[Series] TMI #7 – Julia Skinner on Research in Library School

For the second installment in this week’s TMI series, we caught up with our very own Julia Skinner to talk about why library school students should get involved in independent research. Julia has done her own independent research and has presented at conferences. Library history is one of her many research interests. You can read more about her endeavors on Julia’s Library Research Blog.

Have any of you presented at conferences or done your own independent research projects? What were your experiences?

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9 replies

  1. Aww thanks! My research has been so life changing for me that now I want to sing its praises and encourage other students to get involved. I’m glad my research obsession is helpful 🙂


  2. I think this is a major area of need in LIS education, kind of tying in with my Publish or Perish post. I know not everyone in library school is there to become an LIS academic and most may not ever present a paper at a conference or publish in a journal, but research (as opposed to reference, developing your ideas and opinions backed by and/or challenging existing literature) is undervalued, in my opinion.

    I am coming to the end of my degree almost wishing I had taken the thesis option (as much as I struggled with my MA thesis) for the sake of synthesizing all my learned skills, group projects and knowledge about “information” to try to say something new and important about the field. I think that would have been a valuable exercise to transition from school (theory) to work (practice).


  3. Such a timely TMI as today in my Evaluations of Information Services class, two students who took the class last year came in to tell us how they “continued” the course through an independent study. Throughout the course you design a research study but you don’t have the chance (due to timing) to actual collect the data and actually do the study. But these two students really wanted to do that part so they, along with the professor, created an independent study where they would get credit AND be able to conduct their study.

    The research, obviously, went beyond the semester but they were able to work with the professor to get credit based on different steps of the study and they are now in the process of actually collecting the data and hope to be ready to shop it around for publication later in the Summer. They are studying the collection development policies of prison libraries in Mass. Super cool topic and much needed of research. And they are “only students!” It was very inspiring to hear them talk about it as they are peers, like Julia, so it seems less daunting when all of you make it seem so plausible. So thank you!


    • That’s so awesome! Last week when my school had that conference, there was at least one student who took an intro to research class much like yours Nicole. You design the study, but don’t actually do it. So he took the extra time (well he still is), to make it into a real study to eventually publish, and was able to present it at a conference. He’s actually interested in public libraries, which his research was tied into.

      I think doing research can apply to all types of librarianship, not just academic. I think we mainly just see it in academic librarians because they are expected to publish but it’s something all librarians and students can do.


  4. Thanks for highlighting this topic! The required Research Methods class at SJSU is also modeled similarly – you create a research proposal with a literature review, etc. but don’t actually conduct the research. Though I haven’t taken the class yet, I hope to use the research proposal as lead-in for my thesis (that’s the plan, anyway).

    I’m presenting a graduate poster at the SAA Conference in August based on a research paper I wrote last semester, but it’ll require much more research (I think) in order to be poster-ready. I really hope that I continue doing independent research throughout library school and afterwards.


    • We have a similar class in SLIS (actually I think several are modeled that way.) I took Use and Users, where you designed a user study and did a pilot study with a handful of participants. I went ahead and did a little extra work to survey more users and was able to publish out of it. I agree with Micah that research is undervalued, but is such an important skill both for building yourself up professionally through publishing and presenting, but also for helping you analyze and further develop ideas. I’m hoping to do some more writing on practical ways to incorporate research into our classwork, etc.–our presenters at “Unpacking the ‘Library'” last week were mostly sharing work that began as class papers (more on that later!)


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