Research in Real Life
A couple of weeks ago, I went to a presentation of research projects at METRO, New York City’s major library consortium. The researchers were almost all practicing librarians, mostly at academic institutions, who worked in groups on topics of their choice. The approach of three out of the four groups was primarily to kind of shop themselves out as information experts available to assist in the work of the given organization or individual.
I was particularly interested in the fashion blogging project, not because I’m interested in fashion blogs but because their report combined several things that I do find engaging – the ways in which librarians try to get people in other fields to pay attention to us and our training, librarians’ desire to be helpful and share our expertise, the communication channels of specialized communities, information behavior data gathering methodology, and people’s desire for “authenticity.” Here, that last element manifested as the fashion bloggers’ general unwillingness to ask for or accept research and citation assistance in their writing, since research was part of their job as a blogger. Instead, they said they wanted help along the lines of a photographer or an image organizer.
In the case of the librarians who chose to work with Occupy Wall Street, they were challenged by mistrust from OWS in general (fear of infiltration, of course; it didn’t seem like they had any ties to NYC lefty communities who could vouch for them), but especially, they said, from the OWS librarians. They ended up establishing contact with the Eco Cluster, who were enthusiastic about the prospect of research help. Ultimately, they all decided that an annotated bibliography on climate change impacts would be a useful project to tackle. The bibliography was presented at relevant events this spring – some people from the OWS group brought the bibliography to the Climate Impact Day in May and Rio+20 in June. They got some nice feedback: “[W]hat MyMetro Reseachers have handed grassroots campaigners is a compendium of information that would be tricky for the general public to track down using a common search engine,” wrote an eco blogger and activist.
Take a look at that bibliography and read the other groups’ reports – besides fashion blogging and OWS, the topics were lifelong learning for seniors and social media use by an elementary school’s Friends group. I think it’s great that METRO is encouraging this kind of real-life inquiry and extension of library skills.