Curious. Inquisitive. Wondering. Questioning. Pondering. All these are things we hope for for our students: leaving our libraries with a zest for lifelong learning by asking questions that lead to more questions. We want our students to be able to constantly ask the question Why? In our library spaces they use books and journals and databases to try and locate the answers to their questions.
So, what happens when the answers aren't there yet? Someone needs to find them or at least try to figure them out. Think of the advancements we've had over the years in medicine, science, education, etc. These have all come from someone asking questions and doing the research to find the answers.
As the authors in this issue will share, research doesn't always have to be a formal process that results in a peer-reviewed publication or presentation. Research can (and does) happen in your school libraries all the time. Decisions you make about policies, procedures, purchases, instruction, etc. are all based in some part on data you have available or collected from the research you've read.
Some things to ponder in this area include:
Take time to explore and read the research that is out there about school libraries. You'll be rewarded whether you look in some of the peer-reviewed journals like School Library Research or School Libraries Worldwide, search in online databases, or even look at articles where research has been translated into practice like some of those in SLC.
We need to be on the forefront of best practice. Research can help us to see what is working and what isn't. Sometimes we get in a "this is how we've always done it" mentality, and research can help us to understand what is really the best and most effective way to do something.
Considering talking your administrators about makerspaces? Want to move to a flexible schedule? How about thinking about flexible seating? Whatever it is you are thinking about for your library, part of your plan for implementation should include looking at the research that is out there. With each topic that may vary but taking time to know what is out there and being able to share that with decision makers can be helpful.
Likely sometime in your career you will need to advocate for school libraries. Whether that's in your building, your district, your state, or the national level. Having data and research available can help support your case. It may not be the only thing that helps you, but it can't hurt to have this information ready to bolster your case as you advocate for the needs of school libraries.
Finally, let me encourage you to consider you may want to explore becoming a more in depth researcher too. While the research you do in your library every day is important, the published research is also critical to showing our value and worth to the larger educational community. You might want to partner with a local university or professor to help with a formal research study. Or, this might be your call to join the world of academia and get a Ph.D. We need great folks conducting research of all kinds about school libraries.