Michele Newman (She/Her/Hers) is a current Master of Library and Information Science student at University of Denver. Previously, she completed a Master of Music from Indiana University-Bloomington where she taught courses in Music Theory. Her research interests lie in digital humanities, music librarianship and creating accessible spaces in the library. When not studying or researching, she can be found playing video games, reading fantasy books, or playing with her dog Missy.
I admit that when I decided to attend an IFLA webinar on International Theory and Research in LIS this past month, I did not know exactly what international research was or how my own research might fit into it. It seemed daunting to hear from people around the field and the world, especially as I had just completed one year of my MLIS degree and was still looking for what things I was excited to research. Despite this, my curiosity was piqued, and I decided that I might as well attend to see what international research was all about.
What is International Research?
Luckily, the webinar started with a brief explanation of the state of international research in the field as well as some challenges to completing it. I was excited to hear that it was not only researching the influences on libraries and information organizations in other countries, but also often provided a comparison of these institutions’ activities and interactions. In particular, the comparison comes often from working together.
This research not only contributes to a broader understanding of what works well in our field, it also encourages empathy between people from around the world.
Much of the literature comes from performing international or regional surveys as well as studies of single countries. This research not only contributes to a broader understanding of what works well in our field, it also encourages empathy between people from around the world. To me, this is the real benefit of engaging in scholarship at this level.
Many of the challenges discussed in the webinar commented on some of the ethical questions that arise from studying cultures other than our own. This is something I think about a lot, and a fact that is often emphasized in my MLIS classes. I know that I have been taught to view the world in a certain way and this affects the types of questions that I ask in my own research. I started to wonder how my own ideas of what makes interesting scholarship are reflected in other cultures and how my worldview changes how I choose to do research.
Can I do international research?
As I listened to the webinar, I kept asking myself: how would I do international research? It seemed that to do it well, I would need to have a good understanding of the people and the culture that I wanted to engage with. I would also need to know people who belonged to that country and gain skills not only in research but communication and a knack for knowing who to ask for help.
The thought of trying to build an international network of professionals and researchers is overwhelming. I was having trouble figuring out where I would fit these spaces. Yet, as I reflected on this experience, I realized that these feelings were not unique to me. People all over the world were asking these questions of how to do international research effectively. These are the questions we ask as researchers, not just international researchers. This means that I can do international research. Maybe not yet, but there is ample time for me to learn from the people in the field who are asking these big questions and promoting discussion across border lines. Reading current scholarship is a great place to start, but I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to just sit and listen to people in the field and learn from their expertise.
I realize that I still have much to learn, not only as a librarian, but as a researcher. I have only scratched the surface of what it means to research internationally. But, a lot of the questions I wish to engage with in my own research have to do with equity of access and how the things that we choose to do either encourage or discourage empathy of people who are different than us. I understand what it is like to not see myself in the library collection and I understand that these are issues that cannot be solved alone. Learning from others seems a logical step forward.
International research provides that opportunity to empathize and engage with people other than ourselves. We are all working for the freedom of access and expression and have a belief that information can change lives regardless of age, class, or country of origin. What this webinar taught was indeed what international research in LIS is, but more importantly it taught me that we can learn more together than we ever can apart.
As I move forward in my career, I want to take these values into my own research. Eventually, I would love to work with librarians and researchers from another country and I want to take steps now to engage with scholarship that lets me learn from people in cultures other than my own. So yes, it can be daunting to think about performing international research, but it also might be one of the most enriching and beneficial types of research we can complete. If you haven’t gotten to see these researchers in action, I highly recommend checking out the webinar and if you want to do some international research, feel free to give me a call.
IFLA Webinar Information
International Research in LIS: the Youtube recording
This webinar will explore international and comparative research in Library and Information Science (LIS). Peter Lor, former IFLA Secretary General and the author of International and Comparative Librarianship will give an introductory talk to examine what is meant by international and comparative research in LIS, what can be learned from such research, and outline what special pitfalls and challenges are to be considered. The introduction will be followed by a panel of LIS journal editors discussing and evaluating the international and comparative LIS research submitted to their journals. The webinar will also include two presentations of international research by Anna Maria Tammaro and Amy van Scoy.
- Peter Lor (University of Pretoria, South Africa)
- Anna Maria Tammaro (University of Parma, Italy)
- Amy van Scoy (University at Buffalo, USA)
- Kendra Albright and Theo Bothma (Libri)
- Juan Daniel Machin Mastromatteo (Information Development)
- Steve Witt (IFLA Journal)
Moderators: Krystyna Matusiak (University of Denver, USA), Egbert Sanchez (National Autonomous University of Mexico), and Stefan Schmunk (University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt, Germany)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
The expressions of the writer do not reflect anyone’s views but their own