Below is the text from a poster presentation that I delivered at the Canadian Library Association 2012 National Conference and Trade Show, May 30-June 2, 2012 in Ottawa. An image of the poster itself is above.
Think tanks are in the business of creating innovative ideas to address policy issues, which are disseminated through timely, well-researched publications made available for free or at a nominal cost. In 2007, L. DeLong published “Do think tanks matter to libraries?” which revealed “if not surprising, rather unsettling” results of the absence of this literature in Canadian library collections. The study drew on public and academic libraries across Canada and identified that only 31% of the publications sampled were available. As think tanks produce highly relevant literature to many academic disciplines, the disparities in visibility and inclusion in Canadian research libraries are worth re-visiting.
Objectives and Purpose:
- To determine if think tank research, rich in policy-relevant academic study, is being included in academic library collections.
- Update and contribute to DeLongʼs 2007 study: is the relative absence of think tank literature still a problem? What has changed?
- To identify if library research guides include information on think tanks.
- Six Canadian think tanks were chosen, ranging in area of focus (environment, economics, social issues, and international politics), and political lean (conservative-right, non-partisan, liberal-left). The organizations chosen were:
- C.D. Howe Institute
- Caledon Institute of Social Policy
- Conference Board of Canada
- Fraser Institute
- Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP)
- Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development
- Four publications were selected from each organization to be used as a sample for the study. Each at least 5 months old, substantial in length, and free. These publications were searched in the OPAC of eight large Canadian academic libraries, from Nova Scotia to British Columbia:
- Dalhousie University
- University of New Brunswick
- McGill University
- University of Ottawa
- University of Manitoba
- University of Saskatchewan
- University of Alberta
- Simon Fraser University
- Subject guides were also consulted for the mention of think tanks and their activities.
Findings and outcomes:
- The availability of the 24 publications differed greatly by library, however, this study found that since 2007 there has been an overall increase in the availability of think tank literature in Canadian academic library collections.
- From the sample of 24 publications searched in the 8 library OPACs, only 99 were available out of a possible 192. Therefore 52% of the publications sampled in this study were available in library catalogues across Canada.
- 5 of the 8 libraries maintained research guides that list Canadian think tanks, their activities, and resources.
What has changed since 2007? The increase in availability from 31% to 52% is
worth noting, as well as the inclusion of think tanks within research guides. Consortium agreements among libraries, the expansion of electronic documents, and the advent of WorldCat OPAC systems at many academic libraries have also assisted with the visibility and access of think tank publications and other grey literature in Canadian academic libraries.
- DeLong, L. “Do think tanks matter to libraries? Assessing the availability of Canadian think tanks publications in Canadian libraries and databases.” The Serials Librarian, Vol. 5 (3/4), 2007: 157-164.
- Moon, J. “Microlog and the ʻCanadian Public Policy Collectionʼ – A comparison.” Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2011: 1-13.
- Tompkins, E. “Think tanks and public policy research institutes: An annotated bibliography.” Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, Vol. 26, No. 2, 2007: 11-27.
- Umbach, K. “Think tanks on the web as a curriculum resource.” Knowledge Quest, Vol. 32, No. 5, May/June, 2004: 44-45.