01 September 2006

Library Research: An Investment on Behalf of Society

by Dana Von Berg

Research in the field of library and information science is crucial to the education of our current and future generations. The library is the cornerstone of society through its offering of services which range from story times for children, to a place of research for scholars. This resource is invaluable to society which can foster education and learning amongst its inhabitants, thus creating a better informed, better educated and more productive society. Research into how libraries can adequately meet the needs of the patrons they serve is critical to our society. Researching the current needs and expectations of a library's patronage, along with educational programs can help a library effectively plan for the future, thus helping to ensure its adequacy for our society in years to come.

It is of paramount importance for libraries perform a "needs assessment." A needs assessment involves "an assessment of what the patronage needs and evaluating how well the library is meeting this need" (Gardner 192). In any type of academic library, it is prudent for the librarians to work closely with the teaching faculty to learn about the types of assignments the students are being given and which ones involve library research. Possessing this knowledge can provide knowledge as to which types of library materials or resources the students will be needing at present and in the future. Librarians will also have a clearer picture of the types of resources the library is currently lacking and can therefore work towards purchasing these items. By working with the teachers, the librarians can help to foster a greater need and hopefully an interest in the use of the library. More frequent library usage can greatly assist a student in achieving a higher level of comfort with library usage, which can greatly help students as they progress through their educational endeavors.

LIS research can contribute to making our society more educated and better informed, thus helping to provide the world with more creative and innovative persons throughout a wide range of fields. A way that libraries and educators can accomplish this is to assess the library skill levels of its patronage in order to provide a higher quality of Bibliographic Instruction (BI). An effective approach to assessing the quality of bibliographic instruction is the following: 1) administer a survey to students which contains questions regarding the use of the library catalog and related resources; 2) proceed with the bibliographic instruction, making adjustments to fit the current overall level of library skills indicated from the results of the survey; 3) administer the test upon completion of the bibliographic instruction to see if the scores have improved (Kunkel 431). This type of research can greatly aid in the effectiveness and relevance of the bibliographic instruction being administered. By having a more effective approach to bibliographic instruction, students can receive the type of instruction they need to promote their success with research assignments in college, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will obtain lasing knowledge as a result of their assignment research.

With diligent research practices, such as a needs assessment and bibliographic instruction in place, libraries will have a clearer picture of what their patrons need and what they will need. Information of this caliber is needed to move forward with a degree of credibility and agility. Future generations will benefit from the hard work involved with the research process, which strongly assists a library in its ability to provide future generations with a place where the information they seek comes together and provides a rich learning environment.


  • Gardner, Bob. "Speaking Notes - Effective and Responsive Needs Assessment", INSPEL Vol. 36, No. 3, 2002, p. 192.
  • Kunkel, Lilith R. "What Do They Know?: An Assessment of Undergraduate Library Skills", The Journal of Academic Librarianship Vol. 22, 1996, pp. 431-32.

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