Week 2: Question Concerning Research Interests

As was the case with many of you fellow Twelve Fortians, I found Luker’s introductory exercise request quite the challenge. In fact, upon reading the sentence practically begging me to ‘write it down’, I firmly chose to evade performing the exercise since there were more urgent tasks to be accomplished (i.e. racing through the plethora of readings assigned for other classes). I should have known better since this exercise has inspired me to investigate the idiosyncrasies of the social world I inhabit and the collective experiences that have ignited passion and propelled me into the field of library and information science. After examining and interpreting the scrawl produced in fifteen minutes on a single-sheet of ruled, lined paper, I came to find that I indeed held an array of potential research interests. For the sake of space and time, I will provide detail for two inquiries I would pursue, were my efforts fail-proof.

I would first desire to explore the evolving nature of books and print culture as commodities propagating mass consumerist ideals and the implications this has on traditional library cataloging and categorization practices. Literature produced with a commodity-based intention attempts to reach the largest audience possible and thus often incorporates a cross-disciplined approach with regards to subject matter, genre, textual content, format and organization. An interesting way of looking at this is to compare current aims of the publishing/book-selling industry as kin to corporate business schemes absorbed with the creation of “one-stop shops” and “super-centres” housing any and every possible thing that can be marketed or translated into a product that meets consumer demand. Considering the undergraduate knowledge base I’ve acquired in Contemporary North-American and British Literature, I’d be interested in research which considers what the production and publication of a book that can be categorized in many different subject areas implies for traditional cataloging and categorization models. If there is a problem, where does it lie? What have information professionals, researchers and theorists thought of to advance, redefine or recreate the standardized cataloging models?  What are the positions, if any, in terms of sub-categorization or the creation of new categories (or concept clusters) within cataloging models? What are the positions in repositioning cataloging models to a more generalized, all-encompassing method of cataloguing to create a place for these intersectional, cross-disciplinary texts? Is it beneficial to micro-categorize, what are the positive and negative technical, theoretical, and epistemological perspectives in micro-categorizing?

I am also interested in how all this would (or how does all this already) affect the role and responsibility of librarians involved in areas other than cataloging, such as the acquisitions/collections development process, or what a specific shift from traditional cataloging methods would mean for information professionals and library users in their search and retrieval practices.

After attending a few class lectures in Collection, Development, Evaluation and Management, I began to also gain an interest in the increasing movement of libraries and information-driven institutions towards outsourced modes of collection development, particularly third-party library managing companies. Combining this knowledge with my experience working in a major national bookstore and a municipal public library, I question what implications or issues an outsourced staffing model creates in youth collections development policies and practices in a public library setting. As there are competing discourses in this area of study, a large portion often target pre-approved vendor lists, sourced from best-selling lists or popular media praise, as problematic since they embrace a cookie-cutter model of what certain demographics should be reading with little or no consideration for the content or quality of information being disseminated. I am interested in the ethical issues of this staffing model since it devises a collection merely based on pre-set, trending lists of content that falls under a broad based idea of what  “teen culture” embodies. I feel as though this reader demographic is often misrepresented as a result, for there are a diversity of needs to consider in relation to what is deemed  ‘proper’ or ‘appropriate’ content in the Junior/YA realm.

Stemming from this research interest would be the exploration of how a youth collection interspersed with higher-level literature, culturally assumed as intended for adult reading, would function if adopted on the YA shelves of a public library. Since the Young Adult materials section is traditionally intended as a space for that particular age group, how does, or how would, the presence of youth-appropriate adult literature and/or audio-visual materials affect the information behaviour practices of youth user groups, readers and audiences?

I realize now that at the beginning of this post I promised to discuss only two interests – I’ve definitely broken that promise. It’s intriguing how the attempt to investigate one question can spur a multitude more and so on and so forth. Such is the nature of our social world! Thanks for reading.

– Olivia Wisniewski

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