66).
  • Consider collaborative arrangements to acquire rare and difficult-to-obtain resources. Also, look into partnerships for providing effective learning programs (66).

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