I am currently in the middle of a small-scale ethnographic study to find information that will inform a discovery tool purchasing decision committee. Additionally, I just held the first team meeting of a group of librarians that will do a study of how researchers find, manage, cite, and publish their research this summer.
So, I was very lucky when I happened to read a tweet written by an anthopology graduate student last week talking about Sharon Traweek. Gosh, I wish I would have discovered her 10 years ago! Beamtimes and lifetimes: the world of high energy physicists, written in 1988, captures the world of SLAC, and their labs, and really kind of reads like history of science now. Another book, Doing Science + Culture, edited by Roddey Reid and Sharon Traweek is a series of essays about how “cultural and interdisciplinary studies are changing the way we look at science and medicine.”
The discovery of these two books has me on a great literature search to discovery more ethnography of the discliplines that academic libraries support–these should be required reading in library school! Even if you are not doing a research project where you need to understand your subjects a bit more, it provides a powerful context for what your users experience in the lab and their world; this understanding can lead to better service design.