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Oviatt Spotlight: Moving Library Research from Palm Trees to Gondolas

eNews Edition: Fall 2016

Contributed by Ahmed Alwan and Joy Doan

As new librarians in the Research, Instruction and Outreach Services (RIOS) department, we were inspired to begin working on impactful research in the field of Library and Information Science (LIS). In September 2015, on a particularly sweltering day here in Northridge, we talked about possible directions for research, presentations and articles. We mulled over current scholarship, and discussions and trends in the area of diversity. When the topic of environmental microaggressions experienced by academic librarians emerged, we knew we had found a niche.  

It is a given that partnerships between academic librarians and teaching faculty are essential for improving student performance and learning. Discourse and actions that can at times be perceived by some academic librarians as microaggressive, however, can lead to misunderstandings or miscommunications between these parties. We realized that while many of our contemporaries discuss this issue, they have not actually ventured into research in this area. It struck us that a golden opportunity for LIS research had fallen into our laps, and we began work on a project that would address the gap in the literature.

We began by designing and distributing an online survey to Academic Librarians throughout North America. Our survey focused on a variety of issues related to the topic of microaggressive behavior based on academic status. Our response rate was fantastic, and a bit overwhelming. With over 500 respondents from around the United States and Canada, we were able to gather an extensive amount of quantitative and qualitative data.

Librarians Joy Doan and Ahmed Alwan
Joy Doan (L) and Ahmed Alwan (R) in Venice.

It was apparent to us that this information had to be shared with the wider scholarly community. To achieve this goal, we began to target potential conferences. While the prospect of seeing Venice (Italy not California) was appealing, we intentionally selected the Clute Institute International Conference on Education, because this city, often called “the city of bridges,” was the perfect venue to share research on a topic that we hoped would help create effective bridges between academic librarians and teaching faculty. Our presentation shed light on academic librarians’ experiences, as well as suggested methods to expand and improve the vital partnership between these groups.

Our work on environmental microaggressions is just beginning, and we are gratified by the opportunities that we have received thus far. In addition to our survey, we presented a poster presentation at the California Association of Research Libraries (CARL). We are currently working on an academic journal submission that details the survey findings. Additionally, our qualitative data can be found on CSU ScholarWorks, and we created a website to host our research.

Although furthering the academic conversation was our primary goal, we also made sure to have a little fun while in Venice, particularly by enjoying the renowned Italian cuisine. Following our presentation, we were famished. We had heard rumors about a legendary eatery in the heart of the city that served fresh handmade pasta, with zero pretense. Dal Moro’s is a small hole-in-the-wall that serves up some of the best noodles in Italy. Because there was no seating within, we were forced to enjoy our meal on the bridges over the picturesque canals, wondering which was more satisfying: an opportunity to share our innovative research, the view, or the delectable food.