Do We Need a Doctor in the Library? Perceptions of Librarians and Managers in Ireland: A Phenomenographic Study

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Hornung, Eva
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Higher Education in Ireland has seen a record number of students enrolled in doctoral programmes. Increasingly, library and information professionals hold doctorates, too. There is a presumption that having a PhD is a positive addition to the workplace, but does it really make a difference to the service librarians provide in their respective organisations? And what is the role of the doctorate in the library? The literature review looked at international research in Library and Information Studies (LIS). It focused on the place of the LIS PhD in academia; its position within library services; research training of librarians; service provision in libraries for researchers; and the views of library patrons. No research had been uncovered dealing with the space of the doctorate in Irish libraries. The present Phenomenographic study explored the perceptions of ten librarians with doctorates and ten library managers, who employed information professionals with PhDs. Qualitative data was collected through semi-structured interviews with each individual following two different interview schedules. Additionally, a focus group of four experienced librarians, who do not hold a doctorate themselves, but are currently working (or have done so in the past) with colleagues who do, was held. All interviews and the focus group discussion were transcribed. Framework analysis aided the researcher with the analysis of data. A step-by-step account of same was provided. The findings revealed three different conceptions and four dimensions of variation, which are themes that are evident across the categories, for each cohort of interviewees, forming two so- called outcome spaces. Unexpectedly, these two overlapped to a certain extent, which allowed the researcher to draw up vignettes outlining how the role of doctorate was experienced in these three distinct ways: ‘providing a better service’, ‘being an expert’ and ‘developing as a person’. The data collected from the focus group participants broadly confirmed these results. The discussion chapter juxtaposed these results with the findings in the wider literature. Advantages and disadvantages of the PhD in the library were examined ranging from impact on personal relationships to improved library services. Contrasting views on the value of the skills of practising librarians and of those gained by librarians through the PhD were also appraised. The section concluded with a summary of the place of subject based doctorates in the library and misconceptions about the PhD process. Concluding the thesis, some general observations and recommendations for policy and practice were made, including how to support PhD candidates and attract more students to doctoral research. The status of the LIS PhD in Ireland in general emerged as a potential focus for future research.
Hornung, E. (2020) Do We Need a Doctor in the Library? Perceptions of Librarians and Managers in Ireland: A Phenomenographic Study. Trinity College Dublin.
Trinity College Dublin
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