For the past year I have been working on a research project to understand the information needs of dance faculty in higher education, thanks in part to a research grant from the ALAO Research and Publications Committee and the support of two librarians, Alan Green at The Ohio State University and Sara MacDonald at The University of the Arts.
The academic discipline of dance has a relatively short history. Dance was first accepted in higher education through an association with physical education. Eventually the discipline became aligned with the arts, particularly music and theatre. Given the brief history of dance as an academic endeavor, there is a corresponding lack of information about dancers and their research needs. In the past thirty years, dance departments have moved away from being tangential to developing into independent, research-based programs. Academic libraries must support the performance, research, and pedagogy of these programs.
Dance is a multidisciplinary and multicultural practice. I interviewed twelve dance faculty members from three universities. While not able to be generalized, interview data from this diverse group of practitioners will provide a glimpse into the research behaviors of dance scholars in higher education. Their information needs and library use are not widely known, particularly in regard to issues of access to historical materials and new technology preferences.
The only formal study into the information needs of dancers is a 1996 master’s thesis by Kent State University student Dawn M. Grattino. She surveyed 70 dance professionals living in Ohio about their information-seeking habits and library use. Providing an updated data set on dancers’ use of the Internet and other technology will be paramount to my investigation. Additionally, there are few research projects about the information needs of performing artists in general. Joe Clark, head of the Performing Arts Library at Kent State University, recently investigated the format preferences (print vs. electronic) of performing arts students. His research provides a foundation for my own analysis of dance faculty information needs.
I hope this research will be of value to librarians as they determine collection development practices and user services for their particular dance and performing arts programs. Because many librarians charged with liaison responsibilities to dance departments do not have backgrounds in dance (like myself), the results of the research will enable them to keep current on dancers’ information needs and desired services.
At this point, I have finished the interview transcriptions and I wanted to share a resource list. These are sources – organizations, journals, websites, and tools – that were mentioned by at least one dance faculty. It’s a preliminary glimpse into the research practices of this diverse group and a quick way for other dance librarians to check their collections and knowledge-base.
Clark, Joe C. “Format Preferences of Performing Arts Students.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39 (2013): 297-307.
Grattino, Dawn M. A Survey of the Information-Seeking Practices of Dance Professionals in Ohio. MLS thesis. Kent State University, 1996.
particularly Dancing in the Light
publishes Dance Research Journal
and the work of Irmgard Bartenieff
publishes Performance Journal
side note: This is the best conference I’ve ever attended!
publishes Dance Research
other journals and publications/productions
particularly The VideoDance Project
You might be wondering why Dance Magazine isn’t on this list. One artist mentioned it and I believe she made explicit other faculty members’ thoughts when she said, “if I could get it for free, I would probably look at it when I’m in the bathroom.” (I plan on working this quote into my final publication.)
Faculty that use this (contemporary/postmodern) love it, though wish there were more performances. They aren’t clear on two things: that ontheboards is continuing to grow (it started in 2010) and that it is subscription.
I asked specifically about Alexander Street Press’ Dance in Video. Some faculty use it, but no one really likes it.
libraries, archives, and museums
websites and tools
Finale music notation software
The Guardian website
The New York Times website
side note on video: Everyone uses YouTube and Vimeo for video. YouTube first, for almost all participants, though impermanence and copyright were often called into question about the service. Netflix was also mentioned for video access.
side note on networking: Facebook is used much more heavily than I would have imagined (I’m in the group of 30-somethings moving away from the social network) and Skype is preferred to phone calls, when possible.
people, places, and other dance companies