Published August 27, 2019
Amy VanScoy, associate professor from the Department of Information Science, was collecting data in the United States when she decided to turn her research on librarians into an international study. “Personally, I find it ethnocentric if I only conduct studies in the United States,” said VanScoy. “I want to do research in other countries because there has to be some differences that we can learn from.” She is leading a global project across Slovenia, South Africa and the United States examining different librarian approaches to reference and information services (RIS).
The study uses Q methodology, which involves a card sort and an interview to identify and examine conceptualizations of RIS by experienced librarians. Q methodology is meant to explore points of views or opinions. The cards that each participant sorted is called the “Q sample” and consisted of 35 statements that reflect conceptualizations of RIS.
The Q samples included statements such as “My job is to teach,” “It’s all about giving the person the answer” and “I think of reference librarianship as being a human services occupation in some ways.” VanScoy notes that the advantage of conducting research in these three countries is that the library systems are all so different, especially in South Africa.
“South Africa has gone through a cultural upheaval over the last 20 years,” said VanScoy. “The librarians have begun to advocate for more libraries, particularly in schools because they receive so little funding there.” She also notes that Slovenia is different because their library system is so well-organized, and every person in the country has to be within a certain number of kilometers away from a library.
This project is still a work in progress, but VanScoy said that the data is demonstrating differing conceptualizations of RIS between Slovenia, South Africa and the United States. “A more nuanced understanding of RIS will help bridge the boundaries of theory and practice,” said VanScoy. “This will provide conceptualizations of RIS grounded in practice and be useful for theoretical work and professional education in RIS.”