Measure, Strengthen, Support, and Evaluate

Developing a research agenda for 21st-century libraries

February 11, 2018

Linda Hofschire (left), director of the Library Research Service at the Colorado State Library in Denver, presents “A Research Agenda for 21st-Century Libraries” at the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits February 11, along with Martha Adkins (center), reference librarian at the University of San Diego, and Christine Dulaney (right), associate librarian at American University in Washington, DC.

How do we develop a universal research agenda for libraries of all types? This is the question that the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Research and Evaluation (ORE) and the Committee on Research and Statistics (CORS) tackled in a Sunday morning session, “A Research Agenda for 21st-Century Libraries.”

This session and discussion took place as part of the News You Can Use track of the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting and Exhibits in Denver. Linda Hofschire, director of the library research service at the Colorado State Library in Denver; Martha Adkins, assistant professor and reference librarian at the University of San Diego; and Christine Dulaney, associate librarian at American University in Washington, DC, presented the outline for the research agenda and welcomed comments and input on the agenda from the session’s attendees.

Hofschire started the session by explaining that the goals of this research agenda are to identify gaps in the existing library research literature, respond to the needs of ALA members, and keep up with the quickly changing needs of libraries in the 21st century. She emphasized that intent of this research agenda is to be “from the the library field and for the library field.” Much of the information used to create the agenda came directly from librarians to whom the panel spoke during last year’s ALA Midwinter Meeting and during CORS meetings.

The information that the panel gathered resulted in four focus areas for a library research agenda:

1.  Measuring library impact

2.  Strengthening libraries’ adaptive responses

3.  Supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion

4.  Evaluating and sharing strategies for staff development

The presenters broke down these focus areas and explained the relevance of each for research in public, academic, and school libraries. Each presenter noted the importance of library research to help libraries stay relevant in the 21st century and to provide the best service possible to our communities.

During the last half of the session, attendees had the opportunity to comment on the agenda. Librarians of all stripes offered their unique perspectives on the importance of research for the future of their libraries, showing what a crucial role this agenda will play in guiding library research over the next few years. The wealth of audience input was well received by the panel and will be considered for the research agenda.

The next steps for the research agenda will be to add the audience’s recommendations from this morning, finalize the document, and disseminate it to libraries. As Dulaney noted in closing, this agenda is a grassroots effort heavily influenced by the recommendations of the librarians who show up and contribute their ideas. To contribute your own ideas and have a stake in the research agenda, visit the team’s Google Doc.


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