To read this content please select one of the options below:

Understanding librarians’ experiences of copyright: Findings from a phenomenographic study of UK information professionals

Chris Morrison (Department of Information Services, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK)
Jane Secker (Department of Learning Technology and Innovation, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 15 August 2017




Librarians and information professionals increasingly need to deal with copyright issues in their work, however evidence suggests that they can lack confidence and often refer queries to a dedicated copyright specialist. The purpose of this paper is to explore the professional experiences of copyright of a group of academic librarians in the UK, with a view to devising appropriate copyright education strategies.


The research was conducted using phenomenography, which is a qualitative approach from education. Data were collected though group interviews to explore the variation of experience. Four categories of description were devised which are placed in an outcome space.


There were four qualitatively distinct ways that librarians experience copyright in their professional lives, including viewing it as a problem, as complicated, as a known entity and as an opportunity. The variations in experience relate to a variety of factors such as the librarians’ role, ideology, level of experience, context and with whom they might be dealing.


This is the first study of this nature, building on quantitative findings from a multinational survey. It concludes that librarians need to be taught about copyright in a way that acknowledges and addresses the challenges so that they can view it as empowering and as part of wider information literacy initiatives.



The authors would like to thanks for all the librarians who took part in the interviews. To Hannah Boroudjou who helped analyse the interview data and develop the categories and to Emma Coonan and Lauren Smith for their helpful advice.


Morrison, C. and Secker, J. (2017), "Understanding librarians’ experiences of copyright: Findings from a phenomenographic study of UK information professionals", Library Management, Vol. 38 No. 6/7, pp. 354-368.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles