What is the field?

My research will be examining the attitudes and practices of librarians and other library workers. I plan on completely most of my information gathering through online surveys, however I am going to do the preliminary interview in person. I would like to do this in order to speak to the participants about the goals of my research and assure them that they are not “on trial.” Of course, doing this is contingent on how many participants I am able to recruit, but I find it unlikely that I’ll have hundreds of library workers chomping at the bit to participate in this study.

It logically follows then, that the field for my information related research is the library, although admittedly even the in person interviews don’t actually need to take place there. This isn’t quite the same as the way the kitchens/homes of the participants were in Jenna Hartel’s study, or Tracy’s research (that I just read about) in the homes of children. When conducting a survey (which will be the primary means of collecting information for my research) what constitutes the field? This isn’t, after all, ethnographic research.

I imagine that in addition to the library, the field for information research might include archives, online databases, a library’s catalogue, perhaps even an integrated library system. Perhaps, then, one of the key attributes of “the field” in information research that it isn’t always a real place. This disrupts the traditional notion of the field, however by 2013 we should be used to a certain amount of flexibility in this realm.

portia

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