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The Small and Rural Academic Library: Leveraging Resources and Overcoming Limitations. Eds. Kaetrena Davis Kendrick and Deborah Tritt. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, 2016. 264p. Paper, $56.00 (ISBN 978-083898900-5).

The Small and Rural Academic Library: Leveraging Resources and Overcoming Limitations, edited by Kaetrena Kendrick and Deborah Tritt, seeks to highlight a little-known gap in the literature. That gap is the role the small and rural academic library plays in delivering services to its patrons. As the editors write in their introduction, “Moreover while greater attention has been paid to small and rural public libraries, librarians at small and geographically isolated academic libraries are underrepresented in the literature” (XII). The authors further contend that, while many libraries feel the pressures of having to do more with less, it is in the small and rural academic libraries where these pressures are felt most acutely. The editors lay out the book in an easy-to-follow series of case studies written by a number of small and rural academic librarians.

The book is organized into five sections dealing with different general library issues, including outreach services, human resources, planning, instruction, and technology. Within these five sections are eleven total chapters that address different issues. Many of these issues are evident in all types of libraries. However, given the expertise of the writers, each chapter is centered on the unique circumstances that affect small and rural academic libraries. Occasionally, each chapter will be followed by a section entitled “Big Ideas, Small Libraries.” These sections serve as a departure from the narrative exposition of the case studies and are written in interview form. Each interview is with a librarian at a small or rural academic library and seeks to help provide further context to the ideas discussed in the previous chapter.

The organization of the book, where each case study is written by a practitioner, affords each of the authors of the chapters an opportunity to provide some key insights about the small and rural academic libraries. Some of the more interesting discussions were on the role of distance education and the importance of cooperation among libraries in a region. Another interesting topic was the discussion of areas of interconnectedness between the local public library and the academic library. This type of close integration is not seen in the larger universities and public library systems. Another interesting topic addressed is the staffing of the small and rural academic library. This case study is followed up with an interview section that discusses the role that smaller library associations can play in training and aiding in library professional development. Each of the case studies provides a unique perspective, one that helps focus the discussion on the small and rural academic library. However, this type of focus opens the possibility for tunnel vision of sorts.

The organization of the case studies affords each of the authors an opportunity to provide specific practical applications of library services at small and rural academic libraries. But it also creates a challenge for trying to place this book within the context of a generalizable set of rules that can help distinguish the unique needs of small and rural academic libraries. Each chapter is written from an individual’s perspective and within that perspective is a generalizable theme. Given the unique nature of a single author’s perspective, each of the chapters serves as disparate parts on a similar topic rather than a woven argument leading to a series of interconnected best practices or ideas that can be applied to newly hired librarians or current practitioners who may operate in the small and rural academic library environment. While each chapter provides an excellent exposition of the chosen topic, there is a lack of consistent best practices or ideas that can be applied to the small and rural academic library. The challenge may also be that many of the small and rural academic libraries potentially exist within a large number of varied circumstances. For example, the University of Alaska Southeast is very different from California Lutheran University if for no other reason than the drastic geographical differences between a rural and small university and a small but urban university.

The book in general provides a much-needed outlet for understanding the unique needs of a population of librarians that may often be overlooked in the literature and the profession in favor of the larger academic libraries or the large public library systems. The presentation of the case studies by practitioners in this environment helps to further contextualize and bring to light unique challenges and solutions that could be implemented at libraries of all sizes. Understanding the role that small and rural academic libraries can play in the larger library ecosystem can provide micro-level insight into the pressures that libraries in general feel in an era of having to do more with less.—Ryan Litsey, Texas Tech University

Copyright Ryan Litsey


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