As discussed earlier, research is integral to how librarians function. Evidence-based practices are increasingly common as tools for changing what you do and how you do it.
Making informed decisions depends on doing your own research and using all available information to come up with the best answers. Just because someone else says something is better than something else does not mean that it is!
Using evidence when making decisions can be difficult at times. This article will discuss some ways to use the scientific method in your work as a library professional. These strategies could help you evaluate whether new programs or approaches are worth investing time in.
The term “scientific method” refers to an organized way to gather knowledge by posing questions and testing hypotheses. This process was first formalized in the 17th century by Italian philosopher Francis Bacon. He coined the terms question, hypothesis, and conclusion to describe this process.
Here, a question is asked about the world around us, we propose a theory (or assumption) to explain why the question has been answered, and then our conclusion is determined based on our hypothesis. The reasoning here is that if our assumption is true, then therefore our conclusion must also be true.
This article will focus on applying the concept of the scientific method to enhance your practice as a librarian. By thinking through these concepts and applications, you will learn how to use the methodology in your job more effectively.
Steps of the scientific method
The term “scientific” is often used loosely, with little definition. This can be confusing for those who are not familiar with the science process. So what does it mean?
The word comes from the Latin scientia, which means knowledge or understanding. Science was first defined by Aristotle in his book Physics. He said that “science is concerned with questions of truth” and described inquiry as a question asking about something known or true.
Since then, scientists have organized their inquiries into different groups referred to as the steps of the scientific method. These include:
Ask a Question – Who/What is being studied?
Collect Data – Does she exist?
Form an Hypothesis – What theory could explain the data?
Test the Theory – Is this hypothesis correct?
Revise Theory if Necessary – It may need to be adjusted due to new evidence.
Examples of the scientific method in action
The process we refer to as the scientific method was developed around 400 BC by Greek philosopher Aristotle. He defined it as a systematic way to gather knowledge or information, determine the accuracy of that knowledge, and then use it to prove new theories or disprove old ones.
Aristotle’s concept has been adapted and modified many times throughout history, but his steps remain the same. You can apply this methodology to research any field — not just academia!
The first step in doing so with anything is to establish whether there are already studies proving what you want to know. If such studies exist, great! But if not, then it’s time to do some preliminary work to see if you can find one yourself.
This article will help you adopt a systematic approach to library professional development by using the scientific method. Below, you’ll learn how to conduct effective academic research for librarian professionals.
Applying the scientific method in librarianship
The term “librarian” has been around for more than 100 years, but what most people refer to as “libraries” is actually just one part of an overall library services system.
That is why it can be so hard to identify exactly what makes someone call themselves a librarian!
Mostly, people use the word “librarian” to describe anyone who works in a library or with libraries, which leaves a lot of room for confusion.
In fact, some professionals will even drop the word “librarian” altogether and instead say they are a “information specialist”, “info professional”, or even “information scientist” because that sounds longer and more impressive.
While these all sound like legitimate job titles, none of them tell you anything about how this person goes about doing their work.
Identify your audience
As we have seen, librarianship is a complex field that covers a wide variety of areas. This makes it difficult for some people to feel like they can contribute meaningfully towards the profession.
If you are one of these individuals, there is something you can do about it! You can choose to not participate in the conversation unless you fully understand what things mean, which is a good thing because conversations will slow down if no one is having them.
By understanding how research functions as an element of academic work, you can begin to carry out meaningful studies and give informed opinions. If you want to truly help others, then starting off with this knowledge is important!
There are many ways to use the scientific method in librarianship so pick one that suits you best and get experimenting.
Narrow your focus
As mentioned before, librarians must be aware of the diversity of resources available through their library. This includes not just printed books but also e-books, audiobooks, movies, apps, and more!
By narrowing your focus, it becomes easier to determine which types of materials are needed or wanted by what people. Yours is to concentrate on helping one group of people find the right material.
This can mean investing in an area that is experiencing a growth spurt (children’s services) or withdrawing those services when there isn’t much demand (novelty literature). It may be giving up staff positions so new professionals can get trained in certain areas or hiring qualified individuals as assistants.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure it leaves enough time for you to recover and doesn’t pose too many challenges for you. You deserve to enjoy your work and have personal life outside of work.
Do your research
As mentioned earlier, being an informed librarian means doing some meaningful research. This can be done through performing online searches, reading books or articles, talking with colleagues, etc.
Research is not limited to looking up things but also includes engaging in conversation and discussions about relevant topics. When investing time into learning something new, it is important to know what will help you progress as a person and professionally.
It is very difficult to advance without doing adequate amount of research. By advancing yourself as a professional, you are moving towards achieving your dreams as a librarian. A great way to start is by simply creating a goal that involves educating yourself and then working hard to achieve it.
Develop a thesis
As mentioned earlier, your librarian career can get a little bit messy when you do not have a clear goal. You may start off wanting to be an acquisitions editor but then launch out into other areas such as reference or cataloging.
At this stage, it is important to remember what made you choose librarianship in the first place. If it was because of the profession, the chance is that you will be able to carry on doing what you are already doing! If it was for the money, good luck getting work outside of library jobs.
If you picked up reading and learning quickly, then congratulations, you now know something new! This article has touched upon some key points about developing your professional self-identity as a librarian. Now, take these lessons seriously and apply them to yourself so that your journey in the field does not become wasted time.
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Plan your strategy
As we have seen, the scientific method is an efficient way to approach research studies, but you must be aware of what kind of study you want to do before you start looking into how to conduct one.
If all you desire is to prove that x is better than y, then the starting point for your search will be easy to achieve! All you need to do is determine which element of x you believe to be superior and compare it with the same feature of y. For example, if your library’s goal is to show that e-books are more effective than print books, then you would look at both types of books as candidates and see which one people prefer.
However, if your librarian career goal is to find out whether or not there is a difference between public libraries and academic libraries, then this article has some tough love for you.
Public libraries do not exist outside of academia and academic librarians work in them so you cannot say with any certainty that one type of library is less important than the other – they both matter! Therefore, your goal should be to identify key differences between the two types of libraries to help you establish their importance.