Author Archives: bikesintoronto

How my research question evolved

How has my research question evolved since the beginning?

Originally I had said that I wanted to examine the ways in which people’s biases played a part in acquisitions at the library. I believe that more broadly I was interested in collection development as a whole. Over time I realized that collection development was far too broad (even for a pretend research project) so I decided to narrow it down to weeding.

 

I find weeding interesting because the responsibility may fall to just a few people in any given library. This puts a lot of the responsibility for shaping the collection in the hands of just a few people. I am coming from a place where I believe weeding to be a practice which is good for a library- not a position that many would contest, but not the only position to be sure. More importantly, perhaps, I come from a background in Women and Gender studies. I am going to let my feminist flag fly by stating that my entire motivation for this project to begin with was to help facilitate the inclusion of women and other marginalized groups in library collection holdings. In the library where I work, the two people who are in charge of weeding are both older white men. I have no reason to believe that they are particularly biased, but it is something I’ve noted none the less (down with the patriarchy! Haha).

 

Really, only one question is nagging at my soul after all of my research:

Stanley J. Slote is pretty much wrote the book on weeding. In his 1997 book Weeding Library Collections he states that two completely qualified people will choose different books to weed given the opportunity. This was pretty much the entire basis for my research. However, the more I think about it, I wonder if there really is a “right” and a “wrong?” Assuming, of course, there is no obvious biases (racism, sexism, etc.) present in the weeding process?

 

Having done a fair bit of research about administering surveys, my method changed somewhat from my original plan. Initially, I wanted to start off with an intake interview (face-to-face) and then follow up with a web survey. However, after learning about how people often lie during interviews, offering the interviewer more socially acceptable answer, I decided I should stick to the web interview for the intake interview as well, since this will be the interview where I ask all of the controversial questions, like “who did you vote for in the last election?” Interviewees are apparently more likely to tell the truth online.

 

Anyway, I just wanted to thank all of you for the feedback that has been provided the past twelve/thirteen weeks. I am glad that we did this blog instead of another paper!

 

portia.

 

Slote, S. (1997). Weeding Library Collections. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited Inc.

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Peer Review and Open Access

Peer review is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. In another class I’m in right now, Foundations in LIS with Nadia Caidi, we all had to do a project on a current issue in Library and Information Science and present to the class. My group presented on Open Access publishing.

If you don’t aware, Open Access is a movement with it’s foundations in the idea that the world is a better place when current research is available to the public freely (without a monetary barrier, also known as toll access). Most Open Access resources are available one of two ways: either through institutional/subject based repositories or through Open Access journals.

Open Access journals face barriers to becoming recognized as legitimate. One of the primary reasons for this barrier is because they are perceived as having a lax peer review process and consequently the perception is that they easier to publish in. This stereotype is not totally without a basis in reality.

Much like the Sokal case, there was a recent case where a biologist named John Bohannon submitted a fake science paper to several  Open Access journals. His experiment was flawed, most of all because he did not submit to any toll access journals. However, the fact remains that his paper was accepted at 70% of the journals that supposedly put it through the peer review process (about 40% of the journals overall). This is unacceptable. However, as Camille pointed out in her blog post with regard to the Sokal affair, I don’t think it is useful to go about embarrassing/shaming people… those involved in the peer review process had no reason to believe that they were being tricked. As well, Bohannon is well regarded in his field, and depending on whether or not the journal in question was using the double blind method this likely had an additional impact. However, unfortunately, I am sure that in some of these cases the article was accepted due to negligence, or a case of predatory open access journals– but that is another issue entirely.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2013/oct/04/open-access-journals-fake-paper

 

portia.

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Preserving your research

Okay, so I realize that this blog post is almost a week late, but I figured better late than never, right?  So, this is in response to last week’s question, how to best ensure your research reaches future generations, in light of the digital age.

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This question sort of reminds me of what I blogged about the week when we got to choose our own topic- I discussed how to make your research relevant and ensure that it made it’s way into the public consciousness. https://thetwelveforties.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/how-to-make-our-work-relevant-or-i-hate-wasting-my-time-on-things-that-dont-matter/
In a way this questions is the extension of that blog entry, but instead of it being immediate, the question is how make sure future generations will benefit from my research labour.

Obviously, there is no doubt that research/discourse in a particular area can shift quickly. After all, it wasn’t so long ago (in the grand scheme of things) that Freud was considered legitimate. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile preserving knowledge from the past, at the very least so we don’t repeat our mistakes in the future.

When I was six I attended my Dad’s high school reunion. This was an big deal because his class had buried a time capsule which they were going to dig up for this occasion. I have often thought since then, what a time capsule might need to include… like if you were to bury DVD with either video or other information on it would you have to bury a laptop computer with the DVDs in order to access that information? And what about power? Would you have to bury the laptop with an energy source? Or at the very least a fully charged battery? The power sources of the distant future are unlikely to be compatible with technology from 2013.

All of these considerations lead me to believe that the best way you can ensure that your work makes it into the future is to have hard copies, on paper. I realize that this goes against the point of the blog post, which is how to preserve your research materials in light of the digital era, but I firmly believe that paper is the best way. Of course, it helps to have multiple copies of your research and to preserve it in different ways: scan it, deposit it into an institutional repository, if it’s published as a book send it to the Library of Congress. Depending on what sort of copyright you want to enforce, put it on the internet, encode it in the metadata of cat videos. But it is likely people will still be reading English 500 years from now, but I think it is unlikely that every blog from 2013 will still exist. As for confidentiality/ethics, I imagine that you’d only be sending the conclusions of your research to the far future. The details of those that you studied would be kept in an appropriately encrypted computer file, or in a locked filing cabinet, until such as time that it was appropriate to destroy it.

As a shameless plug for something else I’m working on, I want to point out that there might be some value in forgetting, as examined in this podcast by some iSchool students in another class I’m taking at the moment: http://beyondliteracyradio.com/episode-five/ I encourage you to listen to it, as this podcast successfully merges entertainment and information.

 

portia

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Ikea

I want to study is Ikea. This is obviously because I was there just there this past week and I want to understand how they separate me from my money! I take an annual trip there with my friend (and downstairs neighbour) Cecilia. Despite my assertion that you should only buy the *really* cheap things at Ikea (because if you were planning on actually buying something good quality someplace better deserves your money) I still ended up spending $100.

 

Okay, so there are many artifacts in an Ikea. What I really want to look at though is the way that the store is laid out, and what assumptions are implicit in this form of organization. In case you haven’t been to an Ikea, it pretty much goes like this: first, you’re led through a number of showrooms, with arrows showing you which way to walk. After the showroom comes the restaurant and then the retail area where you can buys smaller items that you saw in the showroom, like kitchenwares and bedsheets. After the smaller retail items, you are funnelled into the “self serve” furniture warehouse where you can pick up all of the larger items that you want to buy (larger chairs, beds, entire kitchens, etc). Having been to Ikea in three different countries (Canada, Switzerland, Hungary) I can tell you that it works pretty much the same no matter where you are in the world.

 

Ikea is hugely successful in the developed world. What I think is interesting about this is that the layout is the same everywhere: a quick look at Wikipedia revealed that my observations concerning it’s layout extend beyond the three countries I have direct experience with. It seems to me then that the folks over at Ikea have discovered some sort of universal human truth, because Ikea is successful no matter which cultural context it exists in (assuming the local population is able to afford it’s products). Ikea has found a successful way to disseminate the information concerning it’s products in a manner that is pleasing to it’s audience. I don’t want to burden Ikea with the future of the human race, but I think that a lot about human nature can be uncovered in an Ikea showroom!

Image

portia

Image courtesy of http://avoidingatrophy.blogspot.ca/2012/08/ikea-and-other-letdowns.html

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How to make our research relevant OR I hate spending my time on unecessary work

When I was reflecting on what to write about this week, I thought about one of my biggest pet-peeves… which is unnecessary work. I was forced to explain this recently, because I had a new roommate move in last Friday. We were basically juggling things around the kitchen because she moved in with an entire kitchen’s worth of stuff, and my other roommate and I already have a fully stocked kitchen. When we were talking about dishes/the dishes drying rack I was saying that I wanted to use her drying rack because it is bigger and I “never dry dishes by hand.” “Oh, why is that?” my new roommate asked, no doubt wondering about whether she had made a huge mistake by agreeing to move in with me. “Well,” I replied “I hate doing work that isn’t necessary, and drying dishes isn’t necessary. You could spend time drying them, or you could just leave them on the rack and come back in an hour and they’ll be dry.”

Okay, so this might seem unrelated at first, but what it got me thinking about how research is applied to real life situations after it is completed. Imagine that you’re a graduate student, and you’ve spent a lot of time preparing and conducting a study, convincing funders as well as the faculty that your research is pretty much the most important thing coming down the pike, whether it be research on the effect of Facebook on graduate students, YA fan fiction, or bias in the book weeding process. So you plan your study, conduct it, write up your findings (possibly completing a thesis or MRP in the process). Then what? Does your study just sit on the shelf of your school’s library, or waste away in your school’s institutional repository until the end of time? Was all of your work for nothing? Or perhaps just so you could get a degree? I tend to think that doing research with the end result being earning a degree isn’t a good enough reason to be doing the research to begin with, in particular if there were human subjects involved in the study. Did you inconvenience them solely for your benefit? I really feel strongly that there needs to be some sort of accountability in what is done with this new information.

Given that I haven’t done much (okay, any) formal research in the past, I don’t really know what venues exist to disseminate research information. Obviously, one could attempt to get published, but what if this plan fails? Clearly not every student conducting a major research project can have the results of their work formally published. But it bothers me deeply that all of that work was really for nothing (think the feeling I get when I hand dry the dishes x 1 000 000).

Thoughts? Feelings? How can you make sure your research matters at the end of the day?

portia.

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Death Statistics

I’m not sure about my answer to this week’s question, because I wasn’t able to find the statistic that I am referencing. I decided to write about it none the less because at the time it had a tremendous impact on me.

When I was in my last year of high school, age 18, I took a “world issues” class. We had a computer in our classroom we were allowed to use for research.  This computer was connected to a database that had all kinds of world health statistics- maybe aggregated by the World Health Organization (WHO)? Probably not though, since I checked the WHO website and couldn’t find statistics similar to this one I read back in high school.

I was probably messing around with the computer one day reading health statistics when I found a function that would tell you how many people born in a particular year were currently alive.  Naturally, I typed in “1983” (the year I was born) only to find out that 10% of people born the same year as me had already died.  If you narrowed the search to North America the number was 4%.

To add some context to this, it was September and a friend of mine died the previous June.  I was still pretty distraught.  When I read that statistic I felt a jolt and realized my mortality, really, for the first time… all of a sudden my friend’s death wasn’t just a terrible coincidence, it was something that could happen to anyone, and had in fact happened to one of every ten people who had been born the same year as me.  The way this information was presented, as a cold hard fact, was quite sobering.

Of course, this was twelve years ago and maybe I’m remembering wrong.  My inability to find similar statistics supports this theory.  In my attempt to find this statistic I found some interesting resources: The WHO Mortality Database, information from StatsCan, the Wikipedia article about Millennials  and an article about “30 Things Turning 30 This Year” (turns out it’s not just me).
I’m interested to know if anyone else has ever heard of statistics similar to the one I discuss.

portia.

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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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