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Social Nature of Research

Posted on Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

I've been thinking recently about the social nature of service-learning and how that can help librarians become more of a social partner in the research process. I was made aware yesterday of a piece by Barbara Fister, "Knowledge and the Network" in Library Journal. One paragraph, in particular, struck me: "Yet until they [students] see knowledge as an ongoing conversation, they will persist in thinking of research papers in terms of the pursuit of answers they can cut and paste. Until they think of the authors of scholarly work as people, just like them, they will not understand how knowledge is negotiated and shaped. Until they see themselves as capable of joining the conversation, they won't understand the fundamentally social nature of information." Fister argues that libraries are "anti-social" because we focus so much on finding sources with keywords and "dredging" through databases. She points out that some scholars that her students interviewed didn't talk about research in terms of the databases they used - they talk about it in terms of who else in that field is working on answering similar questions. Since I just started thinking about this, I'm not sure that I'll be able to articulate this appropriately, but I think service-learning offers another good opportunity for librarians to become involved in the social nature of the research process. It's another opportunity for research to impact the communities in which we live.