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Cult of the “I”: Organizational symbolism and curricula in three Scandinavian iSchools with comparisons to three American

Koraljka Golub (School of Cultural Sciences, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden)
Joacim Hansson (School of Cultural Sciences, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden)
Lars Selden (School of Cultural Sciences, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 9 January 2017

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of the paper is to analyse three Scandinavian iSchools in Denmark, Norway and Sweden with regard to their intentions of becoming iSchools and curriculum content in relation to these intentions. By doing so, a picture will be given of the international expansion of the iSchool concept in terms of organisational symbolism and practical educational content. In order to underline the approaches of the Scandinavian schools, comparisons are made to three American iSchools.

Design/methodology/approach

The study is framed through theory on organisational symbolism and the intentions of the iSchool movement as formulated in its vision statements. Empirically, the study consists of two parts: close readings of three documents outlining the considerations of three Scandinavian LIS schools before applying for the iSchool status, and statistical analysis of 427 syllabi from master level courses at three Scandinavian and three American iSchools.

Findings

All three Scandinavian schools, analysed, have recently become iSchools, and though some differences are visible, it is hard to distinguish anything in their syllabi as carriers of what can be described as an iSchool identity. In considering iSchool identity, it instead benefits on a symbolic level that are most prominent, such as branding, social visibility and the possible attraction of new student groups. The traditionally strong relation to national library sectors are emphasised as important to maintain, specifically in Norway and Sweden.

Research limitations/implications

The study is done on iSchools in Denmark, Norway and Sweden with empirical comparison to three American schools. These comparisons face the challenge of meeting the educational system and programme structure of each individual country. Despite this, findings prove possible to use as ground for conclusions, although empirical generalisations concerning, for instance, other countries must be made with caution.

Practical implications

This study highlights the practical challenges met in international expansion of the iSchool movement, both on a practical and symbolic level. Both the iSchool Caucus and individual schools considering becoming iSchools may use these findings as a point of reference in development and decision making.

Originality/value

This is an original piece of research from which the results may contribute to the international development of the iSchool movement, and extend the theoretical understanding of the iSchool movement as an educational and organisational construct.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the representatives from all six iSchools in the sample, who helped find the appropriate courses and attain the correct syllabi for analysis. Many thanks also to Boris Badurina for his constructive feedback on the initial manuscript.

Citation

Golub, K., Hansson, J. and Selden, L. (2017), "Cult of the “I”: Organizational symbolism and curricula in three Scandinavian iSchools with comparisons to three American", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 73 No. 1, pp. 48-74. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-04-2016-0042

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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