Document (#32441)

Author
Crowley, W.
Title
Spanning the theory-practice divide in library and information science
Imprint
Lanham, MD : Scarecrow Press
Year
2005
Pages
xiv, 241 S
Isbn
0-8108-5165-2
Content
Theorizing for diverging contexts : why research results and theory development are so little used outside the campus -- Developing a research philosophy -- The revival of pragmatism -- Tacit knowledge: bridging the theory-practice divide -- The academic as practitioner -- The practitioner as academic: adjunct facility/lecturers -- Other worlds of practice: the field practitioner -- Other worlds of practice: the consultant -- Theory and revelation -- The foundations for building bridges.
Footnote
Rez. in: JASIST. 58(2007) no.4, S.606-607 (L.E. Harris): "Spanning is not a methodological "how-to"; rather it is a "how-tothink" book, intended for academicians and practitioners, on developing useful theory. Each chapter opens with a brief scenario, generally derived from Crowley's extensive personal experience as a librarian, university professor, and consultant, exemplifying the theme for that chapter. In chapter one, "Theorizing for Diverging Contexts: Why Research Results and Theory Development are So Little Used Outside the Campus," Crowley describes a doctoral candidate's experience in presenting her research at a national conference of working professionals. When the presentation is negatively received, the student's mentor rationalized the response by stating, "You have to remember, most of the people in the audience only have a master's degree" (p. 2). From this example, a cogent argument is distilled on how pervasive the theorypractice divide is in various academic domains, such as business, law, sociology, and LIS. What is useful research and theory for academicians seeking career and professional advancement does not translate into for practitioners engaged in specific institutional/organizational environments. Cultural pragmatism is introduced as an aid to researchers in both camps for its inclusion of context specificity and the need for testing a theory's usefulness through continually analyzed experience. Herein, the structural foundation for the bridge is constructed in the section on communication. The development of an interlanguage between academicians and practitioners will minimize incommensurability, "the perceived inability of humans to communicate effectively with one another due to a lack of common standards for meaning and other shared foundations" (p. 15). In this vein, Crowley presents five maxims, based on the works of John Stuart Mill, for developing useful, real world theory. The chapter ends, as do several others, addressing the divide specifically in the LIS domain. One of the most thought-provoking chapters is "Developing a Research Philosophy," which includes sections on inductive reasoning, how people really think, and a discussion of the battle between intellectual formations and internalized models. As a teacher of experienced and/or mature students in an LIS program, I instantly recognized the description of a reoccurring classroom event: what happens when introducing theory or research results that contradict students' experiences, and therefore, their internalized models of "how things really work in the field." Crowley suggests that in seeking a research philosophy, persuasion should not be a primary concern. This simple suggestion encouraged me to reconsider my posture when faced with this classroom issue. However, this chapter may be considered one of the weakest in the book, because of its rather slim treatment of considerations for selecting a useful research philosophy, despite the emphasis on the importance of the concept. Nevertheless, this chapter is foundational to the work presented in the remaining chapters.
In "The Revival of Pragmatism," the distinction between theory (how things work) and paradigm (how we look at the world) forms the basis for the exposition on competing paradigms. From Kuhn's traditional scientific paradigm (empiricism) to classical pragmatism, to the variants of modernism, specifically critical theory and feminism, the ability of cultural pragmatism to bridge the divide is promoted. The twelve core assertions and the role of religious beliefs in the creation of classical pragmatism are surely the stuff of which debates are made. While I was readily able to accept the first ten assertions, the eleventh ("Humans have the most opportunity to develop their capabilities in a democracy.") and twelfth ("Scientific and other knowledge progresses best in a democratic context that encourages freedom of inquiry.") certainly gave me pause (p. 60). Even Crowley admits, later in the text, that these two assertions may not be verifiable and indeed may conflict with the principle of freedom in research. In defining the applicability of cultural pragmatism to bridging the theory-practice gap, Crowley relates John Dewey's desire to rename his Experience and Nature to read Culture and Nature as a tribute to the power of readers' ability to understand the meaning of culture versus experience. Drawing on the work of Charles Sanders Peirce, cultural pragmatism treats "truth" as agreed-upon opinion, which is therefore continually tested and revised. The concepts of interlanguage and incommensurability are revisited, as they apply to the need to transcend cultural norms and create cross-cultural understandings. The increased complexity of modern work, partially related to the pervasiveness of technology, is established as an obvious factor. As a result, the validity and reliability of generalizing in a global environment is called into question. Cultural pragmatism does not demand an adherence to an objective reality. "For pragmatism, cultural complexity can be an intellectual positive, offering a seemingly endless source of remarkably interesting research questions" (p. 82). This chapter is highly recommended for LIS professionals interested in a brief yet coherent overview of the prevailing paradigms discussed and utilized in the field, as well as those who like to stir up lively discussions. A description of how the Maryland Division of Library Developments improved reference service by turning tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge opens the next chapter, "Tacit Knowledge: Bridging the Theory-Practice Divide." This example illustrates concretely the impact of an interlanguage on communication effectiveness within a library setting and as part of a research project. The role of time in the transformation of tacit into explicit knowledge, however, is apparent yet not fully explored. In this chapter, Crowley directly addresses the "how-to-think" issues and the role of a research philosophy as structural components of the bridge. Tacit knowledge becomes an integral component which researchers must recognize if they are to construct useful research and theory. The discussion of Georg Simmel's stranger as an analytical tool, however, seemed out of place.
In the next four chapters, Crowley takes on the particulars involved in the divide by looking at library and information professionals engaged in and transitioning to various research and theory development roles. In "The Academic as Practitioner," he examines how the publishing world influences how academics communicate with practitioners and the difficulties in writing for practitioner-oriented publications. The history of religion in the development of higher education in general, and the research focus of doctoral-degree granting institutions, is offered to explain the dominance of the academic practitioner. The paradoxical edicts of the Ohio legislature, which sought to balance classroom time for professors by law, paint a vivid picture of the results-oriented public and the research-oriented academic institution. In "The Practitioner as Academic: Adjunct Faculty/Lecturers," the question of the perceived lack of "rigor" in practitioner-conducted research is illustrated and illuminated. While Crowley points out the value of "how we did it good" research, as providing material for qualitative analysis, I found myself desiring a bit more methodological instruction. Given where and when such articles are published, how such qualitative analysis could be conducted called the value of this research into question, given the prior treatise on conducting research in an academic environment. "Other Worlds of Practice: The Field Practitioner" and "Other Worlds of Practice: The Consultant" are extremely short expositions which, while addressing alternative professionals' roles, do not significantly further the premise of the work. Nonetheless, Crowley might have been considered remiss if he had excluded these professionals.
"Theory and Revelation" is devoted to encouraging LIS researchers, in any capacity, not to dismiss the role of faith, beliefs, and religion. The ending section presents "A Nine-Step Model for Pragmatic Research," which stops just short of being a "how-to" by not elucidating on the methodological considerations for each step. The model, while textual, bears a striking resemblance to the flow charts for approaching research found in many research instructional works, even though the entertaining of "solutions" to problems is an iterative element of the process. The text concludes with "The Foundations for Building Bridges," a fivepage summary section, almost woefully inadequate given the substantial issues developed and presented throughout the work. Crowley must be commended for his comprehensive approach to the subject, the detailed annotations, the glossary, the summary of works cited, and the index. The format of starting each chapter with a themed scenario prevented the writing from becoming dry and sleepinducing. Most of the chapters end with a specific section addressing how the issues relate to LIS. The overall structure of the text follows logically from the more theoretical to the more applicable. However, there is a definite bias towards occurrences where practitioners and academicians tend to co-exist and function in a research environment, i.e., library science and academic institutions. Information professionals working in public and community college libraries are discussed in a rather superficial manner. How cultural pragmatism can influence research and theory centered in the information science domain must still be considered in more depth than presented in this text. Further expansion on, and a critical analysis of, cultural pragmatism as a metatheoretical perspective is definitely in order. Hopefully, Spanning the Theory-Practice Divide in Library and Information Science will be an introduction to the use of cultural pragmatism in LIS research and in the development of useful theory. In response to an e-mail from me upon first reading the text, the author informed me of his contact with several other doctoral students interested in furthering their understanding of cultural pragmatism. Inspiring other professionals is certainly a testament to the value of the work and supports my recommendation for this text as essential reading for LIS professionals interested in producing research and theory that are truly useful."
Field
Bibliothekswesen
Informationswissenschaft
LCSH
Information science
Library science
Learning and scholarship
RSWK
USA / Bibliothekswissenschaft / Informations- und Dokumentationswissenschaft
BK
06.04 / Ausbildung, Beruf, Organisationen <Information und Dokumentation>
06.00 / Information und Dokumentation: Allgemeines
DDC
020 / dc22
LCC
Z665.C786 2005
RVK
AN 65800

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