Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Library Ethnography at the American Library Association meetings (ALAs)

The Chronicle of Higher education had this article on ethnographic research in libraries.  One interesting side-effect of this article is the comments that follow--seems some people don't see ethnography in libraries as "scholarly research."  Well, that's arguable.  I'm biased, of course, but I think that any ethnographic endeavor is about increasing understanding.   And if we engage in ethnography to influence library policy (as we are doing here at Atkins), we are using that increase in understanding to make policy better fit with the needs of our patrons.  I think that's also legitimately "scholarly." 

Suggesting that applied work like ethnography done in libraries, or in military situations, or in corporations, cannot possibly be "scholarly" is defining away a big chunk of anthropological research, for what I think are largely political reasons, having nothing to do with scholarly integrity. 

Any of my colleagues actually attend the session on ethnography?  Alas, I was unable to be in DC for the ALA festivities.