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Tape recorder. Interview. Action!

The data collection is, so far, going quite well. I haven’t had any major surprises or eureka moments, but I am seeing the need for wiggle room within my initial proposal. Thus, I am glad and thankful that this is action research. There are two main things I’ve realized need some room to evolve and expand. First, I want to interview more people than previously planned. Second, I want to give those being interviewed time to say what’s on their minds instead of adhering strictly to my interview questions.
I have been very conscious about making my participants feel totally as ease during observations and interviews. Thankfully, I think I naturally have a disarming demeanor, and I believe this lends itself to getting the most out of interviews. By trying to set a relaxed tone, I have gathered what I believe to be some of my most valuable information. I feel very fortunate to have an old hand-held recorder. This little piece of equipment has proved itself invaluable. I attempted my first interview without it, and I know within the first couple of minutes that I couldn’t possibly correctly transcribe and/or thoroughly capture the content of what the participant was saying or the tone they were using to say it. Also, if I’m trying to write down what the participant is saying, I can’t engage the process as fully and be as present as I wish to be. The recorder has not only provide me with a physical and precise record, but it has (and will continue to) allow me the opportunity to listen to the interviews multiple times and therefore allow for a deeper reflection and understanding on my end.
After interviewing four people, three of them suggested I interview the library director. It seems only right that I explore this option. Perhaps the rules he is implementing (taking away comfortable furniture, for example) is not necessarily the strategy the librarians and employees who are actually working face to face with the patrons would take. Even though my focus is on the librarians and other employees’ relationship with the homeless patronage, I think it may serve my study to interview the director. Knowing and analyzing the hierarchy of the library staff could help clarify motives and actions of the staff. Is it possible they interact with the homeless patronage in a way they “have” to instead of “want” to?
In one of the interviews I even sensed some animosity towards the director. Over the course of my interview with Natasha, it became quite clear that she does not agree with the policies the library director implements or the actions he takes in dealing with the homeless patronage. She believes that he is out of touch with what the actual needs of the library are and how best to fulfill those needs. Natasha believes the director has a very narrow focus and bases his decisions on what will ensure funding for the library. She wishes he, instead, was motivated by what is actually best for the library community as a whole. Natasha voiced that relations between staff and homeless patrons could be more proactive and growth full if the director were more concerned with the people of the library instead of the money to fund it. Natasha’s has been the most direct and critical voice in the interviews I have conducted so far. She believes there are problems with the library’s relationship with its homeless patronage, but it has been instigated by decisions made by the library director; not with the patronage or librarian and staff that most frequently interact with them.
Another illuminating interview, in a completely different way, was with Mary. Mary conveyed deep empathy for Wolfe’s homeless patronage. As an employee in Circulation Services, she does everything she can to ensure that the homeless patronage is treated with respect and dignity when they are in the library and using the library’s services. She told me that interacting with and serving the homeless patrons is one of the most rewarding parts of her job. Her empathy and support of the city’s homeless population doesn’t end when she leaves work. She volunteers at the homeless shelter downtown. It was really interesting to hear her perspective on the various issues we discussed, and witnessing her emotional and heartfelt reaction to them was inspiring. I can foresee that Mary’s participation is going to add a lot of depth and heart to this study.
Overall, data collection is proving to be illuminating and productive. An added bonus is that I’m getting to know my coworkers better. It’s really great because although I’ve worked in the library for 9 months, I’ve only been in a position to nurture work relationships for a few weeks due to my new position in Circulation Services.
Throughout this process, I’m trying to stay positive and embrace the true meaning of action research. Things can evolve, focus may shift, and new avenues will be explored. Even though the study isn’t going in the exact direction that I thought it would, I am trying to let the data guide me instead of vice versa. I feel immersed in the study in a lot of ways, and that feels like a positive thing.
Lyme Kedic


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Comments (14)

John Harrington:

Looks really good, Lyme, and it's good that you recognize early the need to tweak your question and approach a little bit, and the director will offer a needed side of the issue that the librarians can't provide. "Learning" and adjusting from your interview findings is, in my opinion, one sign that you are conducting good interviews. The descriptions ofthe two women and their arguments was very interesting and detailed, and the content seems to indicate that you will have a lot of good data to analyze from all sides.-John H

Amanda Ogle:

Lyme, sounds like you have been busy! I think it's really interesting the two perspective you mentioned - different and yet similar. Have you been able to make any progress with interviewing the director? It sounds like he could potentially be difficult to get an audience with, but as John mentioned would provide a different perspective than the librarians - perhaps even the rationale behind his decisions? Sounds like good stuff so far!

Jeff Kitchen:

You seem to have a very interesting and thought provoking research study in place, in fact it sounds a lot like the sort of research that should have been undertaken before some of the policies you mentioned were implemented. I also think it is very important that you recognized the "want to vs. have to". It is sometimes easy to see the limits of our own authority, but more difficult to recognize that someone like the library director is not really all-powerful and in fact might be responding to some other authority. I think you are tackling a very interesting issue and it sounds like you have really worked to collect a good balance of research.

Sherry Fender:

First off, good going on the new position! I haven't really talked to you much so I didn't know. Congrats! Back to business... Sounds like your interviews are running smoothly. I assume that you have asked each participant the same questions. When/if you get to interview the director, will you ask him the same questions? Good luck to you.

Kate Whyte:

Lyme, you've taken on a pretty tough subject but I think you're doing it in a way that really gets to the heart of the matter. You're not just getting one side of the story or the other, you seem to be getting all sides and I think that gives your research even more validity than it had to begin with. And if you're able to get the library director to participate, you'll round out the picture even more. I hope you're able to pull that off. I can tell that you're really interested in what you're doing and because of that, I'm sure you'll turn out a great project. Good job!

Alecia Jackson:

What a beautifully thoughtful post! I enjoyed reading how you weave in and out of the data and your own reflections on yourself as a researcher. You have a good handle on what you are doing, and I'm glad you are letting your project unfold and evolve with the data. :)

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