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Sample 4 Demonstrating Research

Digital Creation Spaces Survey

Description: For the class “Academic Libraries” I designed my own course products in a learning contract with Dr. Solomon. I became intrigued by Dr. David Lankes’ concept of a library as a space to “facilitate knowledge creation” and decided to focus my research on “spaces for digital creation” in academic libraries. For my first project, a case study, I travelled to Clemson University and interviewed six stakeholders involved in the creation of the new Adobe Digital Digital Studio in the R.M. Cooper library. For my second project, I wanted to examine other end of the spectrum, the small college library, and try a more quantitative research approach. I designed and administered a survey for library directors to answer the research question “Do small academic libraries in South Carolina offer digital creation spaces? If so what are the attributes of those spaces?”

Survey of Spaces for Digital Creation in Small SC Libraries (ZIP)

Analysis: I used NCES data to pull a sixteen-college sampling and then set out to achieve a 100% response rate, which I did. My basic takeaway was that there is only one four-year college in SC with a student population of less than 2,000 that has a dedicated space for digital creation in their library. That is Presbyterian College in Clinton. However I am not 100% confident in this finding due to the potential for different interpretations of my central survey question.

To be candid, my learning goals were less about the subject matter and more pragmatic in nature: 1. I wanted to learn how to delegate parts of a research project. 2. I wanted to gain experience hiring and working with research assistants using the online freelance marketplace Elance. With Professor Solomon’s blessing, I did just that and learned a ton, not only about the nature of hiring and delegation, but many unexpected and useful things about survey design that I would not have learned had I not spent about $60 to hire a seasoned marketing professional. And 3. I wanted to prove to myself that I could bite off a tiny chunk of a nebulous problem and carry it through to closure in two weeks. I did that.

The weaknesses of this project were numerous, but so were the things I learned because I took so many risks. Perhaps the biggest weakness and lesson learned was that in survey design, having clear questions and definitions that are easily and consistently understood is key to retrieving reliable data. While I thought I could get quantifiable results through yes/no answers, I didn’t take into account that if not everyone agrees on what is and what isn’t a “space for digital creation,” their yeses and nos can actually mean different things. If I revisit this research topic I will design a more open-ended pilot study to help me assess the participants’ understanding and naming of the concepts first.

Reflection: Given my personal history as a learner, the fact that I scoped the project down small enough and completed it with a 100% rate of response on my own deadline is success. Learning to call the shots on what is “good enough,” to not follow all the rabbit trails of curiosity but just “get it done,” was both a painful and valuable lesson. Because I had a “team” to delegate to, I learned to break down the components of a research project, carefully define tasks, and thoroughly explain them. This will be valuable to me in the future as a manager and as a researcher. I also learned the value of hiring experienced professionals - next time I need a survey it’s quite likely I will work with a consultant to collaborate in its design - possibly even the freelancer I met. It’s important to recognize where your strengths are not, and know who to turn to to fill the gap. I learned a lot about using Elance, which will be valuable as I plan to use this platform more in the future.