Achieving Cultural Change in Networked Libraries

Ian Winship (University of Northumbria at Newcastle)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 1 June 2000




Winship, I. (2000), "Achieving Cultural Change in Networked Libraries", Online Information Review, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 255-267.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This collection, by authors all associated as staff or students with the School of Information Studies at the University of Central England, sets out to identify the “pre‐existing cultural disposition which inhibit optimum interaction between users and … electronic resources” and to offer “some approaches, concepts, models and tools which will facilitate cultural and organisational change in this area”. In other words, using electronic resources is not the same as using print, and information services need to change to accommodate this new approach. The reader searching for simple answers will not find them easily in this book because of its unclear structure. Its origins make it a disparate collection of reports on specific research, some theoretical discussion, a few literature reviews and so on that lacks a coherent approach and a clear view of its audience. “Information managers” are mentioned, but such managers might well look for an executive summary, yet there is none.

The content is concerned mainly with academic libraries. There is a chapter on the special library environment, but many of the topics covered (change management, strategies and planning) are well‐known in universities, too. Chapters cover:

  • the organisation of professional staff;

  • technical developments, such as library management systems and CD‐ROMs;

  • the UK Electronic Libraries Programme (eLib);

  • the convergence of university library and computing services – from both a literature survey and case studies;

  • a general non‐library view of change agents – the people who drive change;

  • human issues in the Phoenix project that looked at on‐demand publishing;

  • a discussion based on the literature on studying, assessing and changing the organisational culture in the electronic environment; and

  • considerable coverage of the TAPin project that looked at how librarians should support users in the networked environment.

The title includes the word “achieving”. I am not sure the book tells us how to do that, but it does provide useful guidelines from some research projects that readers might wish to consider. For example, the TAPin model suggested that academics need help in evaluating information, that support should be at staff workstations, that librarians need training on networked resources, and that academics and librarians should work together. These ideas have been implemented, though in only a small number of universities, and have been well received in terms of library staff awareness and competence. The ideas seem rather obvious now, but the work began about four years ago, and, although to some of us the move to networked resources is a natural development, some staff do find the increased and ever‐changing technical knowledge a barrier and so need much help.

Although the book is concerned with organisational change, I would have expected to see more of the user viewpoint – the index yields only a few items under “users” and none under “students”, but a considerable number under “learning organisation theory”. Similarly, drawing on projects other than those from the University of Central England would have been beneficial.

The overall feeling of the book is as an historical record of selected activity (the brief overview of eLib, the convergence survey) with some theoretical discussion. The lack of any references later than 1998 adds to this impression. It is not a practical tool, nor is it intended to be, and as such may have limited value to readers of Online Information Review. The IMPEL project at my institution on monitoring organisational and cultural change had some overlap with TAPin but is mentioned only briefly, yet the short guides produced by that project available at <> are likely to be more useful to most practitioners than this book.

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