Thursday, June 13, 2013

Research Update: Shifting to study library consultants

For the past two months since beginning to teach and reflect on library management issues, my eyes have been open to the library consultancy industry. Since my original research interest was on studying entrepreneurs, I have seen this trend as an opportunity for me to shift my focus a bit for my research proposal, to the study of this particular type of "library entrepreneur". Currently I am considering a study of knowledge sharing by library consultants via blogs and tweets. This group is apparently underrepresented in the library and information science (LIS) literature. Most studies on librarians ignore this group of independent or self-employed workers or entrepreneurs, in favour of librarians employed to or working full-time in institutions.

So who exactly are library consultants?
I searched around four library dictionaries for the term "library consultant" and only found the term in Prytherch's (2005) compilation. According to Prytherch, the library consultant is:

an individual offering a range of professional skills and advice relevant to the operation of libraries. Usually these skills will be marketed on a commercial basis by a Freelance self-employed person who is not directly employed by the library concerned, but who may be retained on contract for a fee. (p.410)
According to Prytherch, an alternative, albeit broader term is the term "information consultant". the information consultant however is "a generic term used by self-employed Freelance individuals operating on a commercial basis in the areas of information handling and related fields" (Prytherch, 2005, p. 350)

Recent sources have indicated that there are many library consultants (or at least in America). In a press release for the American Library Association (ALA) 2013 conference, advertised is a session where library consultants offer 30 minutes free consulting to librarians. For this event, here is the list of consultants expected to participate:
  • Lori Bowen Ayre of The Galecia Group; 
  • Liz Bishoff of The Bishoff Group; 
  • Carson Block, Carson Block Consulting Inc.; 
  • Nancy Bolt, Nancy Bolt & Associates; 
  • Yolanda J. Cuesta, Cuesta MultiCultural Consulting; 
  • Carole D. Fiore, Training and Library Consulting; 
  • Donna Fletcher, Donna E. Fletcher Consulting, Inc./Library Survey Consultants; 
  • Cheryl Gould, Fully Engaged Libraries; 
  • Catherine Hakala-Ausperk, Libraries Thrive Consulting; 
  • Stephen C. Maack, REAP Change Consultants; 
  • Gretchen McCord, Digital Information Law; 
  • Ruth Metz, Ruth Metz Associates; 
  • Sam McBane Mulford, ideation * collaborative; 
  • Kathy Page, Page + Morris; Paula M. Singer, The Singer Group, Inc.; 
  • Melissa Stockton, Quipu Group; and 
  • Richard L. Waters, Godfrey’s Associates.
Additional profile of the consultants participating is available on this website:

Not only that, but ALA also has a section, the Association of Specialized & Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA), which offers the Library Consultant Interest Group.

Twitter also provides a channel for accessing the most recent news being shared on library consultant, as is evident on the embedded Twitter widget below:

In addition, I have put together a crude slide presentation as part of a business/market research into the opportunities in library consultancy below:


In my view, this industry, made possible by new public management trends in public and school libraries, which has seen increasing opportunities for librarians to offer their expertise to libraries for a fee rather than becoming full-time employees. Rather than employing full-time librarians, boards and municipalities responsible for libraries seem to be contracting or outsourcing special projects or services to library consultants, while reducing qualified full-time library staff for less trained and qualified and cheaper labour. Depends on how you look at it, this is an opportunity or a crisis in contemporary librarianship.


American Library Association. (2013. May 28). Consultants give back: free 30-minute sessions in Chicago co-sponsored by ASCLA and PLA [Press release]. Retrieved from

Prytherch, R. J. (2005). Harrod's librarians' glossary and reference book. 10th ed. Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate.

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