Friday, November 09, 2007

Library literature is not the only one going unread

Apparently, library literature is not the only one going unread these days. An article from The Economist for August 28, 2007 asks if business school research is "practically irrelevant." The article says that the AACSB, the major accrediting body put out a draft report proposing that business schools "be required to demonstrate the value of their faculties' research not simply by listing its citations in journals, but by demonstrating the impact it has in the workday world." Now there is an idea for librarianship: to evaluate its literature on the basis of its impact in the real world. How useful is it to those of us on the field? I am sure this kind of research can be done for various aspects of librarianship from public service to instruction to the 2.0 phenomenon.

According to the article, when it comes to business school research published in journals, "most of the research is highly quantitative, hypothesis-driven and esoteric. As a result, it is almost universally unread by real-world managers." Replace "business school research" with "library school research," and this will seem awfully familiar. The library literature is almost universally unread by real world librarians.

Walter Baets, of the blog Complexity, Innovation, Knowledge and Learning, has a take on the Economist article that is worth a look. He points out something that seems pretty obvious to library schools and to those librarians on tenure lines as well as business schools: "Academic tradition (as in any discipline) became publish or perish, not contribute or perish. Careers depend on it." In other words, it is a matter of getting published (frequently and in the right journals) in order to have a nicely padded CV to present when tenure review time comes around. Whether the stuff published is good or not is not really relevant. And those of us who now and then brave the journals to look for articles can attest to this. There is a good number of journal articles I simply scan briefly and do not read because the quality is poor or because they are not telling me anything new. Librarianship is not the only field guilty of this, but it happens to be my field, so I have an interest. But we can certainly afford to learn from other fields as well. Just a thought.

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