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Libraries & Culture 37.2 (2002) 204-207

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Book Review

Academic Library Centrality:
User Success Through Service, Access, and Tradition

The Reference Encounter:
Interpersonal Communication in the Library

Academic Library Centrality: User Success Through Service, Access, and Tradition. By Deborah J. Grimes. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 1998. 154 pp. $30.00. ISBN: 000-8389-7950-5.

The Reference Encounter: Interpersonal Communication in the Library. By Marie L. Radford. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 1998. xi, 242 pp. $30.00. ISBN: 0-8389-7951-3.

Both of these publications examine the validity of old notions in the field of academic librarianship and are Ph.D. dissertations written in 1993. Grimes analyzes the truth of the metaphor that the library is the heart of the university in her work. It consists of five chapters, two appendixes, a lengthy bibliography, and an index. There is a comprehensive summary at the end of each chapter.

Radford challenges the notion that the only goal of the reference service is to answer questions. The work has nine chapters, nine appendixes, a well-structured index, and a lengthy bibliography. In both publications most of the works cited in the bibliography were published before 1993. [End Page 204]

In her work Grimes uses grounded theory methodology, which focuses on concepts drawn from the data rather than abstract theory. The author states, "The goal was to identify empirical indicators to link the concept of academic library centrality with actual library experience" (68). The literature review (chapter 2) and analysis of interviews with the chief academic officers of five reputable academic universities (reported in chapter 4) helped the author to construct the indicators of academic library centrality.

The work begins with the historical evolution and shortcomings of the heart of the university metaphor in the first chapter. Since the late 1880s American universities have established research and publishing as major goals in addition to teaching. Thus they felt a dire need for research libraries to meet these goals, and the heart of the university metaphor emerged in the nineteenth century and has prevailed ever since.

Grimes suggests that we need to analyze the pros and cons of this metaphor because it has not served its purpose; rather, it "leads librarians and academics to erroneous conclusions about the real relationships between the library and the university. Librarians must move beyond . . . and examine more closely actual organizational relationships" (17).

The author equates the meaning of the heart of the university metaphor "to some extent, with centrality as it's a key concept in current academic librarianship and in analysis of higher education" (2). Then she addresses the issue of that centrality in the context of "organization theory" in the second chapter while giving a brief chronological account of some of the organization theories. She uses Neoclassical theory (1940-1950s) and models to illustrate and justify its use in the context of academic library centrality.

Chapter 5 is the core of the work. It analyzes both nonindicators and indicators of centrality. The author believes that "the identification of nonindicators of library centrality is important because they have not previously been identified and . . . are often cited in relation to tenure and [faculty] status requirements for academic librarians . . . librarians often attempt to wear some of the same badges of status applied to teaching faculty: research and publication, etc. The university administrators [participants], however attached no importance to librarians' activities in any of these areas" (98).

The analysis of research data brings out three broad categories of empirical indicators-service, access, and tradition, regardless of the mission, type, and priorities of the university. The author believes that these three indicators reflect the metaphor of the centrality of the library because they are measurable. Then, using the term user's success, she illustrates how it links the concepts of service, access, and tradition with academic library centrality. Grimes defines user's success (faculty, students, researchers, and administrators) as "the achievement of educational goals as a result of service, access and tradition of the...


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