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Design and participants
This protocol is extracted from research article:
Words matter: interpretations and implications of “para” in paraprofessional
J Med Libr Assoc, Jan 1, 2021; DOI: 10.5195/jmla.2021.933

We developed an anonymous ten-question survey in Qualtrics (Qualtrics, Provo, UT), designed to determine which terms library personnel in nonlibrarian roles preferred and how participants interpreted or perceived the terms. Two questions focused on preferred terms, and eight questions collected demographic information, including job title, job responsibilities, type of library, education level, age, racial or ethnic identity, and gender identification. Supplemental Appendix A provides a copy of the survey.

Eligible survey participants included full-time and part-time medical and health sciences library personnel in any nonlibrarian position. We incorporated a required question that used branching to terminate the survey for respondents who indicated they were employed as librarians. As a result of this branching question, librarians could not complete the survey. To identify master's or doctorate (PhD) level library employees in roles other than librarian (e.g., a bioinformatics specialist with a PhD in bioinformatics), we included questions on job title, job responsibilities, and education level. Surveys were included in the results if they answered the term preference-ranking question. Surveys that did not respond to this question were considered incomplete.

The first question asked participants to rank a list of terms in order of preference. The list of terms included “paraprofessional,” “paralibrarian,” “library staff,” “library support staff,” “nonprofessional,” and “other.” Library and information science literature and association websites were analyzed to develop a list of terms synonymous with “paraprofessional” [1, 4, 5, 10, 12]. The main criteria in determining which terms to include on the list were that the term functioned as an umbrella term that encompassed a wide variety of job titles and positions, similar to “paraprofessional.” Terms such as “library technician,” “library assistant,” and “library associate” that were also used as specific job titles were not included because we were concerned that participants would choose their own job title rather than one of the umbrella terms. We did not intend to include the terms “nonprofessional” and “subprofessional,” used synonymously with “paraprofessional” in the past, because of their obviously negative implications. However, in a design oversight, the term “nonprofessional” was included, and participants were asked to rank this term.

To avoid bias toward any particular term, we did not use the terms from the list in the ranking question elsewhere in the survey. Also, we did not explicitly state that we were interested in how participants viewed the term “paraprofessional.” The second question allowed participants to provide comments and thoughts about any of the terms on the list. The purpose of this question was to gather qualitative data to help us understand why people preferred or did not prefer the terms on the list.

We included the eight demographic information questions primarily because we were interested in getting an overall picture of the survey participants. We were also interested to see if there were statistically significant relationships between term preference and education level, age, gender, or racial or ethnic identity of participants. Questions on job title, job responsibilities, and education level would also help us identify master's or PhD level library employees in roles other than librarian (e.g., a bioinformatics specialist with a PhD in bioinformatics) and analyze these responses separately, if necessary.

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