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Professional identity: a grounded theory study of veteran academic librarians

Laura Sare (University Libraries, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA)
Stephen Edward Bales (University Libraries, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 28 October 2014




This qualitative study aims to analyse veteran academic librarians’ perceptions of librarianship to develop a grounded theory that models this group’s understandings of the profession. In addition, this study compares its findings to a previous grounded theory study that modelled novice academic librarians’ perceptions of the profession.


Using the long interview technique, the analysts interviewed 15 veteran academic librarians, i.e. those with 10 or more years continuous experience as professional academic librarians, who work in Texas universities and four-year colleges. Qualitative analytical methods were used to develop a substantive grounded theory from the data.


Two theoretical categories emerged that model academic librarian perceptions of the profession: orienting self (and others) to a shifting profession and driving change in the field. These categories depict academic librarianship as a profession focussed on change, and the theory valuates both mentoring and practitioner research as important elements of this change.

Practical implications

The results of the study may provide useful information to help orient librarians new to the field.


There is a dearth of systematic empirical analyses that explores the personal meanings that academic librarians attach to professional identity. This paper works to fill this gap and to complement the existing critical/cultural and quantitative research concerning the professional identity of librarians.



The authors wish to thank Bruce Neville at Texas A&M University Libraries for his assistance.


Sare, L. and Edward Bales, S. (2014), "Professional identity: a grounded theory study of veteran academic librarians", Library Review, Vol. 63 No. 8/9, pp. 574-589.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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