rusq: Vol. 53 Issue 2: p. 193
Sources: Knowledge Into Action: Research and Evaluation in Library and Information Science
Molly Strothmann

Social and Behavioral Sciences Librarian, University of Oklahoma, Norman

Not all librarians conduct formal research. Nearly all, however, perform at least some level of evaluation to determine whether their programs and services are working effectively. In Knowledge Into Action, Wallace and Van Fleet emphasize the close relationship between research and evaluation, describing their shared characteristics and explaining that the same principles form their foundations. The resulting book is a strong framework for understanding rigorous, evidence-based practice in library and information science.

The first several chapters provide a theoretical base, describing the nature of research and evaluation, the essential steps of the research and evaluation process, and the relevant ethical issues. Wallace and Van Fleet also include extensive practical guidance in planning projects, obtaining funding, and communicating the results of research and evaluation. The largest section of the book is the series of chapters on specific research methods. Although many of the approaches described are widely used throughout the social sciences, Wallace and Van Fleet helpfully frame them in terms of their probable applications to library and information science research: the inclusion of a chapter on bibliometrics and citation analysis, an important, distinctive technique in LIS research, is particularly appreciated. The nature of each research method is described in detail, followed by a clear discussion of its advantages and disadvantages. Although the book “is an introduction to library and information science research and evaluation, not a research manual or statistics text book” (1), chapters on measurement, data analysis, and a “gentle” introduction to statistics are also included. (The latter especially seems very much intended for an audience who regards using numerical data with some trepidation.)

The book is primarily intended as a textbook for graduate LIS research methods classes, and its structure—especially the sound foundation in theory that precedes the practical introduction to individual research methods—facilitates its use in formal coursework. (It’s also exactly fifteen chapters long, presumably to match a fifteen-week semester.) However, LIS practitioners who are embarking on serious research or assessment projects will also find it valuable. Librarians often want to evaluate their services and make solid, data-driven decisions about them, but are bewildered by the variety of approaches available. This book, with its cogent descriptions of research methods, their applications, and their limitations, will provide crucial clarity. In addition, the clear, straightforward writing and logical, consistent organization will make the complex topics accessible to students and novice researchers as well as to practicing librarians in need a reference on selected topics. A glossary, bibliography, and index are included. Highly recommended.

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