Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Are Blogs Given Any Weight in Library Tenure and Promotion Cases?

I have stated in the past that I feel that blogging is a valid form of scholarly communication in the discipline of academic librarianship. Still the question continues to arise as to whether blogging should count as scholarship or a creative activity in academic promotion and tenure.

In "Bloggership, or is publishing a blog scholarship? A survey of academic librarians," Arthur Hendricks (Library Hi Tech, Vol. 28 Iss: 3, pp.470 - 477 DOI 10.1108/07378831011076701 ) details the results of a survey of academic librarians to uncover how much weight their libraries, and/or their parent institutions, place on blogs in promotion and tenure reviews. Of the 67 complete responses, 53.6 percent indicated that their performance review committees do not weigh a blog the same as an article published in a peer-reviewed journal, while only 1.5 percent stated they did.

Respondents were asked, “If you consider the above blogs to be scholarly (equal to an article published in a peer-reviewed journal), please describe why.” Answers varied, but one person wrote, “I'm not sure I would say ‘equal to peer reviewed journal’ but as intellectually thoughtful, important, and influential? sometimes. They tend to be more in the formative stage, like a conference presentation rather than the lengthy, substantial, finished nature of a peer reviewed article.” Of those respondents who publish a blog, 57.1 percent indicated that they find other's blogs to be scholarly.

Younger librarians are more inclined to think of their blog as counting toward scholarship when compared to older colleagues. Of those 22-30 years of age, 40.0 percent indicated that they thought their blog should count as scholarship, and of those 31-40 years of age, 27.3 percent thought their blog should count. None of those 41-50 years of age indicated that their blog should count as scholarship, and of those over 51, 12.5 percent considered their blog scholarly.

From the information provided in the paper, it appears that many of the respondents equate research with scholarship, when in fact research is a subset of scholarship. Scholarship is the creation of new knowledge or organization of knowledge within a new framework or presentation. Scholarship can take the form of a peer-review publication, but it can also be evidenced in other ways such as exhibits, public performances, digital resources, and papers at professional meetings. So, if a blog communicates some sort of new knowledge or the organization of knowledge within a new framework or presentation, or is even seen as a equivalent of a conference presentation, it is indeed scholarship.

Criteria for evaluation of any work of scholarship in any form should take into consideration originality, breadth of dissemination, and impact on scholarship and/or practice in the field of librarianship. I would argue that blogs may be having a greater impact in the practice of librarianship than are traditional publications. Blogs have invigorated the exchange of ideas within librarianship and have enabled academics to connect with a larger general readership for their insight and expertise.

What was very interesting was that being an article that discusses scholarly blogging it did not include one reference from a blog. If blogs are to be recognized as scholarly contributions, then they should also be viewed as such.

See also:

The “voice” of academic librarianship Sphere: Related Content


library2.0 said...

Cheers Eric, I certainly feel bloggingis rarely assists when you tell employers you blog. Its certainly seen more as a self indulgence. Great article though.

Dale A said...

As a professional librarian who blogs, I tend to agree that they should be considered relevant for tenure/promotion decisions. The definition you present here for scholarship, however, makes me wonder if the right word to describe many library blogs (my own explicitly included) is scholarly when I think professional might be a better term. Blogs contribute to professional discourse, and help spread/promote ideas, even when the content per se is not scholarly even by a broader definition of the term that lacks the research component.

Eric Schnell said...

Webster's defines "scholar" as "one who as attended an advanced study in a special field." It defines "scholarship as the "..activities, or attainments of a scholar."

Therefore, the blogging activities those with an advanced degree in library and information science are, by definition, scholarly.

As with traditional publications, the question should be what contribution does the blog content make and what are the quality indicators. Head over to Science Blogs for some excellent examples of quality "scholarly blogging."

The problem I have is that committees are too quick to dismiss blogging as self indulgence without doing any due diligence or quality assessment.