When writing a research paper for a graduate-level course in library science, you need to explore a topic that is relevant to the state of library systems and that can inform future discussions in the field. A graduate paper is different from an undergraduate project in that an undergraduate paper can succeed by exhibiting a thorough understanding of the subject, while a graduate project, conversely, needs to contribute to the field's body of knowledge.
Search Engine Technology
A constantly evolving subject to study in a research paper is the impact of search engine technology on libraries. For example, you could investigate how libraries could better utilize current search engine technology to ease the tedium of locating specific information. You could also propose a search system designed specifically for public libraries that offers a set of advanced search features or databases not currently available to the public. Continuing in the vein of exploring how libraries can distinguish themselves from home computers, you could examine whether publicly available, full-text databases could potentially eliminate the need for physical libraries altogether.
The Role of the Librarian
While exploring how libraries will undoubtedly change with advancements in information technology, you could also investigate how the role of librarians will change in accord with these advancements. You could trace the evolution of the librarian's role from gatherer and organizer of information to search facilitator or information technology support technician. You might hypothesize which aspects of being a librarian are most vulnerable to changes in technology and which appear to be firmly cemented in place. For example, you could question whether librarians will need to have expertise in a given subject area in the years to come, or whether a broad understanding of many topics will be more desirable.
Interpersonal Issues Inquiry
Focusing on the specific roles and duties of librarians, you could research the issues associated with handling difficult library patrons. For instance, you could present the strengths and weaknesses of current policies and suggestions offered by the American Library Association, arguing why certain strategies might be ideal, and why others might require revision. You could also provide a statistical analysis of library incidents involving patrons and determine whether or not there are any emergent trends or correlations with those activities. For example, you might find that librarians who engage in confrontational speech are either more or less likely to become the victims of violent outbursts, which could potentially cast new light on current policies.
In addition to exploring the effects of technology on librarians and on digital content, you could also examine the effects on actual books. Access to digital databases costs money, and budgets that funnel capital into digital information often take that capital from resources allocated for maintaining the stacks. For example, you could investigate the decision-making processes associated with deciding which physical collections receive funds for updating and which are allowed to deteriorate. You could also examine the ethics associated with the cost of access to digital information as opposed to the cost of that same information in physical form, or how libraries either place value on a digital text or measure its use.
- Ball State University: Suggested Topics for Library Science Research and Publication; Arthur W. Hafner, Ph.D., M.B.A.
- E-LIS: Using Search Engine Technology to Improve Library Catalogs; Dirk Lewandowski
- D-Lib Magazine: Search Engine Technology and Digital Libraries: Libraries Need to Discover the Academic Internet; Norbert Lossau
- Electronic Full-Text Articles as a Substitute for Traditional Interlibrary Borrowing; David Solar
- Association of College and Research Libraries: Changing Roles of Academic and Research Libraries
- Codesria: The Changing Role of Librarians in the Digital Age; Sunday Olurotimi Obadare
- American Library Association: Dealing with Difficult Patrons
- Swiss Army Librarian: Dealing with Difficult Patrons
- Reconfiguring Control in Library Collection Development: A Conceptual Framework for Assessing the Shift Toward Electronic Collections; Lisa M. Covi and Melissa H. Cragin
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