Using Qualitative Methods in Action Research: How Librarians Can Get to the Why of Data

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  • Description
  • Table of Contents
  • About the authors

While quantitative research provides librarians with calculations and metrics of effectiveness, qualitative research, in its exploration of assumptions, value, and opinion, makes possible a deeper understanding of the subtleties of user interaction with library services and collections. This volume explains the basic tenets of qualitative research in an easily understandable fashion, and details action research projects that academic librarians can undertake with their patrons. Part 1 provides a theoretical and practical overview of the process of qualitative and action research.
Part 2 includes reports of a number of research projects on fairly common problems found in libraries. The final section of the book includes examples of qualitative research and assessment focused on such topics of the day as information literacy.

This book is appropriate for academic librarians, academic libraries, schools of information science and librarianship, library educators, and researchers.

Acknowledgments, Introduction, Arrangement of the Book


(Douglas Cook, Lesley Farmer)




(Marie L. Radford)

Chap 1. Qualitative Research and the Librarian (Lesley Farmer)
Chap 2. The Recursive Cycle of Qualitative Action Research
(Douglas Cook)
Chap 3. Getting Ready to Turn Your Everyday Work into Meaningful Inquiry: Foundational Literature in Qualitative and Action
Research (Cordelia Zinskie and Judi Repman)

Chap 4. Teaching Alone and Together: A Narrative Inquiry
(Roberta Tipton and Patricia Bender)
Chap 5. Understanding Social Networking: The Benefit of Discourse Analysis (Mariaelena Bartesaghi and Ardis Hanson)
Chap 5. Remote and Rural Voices: Using Interviews to Understand the Information Literacy Experience of Alaskan Special Educators (Jennifer Diane Ward and Thomas Scott Duke)
Observing Relationship Building in the Library Instruction Classroom: Peer Observation and Consultation
(Carolyn L. Cook and Karla M. Schmit)
Chap 7. Content Analysis: Deconstructing Intellectual Packages
(Penny M. Beile)
Chap 8. Using Focus Groups to Understand User Needs and Forge New Directions (Michael Weber and Robert Flatley)
Chap 9. Performance-based Self-assessment of a Library Liaison Program Using a Rubric (Aaron Dobbs and Doug Cook)

Chap 10. Analyzing LibQUAL+ Comments to Inform Library Decision Making (David A. Nolfi and Laverna M. Saunders)
Chap 11. Design and Analysis Challenges in a Multicampus Research Study (Robin Brown and Willis C. Walker)
Chap 12. Approaching Information Literacy Qualitatively (Janice Krueger)
Chap 13. The Reference Interview in Real Time and in Virtual Time
(Isabelle Flemming and Lesley Farmer)
Chap 14. Seeing Is Learning: The Synergy of Visual Literacy
(Alessia Zanin-Yost)
Chap 15. Collective Action: Qualitative Methods for Library Collection Development (LeRoy Jason LaFleur)

Afterword. An Enduring Epistemology of Practice



(David Carr)

Contributors' Biographies


Douglas Cook

Douglas Cook is an instruction librarian and professor at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. He received his MLS from the University of Maryland and DEd from Pennsylvania State University. He has recently coedited five books: with Tasha Cooper, Teaching Information Literacy Skills to Social Science Students and Practioners (2006); with Ryan Sittler, Practical Pedagogy for Library Instructors (2008) and The Library Instruction Cookbook (2009); with Lesley Farmer, Using Qualitative Methods in Action Research (2011); and a children's book with Carolyn Cook, A Hike on the Appalachian Trail (2010). His current research interests are web-centered pedagogy and real-world definitions of information literacy.

Lesley S. J. Farmer

Dr. Lesley S. J. Farmer, professor at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), coordinates the Teacher Librarian Program and manages the CSU Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy Project Literacy Project. She earned her MS in library science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and received her doctorate in adult education from Temple University. Farmer has worked as a librarian in K–12 school settings as well as in public, special, and academic libraries. She chaired the Special Libraries Association’s Education Divisions and IFLA’s School Library Section. Farmer is a Fulbright scholar and has received national and international grants. She has also been honored with several professional association awards, including the Ken Haycock Award for Promoting Librarianship. Farmer’s research interests include ICT, media literacies, and data analytics. A frequent presenter and writer for the profession, Farmer has published three dozen professional books and more than two hundred professional book chapters and articles. She received the Special Libraries Association's 2023 Rose L. Vormelker Award, which recognizes mid-career members for teaching and mentorship.