Radical changes in technology and information access have given rise to new academic disciplinary connections, new research and teaching practices, and new modes of communication. With the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Syracuse University Library has undertaken a research project to better understand these changes at the University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. We intend to develop an indepth understanding of one multi-disciplinary academic culture and then to examine the library’s culture and work practices to discover where services and resources are meeting needs and where they are not.
The qualitative methods used in the Patterns of Culture project is informed by the ethnographic work conducted at the University of Rochester. The research team, four librarians and a graduate assistant, received training in interview and observational techniques from anthropologist Nancy Foster. Our data gathering, conducted from spring 2007 to spring 2008, involved interviews with faculty, librarians, and students about their work practice, eliciting photographic diaries from students and conducting observations in classrooms and public spaces.
The goal of the Patterns of Culture (after Ruth Benedict’s landmark work) is threefold: to gain a better understanding of the needs, research, and work practices of the faculty and students and to gain the same type of understanding of library staff; to develop a plan to align library culture, resources, and services more closely with the needs of faculty and students; and to produce a model for data gathering and analysis that can be applied by the library to other academic settings. Our project is unusual in that it applies the same ethnographic methods to three groups, using comparison as a means for deeper understanding.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/nancy_turner/5/