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Competency L:
Demonstrate understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods, the ability to design a research project, and the ability to evaluate and synthesize research literature.

Seeing Research as a Storyteller Does

Section 1 of 4:

An Introduction to What Competency L Means to Me and to Library and Information Science

Definitions and Background Knowledge:

          Quantitative research: “is data that can either be counted or compared on a numeric scale” (Dewitt Wallace Library, 2021, section 1).

               Applicability to a specific environment: “Quantitative research allows librarians to learn more about the demographics of a population, measure how many patrons use a service or product, examine attitudes and behaviors, document trends, or explain what is known anecdotally…Findings generated from quantitative research uncover behaviors and trends” (Goertzen, 2017, p. 12).

          Qualitative research: “describes qualities or characteristics. It is collected using questionnaires, interviews, or observation, and frequently appears in narrative form” (Dewitt Wallace Library, 2021, section 1).

               Applicability to a specific environment: “qualitative research, in its exploration of assumptions, value, and opinion, makes possible a deeper understanding of the subtleties of user interaction with library services and collections” (Cook & Farmer, 2011, Description section).

          Primary research: uses “original document/image, the results of an experiment, statistical data, first-hand account, or creative work” (Davenport University Libraries, 2021, section 1).

          Secondary research: uses “something written about or using primary sources” (Davenport University Libraries, 2021, section 1).


Why Competency L is Important to Me as a Professional:

          I have been interested in and fascinated by quantitative and qualitative research methods since I was a child. This may not seem like a normal childhood interest but I was raised by a professor. She would talk about quantitative research a lot. When I was in elementary school, she was completing her Master’s degree. This was long before the age of home computers or extensive typing knowledge being present in the general public. While she was completing her thesis, we would often go to “The Typist”. The Typist was an elderly man with a typewriter and a home office full of stacks of crumbling newspapers, piles and piles of ancient thesis copies, and several old, worn, red-vinyl covered chairs in his living room/waiting area. We would sit in these plasticky chairs for hours and hours on the weekends as he typed my mother’s thesis (this was the only way she could access creating typed material at the time). I was fascinated by the perceived oddness of everything happening around me: the old man and his coke-bottle classes, a dying cigarette always hanging from his mouth, the piles of reading material not meant for me (and obviously thus increasing their appeal), the constant sound of the typewriter clacking away, and the advanced (and therefor mysterious) content of my mother’s thesis. I soaked it all in. I started to think about the world around me in terms of research: stories vs. numbers.

          I’ve been an avid fiction-reader since the age of 3. I had read everything in my school’s library by the 5th grade. I spent most of my free time in the public library. The first time my equally nerdy friends and I ever snuck into a bar, as soon as we got inside, I froze, petrified, as I recognized the older brother of a class mate who was drinking at the bar. We'd ridden the school bus together for 10 years. He turned around, obviously in possession of some kind of "nerd-detector sixth sense" and recognized me immediately. Staggering off of his barstool, he pointed at me and yelled out across the bar, "HOLY SHIT! You're the girl with all of the Accelerated Reader points!" And Reader, it was true. I was The Girl With All of the Accelerated Reader Points. Dear Reader, any misguided ambitions that I may have harbored in my little teenage heart for Attaining Coolness With My Friends died in that unexpectedly bookish moment. I just wished I could melt into an embarrassed pile of book pages on the floor and slither away as the man began reciting the obnoxious amount of Accelerated Reader points that I had attained at school. But it was true. I was absolutely ravenous for stories: from my parents, grandparents, teachers, neighbors...anyone I could get to slow down long enough to tell me stories about themselves and their lives. I was insatiable. 

          The research bug was likely confirmed however, when I took an undergraduate course in Ethnography in 2007. Up until that moment, my favorite undergraduate course had been “Folklore and Fairytales” (if you can imagine that). Now, a new and exciting door had been opened to me. The very concept of “ethnography” meant to use research to tell stories. I was hooked. I’d always been a B- student. I did enough work to get by, but I was generally interested in different things than school content. I completed an ethnography project as a research paper that semester. It was the first 100% A+ I had ever received on any project of note. It turns out I was good at telling stories with my research. 

          As I have evolved as a person, I have become disenchanted with the concept of ethnography, approaching it with a very wary demeanor. The discipline’s founding texts and researchers largely practiced from a place of privileged whiteness, imparting colonizer mentalities as infallible science. I have also grown to appreciate the cold, hard, numbers of quantitative research. These numbers are facts, they are harder to argue with or misinterpret. I appreciate the solid information they convey and the many ways they can be used to support a project. I have also learned that very interesting stories can be told with numbers and statistics. 


Why Competency L is Important to the Profession as a Whole:

          Understanding the myriad and unique ways that information professionals can utilize qualitative and quantitative research to support projects, endeavors, and causes allows the profession to provide highly effective and relevant solutions. Information professionals are leaders at constantly adapting our services to ever-changing and shifting needs and requests. Being able to assess what type of research will best provide a solution in specific scenarios, and to then apply that research to create resources, requires high level skills. Excelling in these skills makes information professionals one of the most relevant purveyors of solutions and information available today.


What Excellence in Competency L Looks Like to Me:

          When I see information professionals who demonstrate excellence in Competency L, I see librarians redoing their children’s departments to be more inclusive, supportive, and welcoming to historically marginalized groups. I see them doing this by recognizing a problem (such as collections, organization styles, programming, and library spaces that are white-centric, ableist, and straight facing). I see librarians determining the best research approach when creating a proposal to fix these issues (qualitative stories of patrons, qualitative information from libraries facing similar dilemmas, and quantitative information on the demographics of collections and accessibility of library space, as well as usage statistics), conducting and presenting the research in a way the considers their audience (library management and administration), considering budgetary limitations, and including available grants and grant proposals. 


Section 2 of 4: 

The Discussion of My Evidence


Evidence A:

          As my “Evidence A”, I am presenting a data analysis that I designed, created, and completed. It is titled, “The 2020 Presidential Election: Patriarchy, Misogyny, Psychopaths, and White Women”. 

How and Why I Created Evidence A:

          In my “Information 285: Applied Research Methods” course, I was tasked with using raw data to design a data analysis that interpreted a set of data in a way that supported an argument. 

The Process of Creating Evidence A:

          This assignment was given to me in November of 2020, when the presidential election in the U.S. was wrapping up. I chose to use this assignment to tell a story with numbers. I had been feeling lost, watching as my rights as a queer person, my rights as a genderqueer person, and my rights as a womxn were attacked and debated again and again over the previous four years. I was struggling with how to articulate, or give voice to, the damage I was witnessing take place due to the trump campaign’s constant human rights violations (CAP, 2016). 

       Instead of finding an existing data set that had been compiled and organized by other parties, I chose to source each item in my data set individually and to design a unique story that I wanted to examine and present. I sourced all of my information extensively and researched each source for reliability. I provide three entire pages of vetted references to support my work. I was extremely careful and meticulous about sourcing my statements, as part of the reason I had been feeling so lost was that I did not understand why everyone did not see what I saw; why I was always having to make an argument for the case of treating others with respect and dignity. If someone wanted to argue with my data analysis, they could argue with the numbers and the sources, not with me.

          In Evidence A, I chose to put my set of data (sourced statistics) at the very beginning. I then chose to present my evaluative and diagnostic related information: definitions, strengths, assumptions, and limitations of my data set and of my analysis. Next, I chose to create a heavily sourced section that analyses the individual items of the data set and weaves them together into a story. I also explain in Evidence A why I chose to focus on these issues, numbers, and content. Evidence A also explains what I hope to gain by designing my data analysis in this way, and possible potential applications of the data set and discussion that I have created.

Why I Chose to Feature Evidence A and How Evidence A Shows Competency:

          My data analysis is quantitative research being used to support an argument, and to tell a story. Using quantitative research and frameworks to approach these issues allowed me to better examine the facts I present in the analysis. I felt that my own experiences, perspectives, and existence (my qualitative data) would be easier for those who disagreed to argue with, try to tear down, and debate. After experiencing that in a variety of environments already, I had no desire to invite further devaluation of my existence with this project. 

          I designed a research project for myself with this assignment. Being able to examine this content through my coursework provided me with a helpful framework to use in addressing my own unease and anxiety. I refrained from relying on excessive narrative. Instead, I created a data set of numbers and statistics. 

          My research is secondary research. I did not create these statistics. I did not send out surveys or accumulate responses of any kind. I did not perform any experiments. I did take existing sources (primary sources) and combine them together in a unique way to tell a story different from the one each data item had told on its own. 

          Evidence A also only provided analysis on the items in the data set I created. In Evidence A, I made sure to state that If I were going to do a more thorough examination, I would need more statistics and data from years before the Trump administration. I would also want to provide more background and sources on the historical racism and sexism America was built on and has woven throughout its core. This shows my commitment to analyzing in an ethical manner, and also my knowledge of what is needed for more accurate research to be designed.    

Evidence B:

          As my “Evidence B”, I am presenting a website that I created, “Diversifying the Library Sciences”.


How and Why I Created Evidence B:

          For my “Information 230: Issues in Academic Libraries” course, I was tasked with creating a presentation or teaching demonstration about a relevant and timely topic, tied to a specific job posting.


The Process of Creating Evidence B:

          Evidence B provided me with a chance to push myself out of my comfort zone. As much as using quantitative research benefited Evidence A, Evidence B was a project that I knew I could make shine but I would need to use qualitative research methods. I am historically very reticent about sharing personal information about myself with those I do not know. I value my privacy. I am also very cognizant of issues regarding safety and protecting personal information online.

          Yet as I have moved through this MLIS course, I have become more aware of the value my own qualitative experiences and knowledge base holds. I therefore chose to create Evidence B using a qualitative, primary, approach and to not look back. I have focused most of my work and research in this MLIS program on how libraries can help dismantle systems of oppression. I knew Evidence B was going to be no exception. The vast majority of my focus in issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion has focused on groups I do not belong to but that much of my family, friends, and coworkers have: Black and Indegenous People of Color, Muslims, Pakistanis, People of Color, those dependent on mobility devices, trans peoples...the list goes on. Since I was a kid, I have always found that it comes more naturally to me to stick up for my friends than for myself. Advocating for myself is hard. I most definitely do, but not as much or as easily as I advocate for others. I decided to change that with Evidence B.

          I chose the topic of diversifying the library sciences after working in many library systems where diversity among staff was lacking, and after being exposed to countless materials in my courses lamenting the majority white and non-diverse status of library staff in the U.S. I created Evidence B to argue my case for why diversifying the library sciences is so important. 

          I open Evidence B with a video of myself providing a very frank and open discussion on why this issue is important to me personally. I discuss some of my overall experiences of working as a queer person, a genderqueer person, and a womxn in enviornments that were not supportive of these identities. In Evidence B, I provide my overall “mission statement” next to the video, as well as interesting related media content and examination below the video. I then chose to create the following sections of Evidence B, all of which feature work I have done (both academically and personally) that support my argument. These sections are: Home (top of page/video), Example (the job posting for a diversity resident), Academic Work (with explanations and links to some of my relevant projects and papers), Websites Created (with information about and links to many of the sites I have built regarding diversity issues), and Activism Work (which provides, photos, information, and links to work I have done fighting for issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion). 

Why I Chose to Feature Evidence B and How Evidence B Shows Competency:

          Evidence B allowed me to retrieve, evaluate, and synthesize two years of my own academic work and research, as well as previous experiences I have had working in libraries and in doing activism work. Many of the selections I included in the “Academic Work” section of Evidence B include literature reviews which I have completed, providing additional scholarly support to Evidence B from the academic literature. I was able to incorporate relevant and useful information and artifacts into all sections of Evidence B after mining my academic projects and life experiences.  

         After synthesizing on my own qualitative experiences and data, the artifacts I created based on those (such as my introductory video recounting my experiences and the website that is Evidence B) could be considered primary sources/primary research. These artifacts that I created are creative works and first hand accounts. Evidence B highlights my understanding of the subject matter, ability to ascertain the best research approach for a circumstance, and my ability to mine through sources and research to select only the most appropriate and supportive items for a situation.

Section 3 of 4: 

How Creating the Evidence Helped Me Gain Expertise in Competency L


How Creating Evidence A Helped Me Gain Competency in the Area of  L:

          Evidence A was my first real experience with telling a story through statistics. I found comfort in the formatting: creating and sourcing my data set, placing it first in the deliverable, making specific sections to address assumptions, definitions, strengths, limitations, and weaknesses. My analysis simply wove all of these facts into the story they presented. I very much enjoyed the straightforwardness of this approach. In a time where everything felt murky and heavy to me, these numbers, formatting strategies, and quantitative analysis felt clear and straightforward. Learning to create quantitative stories was an extremely useful experience for me and I hope to do more data analysis in the future.


How Creating Evidence A Changed My Way of Thinking on Competency  L:

          Creating Evidence A was the first time I had ever designed a data analysis. For someone with a strong penchant for creative writing and fiction, I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed what using a strict, quantitative, framework allowed me to create. I also appreciated how the data analysis provided me with an academic distance from which to examine the subject matter at hand, thus helping me to better process my own experiences as someone being targeted, dehumanized, and legislated against. I have always loved research and stories, and to me, that has historically meant a qualitative approach. Creating Evidence A taught me that there is an entirely different realm of storytelling technique available to me. I also find that quantitative, secondary, research is an excellent method to examine issues that one maybe feels too close to, or that they need some distance from to be able to address them effectively. 


How Creating Evidence B Helped Me Gain Competency in the Area of  L:

          Creating Evidence B helped me to expand my own perception of what qualitative research can be used for. Before starting on Evidence B, I felt that qualitative research was more of a way for me to mine, collect, organize, and present other peoples’ stories (and to be sure, it definitely can be). Creating Evidence B allowed me to experiment with applying those same research methodologies to my own stories. Designing a research project around my own work in equity, diversity, and inclusion, helped me to further hone my ability to evaluate and synthesize research. Creating Evidence B also helped me think about how to present and organize the different sections and content in order to make the most impact on the viewer.


How Creating Evidence B Changed My Way of Thinking on Competency  L:

          Evidence B was especially interesting to me because it allowed me to approach my own experiences and body of work from a qualitative, primary, approach. I was able to go through file folder after file folder, examining my assignments from the entire graduate program under the lens of “let me show you the research and projects I have completed about diversifying the library sciences”. There was almost too much material to choose from and many items did not make the cut to be included in Evidence B. I was also able to find evidence of my activism work to include: photos of me being a guest speaker, links to resources I had created for medical and social work professionals as well as for law enforcement. I had not thought to approach my own life as research, as evidence. When I did, I had academic papers, presentations, assignments, website after website I had designed and created, videos and pictures of myself pleading my case for diversity, equity, and inclusion related issues, and so much more. I realized that I had so many stories to tell and that qualitative, primary, approaches allowed me to organize research to support my stories. 


Coursework That Has Prepared Me for Competency L:

          In my “Information 285: Applied Research Methods” course, I evaluated and synthesized the literature to complete a scholarly literature review on how libraries are addressing racism. I also completed a critical article review analyzing the complex issue of a librarian’s duty to both their profession and their community when it comes to providing unbiased recommendations, especially when the information being sought could contribute to oppressive views. Using quantitative and qualitative research methods, as well as consulting the literature and effective practices elsewhere, I also created a proposal to address what can be done in public library programming and practices to effectively support marginalized patrons in the ongoing societal pursuit for racial, gender-based, and sexual orientation-based equity.

          In my “Information 200: Information Communities” course, I used qualitative, quantitative, primary, and secondary research to write a research paper about the information needs and behaviors of hikers. I completed a detailed literature review matrix to evaluate, organize, and collect my sources and approach when writing a literature review. I completed a book review and reflective essay on The Art of Relevance by Nina Simon, which communicates that relevance is not what is important to the presenters to the community members that the institution wants to bring into its doors: what those around the institution in question are interested in and want to be a part of. This is always important to remember when conducting research: making it relevant and accessible to the intended audience. 

          In my “Information 263: Materials for Children” course, I synthesized research to create a study on equity, diversity, inclusion, and white privilege in children's books. While I present quantitative and secondary information throughout the study, I present it in a very accessible and user friendly format. I also included a very qualitative, primary-sourced, section of reflection on the subject matter. In my “Information 269: Early Childhood Literacy” course, I am currently conducting research and synthesizing the literature to design an Early Childhood Literacy Program for public libraries. 

How I Have Changed From the Person I Was Before These Courses, to the Person After, to the Person I Am Now:

          Before I took these courses and completed these projects, I had a working and enjoyable knowledge of quantitative and qualitative research, but I understood them largely through the lens of how research could help me tell a story. After completing these courses and projects, my view of research methodologies has expanded significantly. I now see not only ways to mine for story information, but new ways and formats in which to actually tell the stories. It has been like a lake diver being introduced to the deep sea: new ways to approach a concept. I now see the benefit of telling some stories through quantitative data: seemingly dry statistics that when paired correctly with other statistics can tell a more convincing story than any clever narrator ever could. I also see the benefit of acknowledging and valuing my own experiences and work: just because I am the storyteller does not mean that my own story has to be exempt from the narrative. 


What I Have Learned:

          I have learned how to tell airtight stories through sets of quantitative, secondary, data. I learned how to do this by completing a data analysis. This was an entirely new skill for me and I now value it deeply. I learned how to present data sets so that the story practically wrote itself. I was just an old-fashioned phone operator, connecting the call through my analysis. 

          I have learned that I can use both quantitative and qualitative research to support an idea. It  does not have to be one or the other, and the most appropriate research method (or combination of methods) will always be case specific. I learned this when completing my equity, diversity, inclusion, and white privilege in children's books study. I present sourced statistics throughout the entire study, but my own lived experiences and self reflection provide important context, transparency, and support to the work as a whole. I have learned that my stories have value and are supported by the scholarly work I have done. I learned this through creating Evidence B and realizing that I had strong themes in my own life and work that brought greater meaning to my academic and professional pursuits.  


Section 4 of 4: 

How the Knowledge I Have Gained Will Influence Me in the Future, as an Information Professional


What I Bring to the Position, in Terms of Competency  L:

          I bring with me the ability to craft relevant and timely stories using quantitative research methods, qualitative research methods, and combinations of the two. I bring the ability to determine which research methods are appropriate and best suited for specific research projects. I bring the skills to locate and assess reliable primary and secondary sources and research. I bring the ability to ascertain the best way to tell a particular story. I bring with me a comprehensive knowledge of research project design, as well as the ability to evaluate and synthesize research literature. I also bring high-level deliverable creation skills. I bring a deep understanding of the importance of accessible, relevant, and appropriate modes of presentation for the research results. I understand that the research only achieves meaning if it can be accessed, understood, and utilized by the desired audience, making my professional-level deliverable creation skills a very valuable asset. 

How My Learning in Competency L Will Contribute to My Professional Competence in the Future:

          I am a highly skilled and outstanding researcher because I can assess research needs, evaluate the most effective research methodology and technique, apply determined research practices, adapt my approach to new and changing needs and results, and present my findings in accessible, organized, interesting, professional, and appropriate formats. I have learned these skills through a lifetime of being fascinated by storytelling, undergraduate work combining storytelling and academic research methods, and through creating a graduate level data analysis and a website devoted to diversifying the library sciences. Creating a data analysis taught me to tell stories with existing, numerical, facts. Creating the diversity website taught me to evaluate, measure, and value the depth and meaning that qualitative stories can bring to research. My understanding of research methods, ability to design research projects, and my ability to evaluate and synthesize research literature (including my ability to determine the best presentation style for individual projects and to create professional-grade deliverables) make me an excellent fit for research positions.


CAP Action. (2016, March 1). Donald Trump’s hate timeline. Medium.

Cook, D. & Farmer, L. S. J. (2011). Using qualitative methods in action research: How librarians can get to the why of data. ACRL.

Davenport University Libraries. (2021, October 1). How to research guide. LibGuides.

Dewitt Wallace Library. (2021, March 9). Data module #1: What is research data? LibGuide.

Goertzen, M. J. (2017). Introduction to Quantitative Research and Data.(Chapter 3). Library Technology Reports, 53(4), 12–18.

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