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Specialties and strategies in academic libraries: a cluster analysis approach

Masanori Koizumi (Faculty of Library, Information and Media Science, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan)
Michael Majewski Widdersheim (School of Library and Information Management, Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas, USA)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 7 August 2018

Issue publication date: 7 January 2019




Professional work is becoming more specialized and diffused, with new specialties emerging on the boundaries of established professions. The purpose of this paper is to examine current specialties in academic librarianship in order to infer what strategies they employ.


This research uses a sample of 60 US research libraries to investigate current specialties in academic librarianship, in order to analyze and classify the specialties into groups based on similarities, and categorize academic libraries based on the staffing patterns identified, and illustrate the challenges and strategies of each classification. The sample was selected from the membership of the Association of Research Libraries, and designed to include both large and medium-sized research libraries. 888 different job titles were identified for 2,074 specialist positions extracted from staff directories containing information on 11,688 librarians. The positions were analyzed and classified using the framework provided by Cox and Corrall (2013), and the specialty composition of the libraries was investigated with Ward’s (1963) hierarchical method of cluster analysis, using 28 variables.


The cluster analysis identified subspecialties within the groups and revealed seven distinct staffing strategies of the libraries.


Describing specialties and strategies in academic libraries by cluster analysis based on huge data is a significantly novel and effective approach for capturing the concept of specialization.



The authors would like to thank Sheila Corrall (Professor at the University of Pittsburgh) for her valuable input and assistance in wording choices, structure of the research, as well as suggestions for enhancing the literature review. The authors also like to thank Nicholas DeDomenico (Alumnus of the iSchool at the University of Pittsburgh) for his excellent help with wording choices and proof reading. This research was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant No. 16K16161.


Koizumi, M. and Widdersheim, M.M. (2019), "Specialties and strategies in academic libraries: a cluster analysis approach", Library Management, Vol. 40 No. 1/2, pp. 45-58.



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