Academic and research librarians and their institutions derive well-established benefits from librarians conducting research: progress toward gaining promotion, tenure, and higher salaries; advancement in the profession and recognition; receptivity to change; increased skill in managing complex library operations through systematic study; and better service to and empathy with faculty researchers (Black & Leysen, 1994; Montanelli & Stenstrom, 1986). However, the reasons why a librarian may not conduct research can be attributed to a variety of causes, many of which have been tested in the literature: reported lack of time to complete a research project, unfamiliarity with the research process, lack of support for research (both moral and monetary), lack of access to research, lack of confidence, discouraging jargon, inadequate education in research methods, and lack of motivation (Koufogiannakis & Crumley, 2006, 333; Powell, Baker, & Mika, 2002, 50; McNicol & Nankivell, 2003).
In an effort to address the most significant issues noted as obstacles, the Institute for Research Design in Librarianship is designed to bring together a diverse group of academic and research librarians who are motivated and enthusiastic about conducting research but need additional training and/or other support to perform the steps successfully. The Institute is designed around the components of the research process, with special focus given to areas that our 2010 national survey of academic librarians identified as the most troublesome; the co-directors of this project conducted the survey to provide a snapshot of the current state of academic librarian confidence in conducting research. During the workshop held annually in the summer, participants will receive expert instruction on research design and small-group and one-on-one assistance in revising their research proposals. In the following academic year, participants will receive ongoing support in conducting their research and preparing the results for dissemination. The Institute curriculum was initially informed by the results of the 2010 survey and collaboratively developed by the co-instructors, with input from advisors; it has subsequently been updated based on feedback we received from participants in Years 1-3.
The Institute will assist librarians to develop the skills necessary to complete a research project of their design, as well as assist them in constructing a personal network of possible collaborators for future research projects. Each year’s participants will learn from Institute faculty and one another, improving their project proposals during the workshop. Participants will be expected to conduct their studies during the coming academic year and share their experiences with the project co-directors. Over the course of the project, scholars from previous years will be incorporated into the growing community of researchers, encouraged and supported in providing mentorship to one another and to advise the Institute team on improving the experience for subsequent cohorts.
We plan to gather and disseminate data and summaries throughout the grant years to assist in the future development of the Institute or others like it. A focus of the project will be exploring various options to sustain the Institute after IMLS funding ends. Our partners and project advisors will be a key part of our efforts to identify a sustainable business model.
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