Mary Jo Lynch
Director, ALA Office for Research and Statistics
Note: This article is posted with permission from The Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac, 2001, published by R. R. Bowker, 121 Chanlon Road, New Providence NJ 07974. Copyright Reed Elsevier Inc.
The year 2000 was a quiet one for library and information science research in that there were no major conferences or publications or major new funding opportunities. But one modest funding opportunity became available from the American Library Association (ALA), which has never before sponsored a competitive research grant.
When the April 1999 Congress on Professional Education (COPE) recommended that ALA itself should fund research important to the profession, ALA responded by starting an annual ALA Research Grant, administered by the ALA Office for Research and Statistics (ORS) and Committee on Research and Statistics (CORS). After reviewing suggestions from many ALA units, CORS formulated two basic research questions and invited proposals to answer them. The questions were:
- In what ways do the services of libraries have a positive impact on the lives of users?
- What is/should be the role of librarians in adding value to electronic information?
Proposals were due by December 15, 2000, and a decision was to be made at Midwinter 2001.
Two other projects completed in the year 2000 show ALA in an unusually active role regarding research. Because of public concern about how Internet access was being managed in public libraries, ALA funded a sample survey, "Internet Access Management in Public Libraries," conducted by the Library Research Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The survey found that 95 percent of public libraries have a formal policy in place to regulate public use of the Internet and that most others are developing policies. The survey also addressed a number of other issues relating to management of the Internet in public libraries, including location of computers, classes/workshops, parental permission, preselection of sites, and complaints regarding Internet use. Full results are on the Web at http://www.lis.uiuc.edu/gslis/research/internet.pdf, and an overview article by Leigh Estabrook, dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, appeared in the September 2000 issue of American Libraries.
ALA also funded research on the controversial topic of outsourcing and privatization. Following the report of an ad hoc committee on that topic at the 1999 ALA Midwinter Meeting, the ALA Council directed ALA management to commission a formal study on the impact of outsourcing and privatization on library services and management. The study was to include an analysis of the impact of these activities on library governance and First Amendment issues, on maintenance of a high-quality work force, and on the community of libraries and their cooperative endeavors. A request for proposals (RFP) was issued in fall 1999, and the successful proposal came from Robert Martin of Texas Woman's University. Martin involved a graduate student seminar class in the work. The research concluded that outsourcing itself is not harmful, but that librarians need help in doing it effectively. Privatization was not examined because the study team could find no instance that met their definition of that term. A report on this project was submitted in June 2000 and is posted on the Web, to view click here.
The next section of this article, about other important areas of library research, is organized in the following headings:
- Digital Libraries
- Academic Libraries
- Public Libraries
- School Libraries
- Council on Library and Information Resources
- Noteworthy Publications
- Awards that Honor Excellent Research
- Grants that Support Research