Friday, May 16, 2014

Conceptualizing library and information consulting

As I continue with my research (or sense-making), I want to report on my evolving and ongoing conceptualization of library consultants. So far, it has been a scavenger hunt to find literature that clearly conceptualize library consultants and library consulting.

Currently, I rely mainly on De Stricker's (2008) as the most recent book to discuss library and information consulting. From her perspective, library and information consultants are not narrowly confined to those formally educated as librarians. She argues that while some library and information consultants are formally educated in librarianship, others possess informal education from experience or expertise in working within library settings, from which they offer library-related expertise and services. De Stricker also defines library and information consulting as consisting of both librarians offering “skills to a variety of clients (not necessarily libraries)” and of “other types of professionals (e.g. architects, staff training experts)”. She provides a nice little quadrant or diagram to show the scope of library and information consulting from which I could use to have a clear picture of the activities that fall under library and information consulting.

However, from my reading of blogs and tweets on the subject and further published library literature, I have come up with a diagram to model what a library consultant looks like conceptually (You can click on the image to make it larger).

In theory, a library consultant can be a qualified librarian or some other professional without library school credentials that brings about either:

a) a change or transformation in a library system, library or library staff
b) creates or establishes a library system or library where there was none.

Technically, information consultants are not necessarily library consultants (even if they have an MLIS or library-related credentials). Information consultants can only be classified as engaging in library consulting when they:

  1. offer information consulting services to librarians (which may lead to transfer of skills or knowledge to librarians) or 
  2. when their information consultancy involves transforming a library system or a library, as in the case of an information consultant providing advice about a library's collection development.

Currently, this is the understanding that I have derived from my varied sources about library consultants. But I'm open to receiving comments that will help me accurately understand the nature of job or occupational identity of library consultant. (Unfortunately or fortunately, the librarian's mind is to put concepts into discreet categories or neat little boxes).


Broughton, D., Blackburn, L., & Vickers, L. (1991). Information brokers and information consultants. Library management, 12(6), 4-16.

De Stricker, U. (2008). Is consulting for you? A primer for information professionals. Chicago: American Library Association.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Library consultants and the implications for library education

In this post, I continue discussing the need for a changing library education paradigm that will not just prepare our graduates to work within libraries, but also prepare them to work as library consultants. I have duly noted a speech delivered by one of my former professors, Fay Durrant, at a meeting of the library association of Trinidad and Tobago. As I read it, I came across some words of interest, which I quote below:
"As most of you know, the Department of Library and Information Studies has a mission to educate librarians from the CARICOM region. We have always been interested in understanding the future of libraries in the Caribbean, as this is of necessity related to the dimensions and focus of our teaching and research. With faster change in the information sector there is even more interest in determining future directions in relation to the areas of focus for our programme. We therefore seek to identify, on an ongoing basis, the current and anticipated trends and future activities in the information sector.

Today I would therefore like to discuss with you some of the changes in our environment, and some of the responses which are being developed by libraries in the Caribbean and globally.

The Department offers education in library and information studies, and produces graduates who now work mainly in government and academic institutions in the region....I expect that more opportunities will arise for\ our graduates to work as consultants, and as information brokers for organizations in the public or private sector."

Durrant's (2006) words capture so well my views and what I want to say. Library schools have traditionally prepared students and graduates to work in libraries. However, LIS curricula, with the changes in society have evolved to address broader information environments in addition to library specific operations (Rubin, 2010). Despite this evolution in curricula to prepare graduates to work outside of traditional settings of academic, public and school libraries (and even special libraries), library curricula is yet to address the issue of preparing students to become entrepreneurs and to use their LIS related skills as independent knowledge workers or professionals not employed to a specific institution. LIS curricula in this regard is geared towards providing a workforce for institutional employers.

Yet, while librarians are employed in a variety of setting, there seems to be a growing number of qualified librarians who are self-employed. This seems to be evident in the ASCLA Library Consultants Interest Group's (LCIG) latest report where membership is reported as growing from 32 to 63 members within the space of a year (Smithee, 2013). Yet, it is perhaps necessary to scrutinize this phenomenon some more with the empiricism of scientific methods. If I could only get my thoughts together into a coherent and logical research proposal.


Durrant, F. (2006). The future of libraries and implications for the Caribbean. Address to the Library Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) Ordinary General Meeting. Held at National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS), November 1, 2006. Retrieved from

Rubin, R. (2010). Foundations of library and information science (3rd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Smithee, J. (2013). Report from the Library Consultants Interest Group. Interface (02706717), 35(3), 1. Retrieved from

The invisibility of library consultants in the academic literature

It has been a rough 3rd year as I continue to work on my research proposal. As I put almost all of my focus and energies into solving the problems with my research proposal, I've neglected the medium of blogging. However, I break this spell of silence to discuss the issue of the invisibility of library consultants in the academic literature.

Currently, I'm considering or reconsidering the viability of studying library consultants/consulting as a topic. It has been difficult to find gaps in the literature to investigate as there are so many gaps in what is known about the topic. All I have to work with  is the tension between who can be defined as a library consultant and several forecasts about what library consulting will look like, all of these from two dissertations, two encyclopedia articles, and 7 monographs about the topic.

The result is that I've concluded that the library consultant is for the most part absent from academic discourse. This is interesting considering that some LIS academics are also library and information consultants. For example,Tague-Sutcliffe, a former dean of University of Western Ontario's Faculty of Information Media Studies, is named in the directory of Canadian library and information consultants (Rogers, 1994). Not only are academics a part of library and information consulting, but heads of library schools and other library educators are also acknowledging consulting as a legitimate path in which LIS graduates may venture.In the English-speaking Caribbean for instance, in 2006, the head of the University of the West Indies Department of Library and Information Studies forecasted growing opportunities for library school graduates to work as consultants for public/private sector organizations (Durrant, 2006). Yet, despite this interest, the academic literature studying library consultants and their work is sparse.

Mark you, there are definitely books on the topic of library consultants. But many of these sources are dated prior to 2000. In general, there is a lack of in-depth monograph sources studying library consultants and the work of library consulting. I personally examined seven monograph length publications on library and information consultancy. Of these seven, three are directories: one focusing on US library and information consultants (Berry, 1969), another on UK based library and information consultants (Smith, 1987) and the third based on Canadian ones (Rogers, 1994). From these directories, you can usually find a dedicated introductory page defining library consultants. In Berry (1969), Blasingame’ informative overview provides a profile of library consultants. Rogers (1994) introduction on the other hand combines both library consultants and information consultants. The remaining four monograph length publications that are not directories, are written for practitioners. In other words, these sources reflect little in the way of systematic research design and data gathering. Rather than attempting to provide an academic understanding of library consultants and their work, these works discuss how practitioners can work with or as library consultants. Two works address library administrators: Rawles and Wessells (1984) discuss working with library consultants, while Garten (1992) discusses using consultants in libraries. These books are seemingly written to provide guidance to librarians for engaging with library consultants. The final two books are aimed at library consultants themselves, with a book on case studies in international library consultancy by Parker (1988) and a book on consulting for information professionals by De Stricker (2008). Yet, these works on library consulting seem primarily based on anecdotal data gathered from experience.

Despite the few outdated books on the subject, those who practice library consulting are both seemingly  increasing and sharing their knowledge on the subject. I recently read that the ASCLA Library Consultants Interest Group (LCIG) saw their membership increase as they added 31 members growing from 32 to 63 members (Smithee, 2013). In addition, the group also announced the hosting of an event with Nancy Bolt and Liz Bishoff offering a preconference entitled “Assembling a Consulting Toolkit: What You Need to Know to be a Successful Library Consultant” (Smithee, 2013). It therefore seems to me that the topic of library consultants is a viable area for future academic inquiry.Yet formulating the research problem around this gap has been extremely challenging, as the scope of the work seem more extensive than what I want to study.


De Stricker, U. (2008). Is consulting for you?: A primer for information professionals. Chicago: American Library Association.

Durrant, F. (2006). The future of libraries and implications for the Caribbean. Address to the Library Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) Ordinary General Meeting. Held at National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS), November 1, 2006. Retrieved from

Garten, E. (1992). Using consultants in libraries and information centers: A management handbook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Parker, J. S. (1988). Asking the right questions: Case studies in library development consultancy. London ;; New York: Mansell Pub.

Rawles, B. A., & Wessells, M. B. (1984). Working with library consultants. Hamden, CT: Library Professional Publications.

Rogers, H., & Canadian Library Association. (1994). Directory of Canadian library & information science consultants. Ottawa: Canadian Library Association.

Smithee, J. (2013). Report from the Library Consultants Interest Group. Interface (02706717), 35(3), 1. Retrieved from