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Exploring the affect of current trends and future expectations on the boundary of the academic librarian using Critical Systems Heuristics / Steve Williams
Swansea University Author: Steve Williams
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This research is concerned with the professional, academic librarian of the future. Technological development alongside policy and funding change in UK Higher Education has made the past two decades one of the most turbulent periods in academic library services and for professional library practice....
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This research is concerned with the professional, academic librarian of the future. Technological development alongside policy and funding change in UK Higher Education has made the past two decades one of the most turbulent periods in academic library services and for professional library practice. Within this context, we ask here how the role of the academic librarian has changed, and how we might expect it to change in the future. This information is central to ensuring that our current, and future, academic librarians are suitably equipped for their professional role.I take a Systems Thinking approach, using Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH) to explore the changing boundary of the academic librarian’s professional work. In gathering data from practitioners, Van Manen’s hermeneutic phenomenology is called upon to effectively elicit and analyse librarians’ perceptions of being a librarian, and how the role of academic librarian is changing.Data was gathered from the academic and professional literature on higher education libraries and librarians, and five phenomenological interviews were carried out with academic librarians, from early career professionals to library directors. A hermeneutic phenomenological analysis extracted meanings and themes, providing the source material to map CSH’s ideal and descriptive reference systems. A process of boundary critique, through a comparison of the ideal and descriptive maps, show that while individual librarians continue to enrich the education of all their users and are willing to adapt to new ways of working, additional change is needed within the profession to accommodate technological, social and leadership challenges. The complexity and uncertainty of technological advances, the necessity of adopting professional marketing practices to mitigate communicatively disparate user groups, and an increasingly politico-ethical focus on the availability of information, all mean that the librarian of the future needs a better-structured panoply of leadership and training provision. The provision of better structured, post-qualification, professional development routes and strengthened professional bodies would benefit the profession in building the capacity to proactively manage the professional boundary of practice, rather than passively reacting to external pressure and change.
Critical Systems Heuristics, boundary critique, librarian, information professional, professional development, hermeneutic phenomenology