Readers’ Advisory and Blogs: A Research Interest

I am working on a research project that will explore the use (or lack of use) of blogs in conducting Readers’ Advisory services in (predominantly) public libraries.

Lisa Olszewski and I became interested in this topic while taking Marie Radford’s “Reference Sources and Services” course at Rutgers University in Fall 2012 in the course of a project on Reference 2.0 in libraries. We realized that no research seems to have been conducted on librarians’ use of blogs for RA despite the relatively extensive literature on virtual reference sources and on blogs more generally. We subsequently submitted an abstract to present a poster at the ALA Annual Meeting in Chicago in June/July 2013. We eagerly await a response.

Below is the abstract we submitted and our research plan:

“Are We Blogging into the Void? Use of Blogs in Readers’ Advisory”

Librarians’ use of blogs has increased dramatically over the past decade. Myriad prescriptive articles promote “rethinking” of Readers’ Advisory (RA), however, there is scant research on whether librarians actively use blogs for this purpose. This research seeks to understand how frequently these resources are being used and to identify archetypal examples. If blogs are not being used, why not? What RA tools are employed instead or in tandem? How can the efficacy of blogs be improved to assist librarians and users with RA?

To address these questions, two methods will be employed: a survey and identification/content-analysis of existing RA blogs. The online survey consists of demographic, multiple choice, and qualitative questions. It will be distributed to a random sample of libraries in two states (one in the East, one in the West) as well as on librarian listservs.

In addition, RA blogs will be identified and exemplars will be determined based on a number of criteria (e.g., content, ease of use, design, and usability). This poster will present results of the survey and content analysis, including a list of top-rated RA blogs. Having empirical data and qualitative feedback from librarians is important in determining if/how blogs are changing the way RA is conducted and how these sites may serve as tool for RA in the future. Those viewing our poster will receive an immediate takeaway: a QR code on the poster that launches a website containing detailed survey results plus live links to the list of valuable blogs.