Innovation in Libraries

Principal Investigator: Victoria Rubin

Research Assistants: Patrick T. Gavin and Ahmad M. Kamal

This research develops an understanding of "innovation" in libraries. Innovation is not a monolithic concept; its interpretation varies across discipline and context, resulting in an ambiguous theoretical foundation. LIS professionals often refer to innovation without delineating the term's particular associations and connotations in librarianship. To this end, our research explicates notions of innovation in libraries, based on their discourse and activities, in three stages of analysis.

In the first stage, using a preliminary random sample of 32 libraries (8 US academic, 8 US public, 8 Canadian academic, and 8 Canadian public), we content-analyze the "white" papers publically available on library websites (e.g., mission statements). With the grounded theory approach (Corbin and Strauss, 1990), we identify the various facets of innovation in libraries: areas of innovation, benefiting stakeholders, and supported activities.

In the second stage, we focus on the area of technological innovation, and survey the website applications supported by library websites. Through the relative distribution of online technologies, we distinguish standard and non-standard inventories of applications. Combining the results from both stages, we ask whether there is a correlation between a library's website application inventory and the mention of innovation in its public documents. For example, do self-described innovators host more non-standard technologies?

In the last stage, we examine self-described innovators for the nature of the language of innovation: is it used rhetorically or informatively? This research presents a descriptive rather than a prescriptive account of how libraries – as unique institutions – have cultivated an indigenous and flexible sense of innovation.

Associated Publications

  • Rubin, V.L., Gavin, P.T., Kamal, A.M., (In Print). Innovation in Public and Academic North American Libraries: Examining White Literature and Website Applications / L'innovationdansles bibliothèquespubliques et académiques en Amérique du Nord: Examen de la littérature blanche (livres et périodiques) et des applications pour sites web. Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science (CJILS), 35 (4)

  • Gavin, P.T., Kamal, A.M., Rubin, V.L., (2011). From White to Transparent: Examining the Documents and Discourse of Innovation in Library White Literature. At The Document Academy and the Department of Library and Information Scienceat Linnaeus University, Sweden. October 1-2, 2011 DOCAM2011

  • Rubin, V.L., Gavin, P.T., Kamal, A.M., (2011) Innovation in Public and Academic North American Libraries: Examining White Literature and Website Applications. The 39th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science: Exploring Interactions of People, Places and Information (CAIS / ACSI 2011), Fredericton, N.B., June 2-4, 2011

  • Gavin, P.T., Kamal, A.M., Rubin, V.L., (2011). Understanding Innovation: What Libraries Say, What Libraries Do. Work-in-Progress Poster Abstract in Proceedings of the Association for Library and Information Science Education Conference: Competitiveness and Innovation (ALISE 2011), San Diego, Jan 4-7, 2011

  • Rubin, V.L., Gavin, P.T., Kamal, A.M., (2011) Innovation in Public and Academic North American Libraries: Examining White Literature and Website Applications. Joint Research Day for Faculties of Information Studies, Faculty of Arts & Humanities, Faculty of Education, UWO, March 23, 2011.


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Last Updated: 16 December 2011