Becoming a Librarian-Scholar

One of the most challenging, yet rewarding, aspects of my current tenure-track, faculty-status position is the expectation of involvement in research and scholarship in the field. Although I have been an MLS-holding librarian for over 15 years, this is the first position where I have been required to contribute to the field through scholarship. I have struggled with developing a research agenda, conducting research, writing academic papers, and presenting at conferences, but discovered along the way that I enjoy research and scholarship, and involvement in these activities has renewed a lagging interest in the field and reignited my interests in librarianship.

I no longer consider myself only a librarian, however. I recently heard the term “librarian-scholar” at a promotion and tenure retreat, and feel that this term truly captures the type of work that I am doing now. And I would argue that all librarians, no matter the position, are also called to be librarian-scholars. Librarianship needs scholars to keep the profession alive, seek out new methods, procedures, and theories, and to add to the value and worth of what we do as librarians.

But research and scholarship is not areas in which librarians are regularly trained. The Master in Library (and Information) Science degree does not typically require a thesis process or other “capstone” research for graduation and very few research methods courses, if any, are offered, let alone required, as part of the ML(I)S degree. Librarians receive much training in supporting the processes of research and scholarship, but very little practice or experience in performing research and scholarship of their own.

One change I would advocate in library and information science education is a greater focus on turning out librarian-scholars, including a required course in research methods and the requirement of a thesis or capstone paper as a requisite for graduation. Many other professional degrees, including the MBA and MSW, have similar requirements and I believe that this contributes to better scholarship in these fields. Scholarship and research was never much of a concern before my current position, but now I as I have taken on the role of a librarian-scholar, I cannot see any way that one can be a librarian without scholarship.

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