This is a project that has been simmering along under the surface of some of the more public things I have been doing this year and I’m really excited about it. As we head into summer, it’s time to bring it forward and find out if there are people out there who would like to join us!
Who and What
I’m going to be co-editing a book for ACRL Publications that will dig into autoethnography as a research method in LIS. We are creating a learning community of authors to explore the method and our final product will be a collection of the narratives that result.
We are looking for a diverse community of practicing librarians who are willing to dig into their own perspectives and experiences to explore the question of what it means to be an academic librarian today. No experience with autoethnography is required; learning together is part of the process.
My partners in this endeavor are Rick Stoddart from the University of Idaho, who is currenlty working on a dissertation examining reflective knowledge-creation methods in librarianship, and Bob Schroeder from Portland State University, who recently wrote this wonderful piece at In the Library Wiuth the Lead Pipe – Exploring Critical and Indigenous Research Methods with a Research Community.
Autoethnography is a research method associated with anthropology, but may be more commonly seen in sociology (and it occasionally pops up in most social science disciplines). The method requires the researcher to do two things: engage in a deep, reflective and rigorous examination of their own experience; and systematically analyze that reflection, drawing connections to society and culture as they do. These analyses can take very different forms (narrative, scholarly prose, poetry, dialogue, etc.).
We are hoping that this book will do two things —
First, we want to join with efforts to push the conversation about research in LIS to explore how different research methods and ways of knowing can inform our practice. We think this is important for a couple of reasons –
- Practical — we should actively seek out and explore methods that busy practitioners can do rigorously and regularly, and
- Philosophical – methods like autoethnography can allow voices to be heard that are drowned out in larger aggregations of data. And, quite simply, like all research methods, there are things they do better than the alternatives. No method answers all questions, and we should not limit ourselves.
Secondly, one of the things that autoethnography does well is let us dig deeply into questions of practice, experience and identity – so we think that a collection of autoethnographic narratives about librarianship, collected in one place, will be powerful and compelling.
If you want to explore a little more about autoethnography – here are a few starting points (one paywalled):
- Autoethnography: An Overview (Ellis, Adams and Bochner) — a short but clear overview.
- Heartful Autoethnography (Ellis) – this one pushes at the boundaries of academic prose.
If you are interested in joining our learning community, and creating a narrative, please send an email to me (anne-marie dot deitering at oregonstate dot edu) that answers the following questions. For full consideration, we need to receive your reply by Friday, June 5th.
- How long have you been a librarian (and how are you defining that)
- Where do you work and what kind of work do you do there?
- What intrigues you about this project?
- What are some questions that you have about autoethnography?
- Do you have some writing samples (or links to samples) that you can share?
- Is there anything else you would like us to know?
What are we looking for? Well, first off, we are not trying to evaluate your ability to produce a narrative – we don’t think we can do that and it’s not in the spirit of the learning community.
But we do have two goals that will shape what we look for:
- We want to bring together as diverse a group of voices as we can, across many dimensions: time in the profession, type of library work, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, path to librarianship, type of library, geographical location, and more.
We’re walking a line here. While we know that a method that results in personal narratives has inherent diversity — everyone’s story is different — we also think that it is really important that we make sure that we don’t start by only including people who look like us, who do similar work, who live near us, who came into the profession at the same time, and so on. While we won’t be able to include all the stories we will want to – we are also hoping that this project will make it easier for those stories to appear in the LIS literature moving forward.
- We also want people who are working in academic libraries (or would like to be) who are excited to try the method and dig further into it — both as individuals and as members of the community throughout this process.
Our timelines are not set in stone, but we do have some targets.
We will come together as a learning community this summer and start off with some collective reading/ discussing so that we can start to figure out – what we think this method is, how to practice it ethically, and how to support each other through the process. We are trying to walk a line between providing enough structure for people to get started while still respecting the fact that we will not all do things the same way. So as we move from these initial group conversations to figuring out how to get started on our own projects, and how to revise and improve our narratives as we go, we expect that we will be shaping the agenda together, as members of the community.
We are planning a slightly longer development period than may be typical for a book like this, since we expect almost everyone will be starting from scratch with the method. So we are hoping to have completed manuscripts by early-to-mid summer, 2016.
(Updated at 12:00 on 5/22 to add a link and a clarifying statement to #2 on our goals).