Journal Review-Rachel Gundacker
Journal Review: The Library Quarterly
The Library Quarterly is a journal comprised of articles, research in practice, and reviews. Each volume revolves around a theme and uses a variety of approaches to dissect the topic. This makes the journal cohesive and gives the reader well rounded information on the issues surrounding the theme. While the journal boasts that it chronicles current discussions regarding all libraries, few and far between are articles about special, school or other types of libraries. Of the 8 volumes, only one focused on these “other” libraries. This volume was disjointed in theme and lacked the harmony of the other volumes. Most of the articles within the journal analyze and evaluate public and academic libraries.
After reviewing the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Library Quarterly, one could conclude that the purpose of this journal is to keep libraries and librarians relevant in an ever changing world. Throughout the volumes, three themes arose on maintaining relevance: assessment and metrics, changing staff roles, and understanding patron wants and needs. All three themes are viewed as crucial to the survival and sustainability of the library.
There has been an increasing importance placed on measuring the success and usefulness of institutions in the past decade. Libraries have not escaped this trend. For libraries to maintain their relevance in society, they must be able to measurably prove their worth. Not only do they need to have proof of their relevance in tangible terms, they also need to prove that the services they provide are worthwhile. This means that not only do libraries need to prove that their facilities are visited regularly, but that people who visit are positively influenced by the interaction. To do this, libraries need to have methods for understanding customer desires and needs, and how they can best provide these services in terms of programming and staffing.
In her article “What is Library Use?” Fleming-May (2011) uses the Evolutionary Concept Analysis (ECA) method to analyze library use in LIS literature. She states that, “understanding what it is to use the library and its resources—and measuring and reporting that in a way that is meaningful to stakeholders—is essential in the unforgiving economic climate in which libraries are operating”(Fleming-May, 2011, p.316). She concludes that it is not enough to just use metrics to prove your worth. You also need to collect and distribute data in a way that is appealing to stakeholders. This can also affect programing. Libraries may overlook programs that are meaningful but will not fit positively into their measurements for other programs that do in order to comply with new metrically developed standards.
Another way to keep libraries relevant is to provide resources to staff so they can fulfill patron’s information needs. Being an information resource is one of the library’s primary purposes. In their article, “Role Reinvention, Structural Defense, or Resigned Surrender” LeMaistre, Embry, Zandt, and Bailey (2012) describe how there are three responses to increasing pressure to change their roles of working strictly at the reference desk. One is that reference librarians change their roles to accommodate patron requests or “resigned surrender”, to keep the reference interview alive by not allowing technology to change the role of the reference librarian or “structural defense”, or to combine the two into a “role reinvention”. While there are some positive and negative aspects of all of these reactions, the workforce seems to be moving towards resigned surrender. In this case, They suggest that, “libraries ought to take proactive steps to avoid the potential negative impact of technological change on reference librarianship” (LeMaistre et al., 2012, p. 272). In order to fulfill patron’s needs, reference librarians need to be available to answer questions. In a world where customer service is of the utmost value, libraries need to hold steadfast on the importance of the role of the reference librarian in order to maintain the reference interview because it is a valuable part of the customer experience.
In their article, “Library Hospitality” Johnson and Kazmer (2012) go further into the idea of the customer experience. They describe the important role library staff has in creating a positive library experience. They say that hospitality has equal weight as information in the customer experience and that, “attracting more patrons in more ways should mean more support in the public sphere—fiscal and otherwise” (Johnson & Kazmer, 2012, p.397). Whether a librarian is required to answer technical questions or not, they are required to be as welcoming and helpful as possible.
Library relevance is also determined by the communities they reside in. In this respect, it is the library’s job to understand their community needs, resources, and demographics. In their article, “An Integrated Customer Knowledge Management Framework for Academic Libraries” Daneshgar and Parirokh (2012) prove that knowing and managing customers is the most important aspect of library relevance in their communities. Libraries need to find ways to measure customer desire and take action to fulfill these in order to maintain relevant and procure funding. They also need to recognize that they are not alone. There are often other community groups or non-profits that could be collaborated with to solve community problems. In their article, “Digital Library Collaboration” Buchanan, Gibb, Simmons, and McMenemy (2012) found that it is important for libraries to understand community needs as well as resources. They also say that, “libraries cannot go it alone and their future strength will depend on the alliances they form” (Buchanan et al., 2012, p.338). Finding organizations to collaborate with can be a great way for libraries to save financial and human resources while ameliorating community problems.
One community problem that represented itself repeatedly in the Library Quarterly was the digital divide. Williams (2012) believes that it is the library’s responsibility to provide services that fulfill these types of community needs. For example, in the last decade libraries have seen an influx of people needing to use public access computers (PAC). Many of these people do not have basic computer literacy. Williams suggests that libraries with high PAC usage have “Cyber Navigators” or people who staff the PAC areas and help patrons navigate technology. The result of having “Cyber Navigators” is that the library is validated as, “a resource for growing social capital and thus maintaining community” (Williams, 2012, p.69). Knowing and understanding community needs and resources is often not enough. Libraries also need to come up with creative solutions in order to prove their community worth.
Through the lens of the Library Quarterly, the future of libraries seems to be in jeopardy. Articles tended to end with a “doomsday” statement on the future of the library if they do not follow whatever method of improvement was suggested. While it is important to be aware of trends and improvements, it is also important to maintain a positive outlook on the future of the library. Libraries have adapted to changes since their origination and will continue to do so while staying true to their primary mission which is providing access to information.
Buchanan, S., Gibb, F., Simmons, & McMenemy, D. (2012). Digital Library Collaboration: A Service-Oriented Perspective. The Library Quarterly, 82(3), 337–359. doi:10.1086/665930
Daneshgar, F., & Parirokh, M. (2012). An Integrated Customer Knowledge Management Framework for Academic Libraries. The Library Quarterly, 82(1), 7–28. doi:10.1086/662943
Fleming-May, R. A. (2011). What Is Library Use? Facets of Concept and a Typology of Its Application in the Literature of Library and Information Science. The Library Quarterly, 81(3), 297–320. doi:10.1086/660133
Johnson, E. D. M., & Kazmer, M. M. (2011). Library Hospitality: Some Preliminary Considerations. The Library Quarterly, 81(4), 383–403. doi:10.1086/661655
LeMaistre, T., Embry, R. L., Zandt, & Bailey, D. E. (2012). Role Reinvention, Structural Defense, or Resigned Surrender: Institutional Approaches to Technological Change and Reference Librarianship. The Library Quarterly, 82(3), 241–275. doi:10.1086/665932
Williams, K. (2012). Informatics Moments. The Library Quarterly, 82(1), 47–73. doi:10.1086/662946