What is research anyway?

Librarians at most university libraries usually fall within the “academic staff” – which means they have, like university professors, not only do their duties, but also perform research and scholarly activities, as service to the community. Sometimes, this will be defined in some kind of document, such as a collective agreement or an institutional policy. But the definition can still be vague.

Because it is usually the librarian’s peers – his or her colleagues – that must determine the quality of their work (and whether they keep their job) having some kind of shared understanding about what research is is really important. For example, is this blog a research output? Is it peer reviewed? Let us try to find examples of such research guidelines for librarians…

(this is a list of the top 10 hits in Google on a search for guidelines research librarians. I also did another search for Canadian sites, adding the site:.ca)

University of Calgary’s Libraries and Cultural Resources offers a page on “Appointment, Promotion & Tenure” with a few local Guidelines (not quite what I am looking for) and the following reading list:

Landry, A. (2005). Ten must reads for new academic librarians, Reference Services Review, 33 (2), 228-234.

Lowry, C. (2004). Research and scholarship defined, portal: Libraries and the Academy, 4(4) 449-453

Hill, J. (2005). Constant vigilance, babelfish and foot surgery: perspectives on faculty status and tenure for librarians, portal: Libraries and the Academy, 5(1) 7-22

A Guideline for the Appointment, Promotion and Tenure of Academic Librarians
Association of College and Research Libraries, American Library Association, June 2010

II. Promotion in academic rank
A. General Professional and Scholarly Qualifications of the Library Faculty
All activities shall be judged by professional colleagues on and/or off the campus on the basis of their contribution to scholarship, the profession of librarianship, and library service. The basic criterion for promotion in academic rank is to perform professional level tasks that contribute to the educational and research mission of the institution.

Evidence of this level of performance may be judged by colleagues on the library faculty, members of the academic community outside the library, and/or professional colleagues outside the academic institution.

Additional evidence for promotion in rank may include:

Contributions to the educational mission of the institution: for example, teaching (not necessarily in a classroom); organization of workshops, institutes or similar meetings; public appearances in the interest of librarianship or information transfer. Assessment by students and professional colleagues may contribute to this evaluation.

Contributions to the advancement of the profession: for example, active participation in professional and learned societies as a member.

Activities related to inquiry and research: for example, scholarly publication, presentation of papers, reviews of books and other literature, grants, consulting, service as a member of a team of experts, or other means of disseminating professional expertise.

B. Criteria for Promotion to Specific Ranks

Promotion to the ranks of assistant professor, associate professor, and professor requires a record of successful fulfillment of criteria at the lower level.

Instructor—Appointments at this rank shall require expectation of successful overall performance and the potential for a promising career in librarianship. Institutional practice for faculty appointments varies. Specialized skills or expertise may justify appointment at a higher rank.

Assistant professor —Promotion to this rank shall require evidence of significant professional contributions to the library or to the institution.

Associate professor —Promotion to this rank shall require evidence of substantial professional contributions to the library and to the institution as well as attainment of a high level in research or other professional endeavors.

Professor—Promotion to this rank shall require outstanding achievements in librarianship, research, and other professional endeavors.

Southeastern Lousiana University, Linus A. Sims Memorial Library, Tenure and Promotion Guidelines

p. 6-9 (only summary reproduced – very useful as it actually measures output in precise terms)


The probationary period for a tenure-track assistant professor is 6 years.3 For faculty appointed as associate professor or professor, the probationary period is 3 years. Candidates for tenure must be in a tenure-track position, hold an assistant professor or higher rank and have earned an M.L.S. degree from an accredited school of Library Science. The candidate may choose one of the following options:

Option 1

Excellence in Job Effectiveness/Teaching

Distinction in Professional Activity

Adequacy in Service

Option 2

Excellence in Job Effectiveness/Teaching

Distinction in Service

Adequacy in Professional Activity

Option 3

Excellence in Professional Activity

Distinction in Job Effectiveness/Teaching

Adequacy in Service

American University Library, Guidelines for Tenure-Line Library Faculty Members for, Reappointment and Promotion, July 19th 2011

– States that 15% of a Librarian’s work should be research and scholarship (70% for library service and 15% for service to the community

– The Guidelines offer a “Table of Point Values for Scholarly Achievements in Librarianship or Other Disciplines for Library Faculty” and a list of proposed journals to publish in.

Boise State University, University Libraries, Promotion and Tenure Guidelines
June 13, 2011

Page 8 (in section: VI. Evidence which may be used in support of an Application for Promotion and/or Tenure):

C. Scholarly, Creative, Research, and Bibliographic Activities

1. Scholarly, creative, and research activities include but are not limited to:

a) Disseminating knowledge through:

(i) Writing articles in library journals and/or refereed publications

(ii) Writing books or research monographs

(iii)Writing chapters in books or monographs

(iv)Publishing in conference proceedings

(v) Creating other published articles and technical reports

(vi)Presenting at scholarly or professional meetings

(vii) Analyzing or synthesizing research or outcomes of projects or studies

(viii) Writing reviews for professional publications

b) Producing creative work (including films, tapes, reports, compositions, web sites, audiovisual material, computer programs, etc.) recognized by others in the field

c) Generating applied or theoretical research

d) Receiving grants and contracts for research and scholarly activities

e) Refereeing or editing texts, papers, or journals

f) Post master’s study in library science/information studies or an advanced degree
in an academic discipline other than library science/information studies

2. Achievements in bibliographic activities (University Policy, BSU 4340) include but
are not limited to:

a) Editing and reviewing of national standards in library science/information studies

b) Creating subject guides, tools, and bibliographies related to librarianship or
other academic disciplines that are published, cited by other professionals, or
made available through databases

c) Developing and providing researchers with focused access tools and services
that support their use of library and information resources

d) Facilitating specialized access to library collections

3. Examples of the types of evidence which demonstrate the quality of these scholarly,
creative, research, and bibliographic activities:

a) Peer review of the candidate’s scholarly work or acceptance rates and stature of
the journals in which the candidate’s work has been published

b) Invited, refereed, or accepted presentations

c) Professional recognition by other scholars

d) Professional reputation (both inside and outside the University)

e) Citation of candidates’ scholarly work or other recognition in librarianship

f) Letters from respected professionals in librarianship or a subject discipline

Library Criteria for the Promotion and Tenure of Faculty Librarians: Documentation for Review of the Criteria , Revised November 4, 2003

Scholarship, Research, or Professional or Artistic Achievements

The university “Criteria for Reappointment, Tenure, and Promotion” (Faculty and Contract Staff Handbook) states that scholarship should be considered important, though nothing supersedes the importance of teaching or librarianship. Basing its ranking on a strong service orientation to our students and faculty, the library gives less weight to scholarship than librarianship, while still giving scholarship slightly greater weight than service.
Scholarship encompasses activities which engage the individual in additional learning related to an appropriate area of inquiry, which is then made available to other professionals through publication or other tangible means. Professional achievement is often a significant factor for librarians, who do considerable collaborative work in professional organizations. Professional achievement includes those activities in which a librarian is distinguished in terms of professional recognition or responsibilities, such as election to an office, appointment to an editorial board, or involvement in the creation of professional standards, guidelines, etc. General participation in professional organizations should be considered professional service.

Expectations of the department

Librarians should demonstrate steady involvement in scholarship throughout their careers. This will occasionally result in traditional publications, such as journal articles or monographs. Librarians’ involvement in the evaluation of materials also may result in the writing of book and [end page 76]
other media reviews. However, other demonstrations of scholarship and professional
achievement are also valued. While strong weight may be given to scholarship published in national, peer-reviewed sources, alternatives at the regional level and even within the campus may also receive favorable consideration. Librarians are encouraged to explore issues and problems concerning the library’s services to our users and develop informed programs to improve these services. Additional education that supports the changing needs of the campus is another form of scholarship that suits the library’s mission. In all cases, scholarly activity should be documented in some tangible form that allows for disseminating this information to other educators or professionals.

Since librarianship is a highly collaborative profession, it should be expected that many scholarly activities will result in co-authored projects and publications. In fact, the nature of this collaborative scholarship—the integration of the perspectives of different library units, campus departments, or academic disciplines—may often add to the value of the work. When this work is reviewed for its merit in the promotion and tenure process, the candidate for promotion should indicate the degree of his or her contributions to the work.

Alternatives to traditional peer-reviewed printed publications will receive full consideration. Shorter and practical presentations of scholarship, such as poster sessions and presentations at conferences, may sufficiently demonstrate effective scholarly learning and publication to peers.

Some types of publication may seem similar to activities considered under the categories of librarianship or service. This is also true for teaching faculty, who may offer one lecture as a part of his or her teaching, another as a conference presentation considered scholarship, and a third for a local organization as a form of service. Assigning an appropriate category will depend on characteristics such as the audience of the work, its long-term value vs. immediacy of purpose, and its depth of intellectual content.

It is considered normal and acceptable for a new librarian with probationary status to come to Trinity without an established research agenda. While it is not expected that significant scholarship be demonstrated during each year, it is expected that librarians will have shown some initiative in this area by the second-year formal review and tangible evidence of scholarship by the fourth-year formal review. In order to receive tenure, the candidate must have demonstrated evidence of successful scholarly achievements and the ability to continue this work in the future.

Evidence of effective scholarship, research, or other professional or artistic achievements may include (but are not limited to) the following:

• Publications, including but not limited to authoring of journal articles, books, book
chapters, and electronic productions; work as editor for any of these types of sources.
Peer-reviewing of the publications provides additional evidence of quality, but its
absence does not invalidate the value of the work.

• Reviews of books or other media

• Activity as a publication referee or on editorial boards

• Presentations at scholarly or professional conferences [END OF PAGE 77]

• Poster sessions at conferences

• Original cataloging of library materials

• Bibliographies or other substantial user guides

• Significant library exhibits

• Grants received

• Web-based user training materials or other instructional media that teach users how to do research or use a library

• Professional guidelines or training materials

• Contributions to professional clearinghouses, such as LOEX and ERIC

• Awards and honors

• Additional education that results in tangible dissemination of related scholarship

• Significant analysis of library collections or services, disseminated internally or
externally, that clearly relates current problems and solutions to other scholarship
informing those issues.

McGill University has a long document dealing with Regulations Relating to the Employment of Librarian Staff, but this is more a procedural account of various processes and does not quite say “what” research is.


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