Book Reviews

Marcy Simons. Academic Library Metamorphosis and Regeneration. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. 146p. Hardcover, $78.00 (ISBN: 978-1-4422-7307-8).

Book cover for Academic Library Metamorphosis and Regeneration

Academic Library Metamorphosis and Regeneration by Marcy Simons is a well-constructed walkthrough of the multitude of changes and change processes that have occurred through libraries over the years. The book covers issues both external and internal to the library that motivate change. Events include economic downturns, declines in physical circulation, the increase in electronic resource, as well as others. From that follows a discussion of how these factors have spawned changes in the traditional professional roles of librarians. Highlighting the emergence of new types of pressures, libraries hire librarians who focus on copyright, data management, and assessment, to name a few. Marcy then argues that these changes necessitate structural change in the library itself. However, the library structure cannot change without solid leadership, which is the focus of chapter 3 and the subsequent structural change discussed in chapter 4. Naturally, from a discussion of structural change, questions arise of how change can be conducted; this is the focus of chapter 5. The book closes with a discussion surrounding innovation, how to develop a culture of innovation, as well as potential avenues for future change. The evolutionary discussion Marcy constructs helps to guide the reader through the process of change, change management, and future change within the academic library.

The highlight of this book is the chapter on the changes in structure combined with the focus on leadership. Not often do books about change in libraries present a structural path for organizational change. Additionally, recognition that leadership plays a role in structural change is important. Some of the other highlights of the book are the chapters on the different types of change management. In discussing the practice of structural change of the organization, the author offers a path forward in the form of John Kotter’s eight-step model for change. In using this model, the author places the reader in a position to better understand where their organization may stand and what steps can be done to undertake these lofty goals of organizational change.

One challenge with reading the book comes through in the evolutionary perspective used to describe how libraries evolved over time. In looking at the citations and extensive research conducted by the author, it is challenging to unpack the ways and for what reasons new library positions developed. Since the book uses a historical progression, it is argued that libraries developed these positions as a response to the pressures of a changing environment. The question, though, is whether that is the case. Did libraries develop these new positions, like “scholarly communications” librarian, naturally or rather as a peer pressure effect because they saw other libraries becoming more creative in their postings? Additionally, it would be interesting to see a distinction between how these positions address new ideas rather than work well to recruit new library graduates with catchy titles and buzzwords.

One interesting perspective that the reader can have as a takeaway from this book is the notion of a metamorphosis. The author uses this term to encapsulate the evolutionary change that libraries go through. The key to the term metamorphosis is that a metamorphosis has a forward trajectory of development. It could be understood after reading this book that the external pressures the author highlights—declining budgets, new technology, and the like—are not unique to any particular moment of change but are rather hallmarks or signposts that metamorphic change is occurring. Rather than viewing change as a single process, it is more like a revolving wheel, in the same way a caterpillar senses with winter that it is time to build a cocoon. The indicators of budget realignments and new technology signal to the academic library that change is on the horizon.

The author’s use of the word metamorphosis is both foretelling and accurate. The academic library is compelled to adapt, evolve, and overcome because of pressure from outside sources. Following an evolutionary discussion of the literature that has come before, the author does a good job of contextualizing the discussions that surround how the academic library is changing and evolving. The book is also a good primer for understanding where the metamorphosis in the academic library is focused. It seems to revolve around the changing nature of intellectual property with the emergence of computer technology. The author also does a good job of conceptualizing the current phase of change in the academic library and closes the book with some potential areas that could kickstart the next cycle of metamorphic change in the academic library.—Ryan Litsey, Texas Tech University

Copyright Ryan Litsey

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