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SMCM Library Ethnography Project

The DIY approach

Questions to consider when embarking on a DIY ethnographic study:

Are there groups you can partner with at your institution?

Sociology and Anthropology departments are a natural place to look for on-campus partners. At SMCM, we were able to work with an Anthropology class interested leading the research while we acted as the client.

Who will be on the research team?

Method design and data collection can become a labor intensive process. Recruiting team member from inside (and outside) the library can allow you to gather richer and more varied types of data in a reasonable amount of time. Though the library is the "client" in the study, the SMCM librarians assisted in the spacial mapping and instantaneous behavioral sampling data collection during the mornings and early afternoons when the student researchers were likely to be in class and unable to consistently collect data.

How much time can you or your team commit to data collection/entry/analysis?

The rich data collection methods used in ethnographic research also mean that it is a fairly time consuming project. Data collection can last for weeks, months, (even years!) and entering and coding qualitative data for analysis can also be a time consuming process.

Working with students

Working with student researchers in a great opportunity for both the students and the library, but some aspects can make collaborating with students challenging.

A few things we encountered working with student researchers:

Working with student schedules

The many different class and work schedules of the student researchers made scheduling meetings with the librarian clients and data collection tricky, occasionally resulting in missed data collecting opportunities.

Missing and misplaced data

Data management and entry during the spacial mapping and instantaneous behavior sampling  was not well managed.

Commitment to the project

Varying levels of student commitment to the project resulted in participation drop-off after the fall semester, and unclear timelines when it came to recruiting participants for focus groups and research logbooks.

From course credit to paycheck

As our project extended past the Fall semester, some students expressed interested in money instead of credit to continue working on the project in the Spring.