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Theory Feeds My Soul

I’m sitting here hunting for articles in hopes of creating a little literature review for myself on a topic I’ll be presenting on next week, and I’m cursing the practicality of my profession. Everyone’s writing “how to help students avoid plagiarism by teaching the proper mechanics” articles. But what I need is “why are the mechanics the way they are” articles. We’re To Practical, I Tell You!!!

In library school I got frustrated with those classmates who complained about my favorite class because “there’s nothing practical there.” At conferences, I don’t participate in the “I hope there’s some good practical stuff here” conversations that happen before the sessions.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the practical. I live it. I get frustrated if there’s no practical connection or grounding when ideas get bandied about. But the theory and philosophy that forms the foundation of what I do, that is what feeds my soul, sparks my imagination, helps me judge the merits of practicalities, and helps me mold other people’s practicalities to my situation.

Maybe it’s the English major in me, I don’t know, but I feel starved for some well-thought-out theoretical research with a healthy mix of evidence (not all of which needs to come from practice), deep thinking, and logical reasoning. I look to blogs for my “how-to” needs, project reports, and increasingly for the philosophical musings that I would expect from journal articles. But our peer reviewed literature should be the strong-hold of our deepest thinking.

Published inRandom Thoughts


  1. Colleen Colleen

    Mmm, theory. I miss it. My first stint in grad school was for polisci, and I was a huge theory hound. I think this is one of the reasons our literature as a discipline is so weak. We’re getting slightly better on the numbers-crunching side and quant and qual analysis, but I’d really love to see some deeper theory work going on. What I see is us stealing vague statements out of education theory and then scrambling to create practical applications in libraries.

    Do you think this is the result of the MLS being our terminal degree, as opposed to the PhD? Despite the MLS being terminal, I don’t know that it’s intended to generate knowledge producers, since it’s a professional degree. On the other hand, other fields have well-entrenched long standing PhD traditions that lead them to have a deeper and more well-developed theory base for their practice.

    Let’s catch a drink and be nerdy together sometime. We will develop some theory!

  2. Iris Iris

    I think that’s a really good point about the MLS being our terminal degree. I hadn’t thought about that, but it makes perfect sense.

    So… we need to think up some theory together, eh? Can’t be too hard… ;)

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