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Book Reviews

Patrick Lo, Dickson K.W. Chiu, Allan Cho, and Brad Allard. Conversations with Leading Academic and Research Library Directors: International Perspectives on Library Management. Cambridge, MA: Chandos Publishing, 2019. 524p. Paperback. $120.00 (ISBN 978-0-08-102746-2).

Book cover for Conversation with Leading Academic and Research Library Directors

Library directors are uniquely positioned in academic and research librarianship. They are leaders of libraries, driving internal change and progress, and they also liaise at the institutional and global level to orient the library in evolving practice. Conversations with Leading Academic and Research Library Directors examines both of these roles deeply through semistructured interviews with directors and leaders of research libraries in the United States and abroad. The book contains 30 interviews representing leaders from American university libraries including Harvard, Yale, MIT, and UCLA and global research libraries with a primary focus on Europe and Asia. Together, these interviews provide a contemporary look at some of the top libraries around the world. The interviews do not follow a set form, yet all delve deeply into the career trajectories of academic library directors, provide a general overview of how they work and how their library is organized, and serve as a platform for their priorities and interests in guiding the work of their organizations. Each chapter concludes with a short image section showing the interviewee and the library the director leads.

The authors span the globe and represent a diversity of perspectives in library and information science. Dr. Patrick Lo serves as a faculty member in the department of Library, Information & Media Science at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. Brad Allard is a public librarian working in Kentucky in the United States. Allan Cho is an academic librarian at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Dr. Dickson K.W. Chiu is a technologist and academic currently teaching at the University of Hong Kong. The use of a semistructured interview style lets the authors follow the flow of their interviewees’ interests. Though the interviews are similar enough that patterns and comparisons may emerge between them, the subject-guided format helps the content focus on the goals and interests of library leaders, which is the most fascinating part of this project. As Elizabeth Blakesley, Associate Dean of Libraries at Washington State University and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Academic Librarianship, suggests in the foreword, the format gives a reading experience similar to fruitful networking with some of the top leaders in global librarianship.

This format makes the volume particularly interesting for practicing academic librarians and library administrators who have an understanding of the landscape of librarianship and some experience with library leadership. Although the book provides an overview of some of the top trends in research librarianship, it seems intended for readers who already have experience with the projects and processes that the interviewees discuss. Academic and research librarians will have the background knowledge of academia and libraries required to understand how each interview fits into the landscape of current practice. The book is perhaps most interesting for librarians who aspire to library leadership, since almost all of the interviews contain a detailed discussion of the career steps and trajectory of the interviewee, a discussion of their day-to-day work, and the advice that they would give to aspiring librarians and library leaders. It also provides context for global librarianship, detailing the work, concerns, and goals of librarians outside the United States.

In the conclusion, the authors distill some of what they have learned through the interview process into several frames addressing the role of the library director in leadership and the areas of interest discussed by the subjects. The focus on library management in the interviews reveals quite a bit of diversity in practice among library leaders. The authors contextualize this in the framework of transformational leadership. They also discuss the importance of library directors serving as facilitators for collaboration with stakeholders inside and outside their libraries, the role of fundraising in the work of directors, and librarians as active participants in the research process and global politics. This concluding chapter helps bring the work of the interviews into a more cohesive whole.

Conversations with Leading Academic and Research Library Directors provides inviting glimpses into the work and practices taking place in innovative international libraries. Its format encourages browsing and reference for particular activities and people. It represents snapshots of 30 library directors, not only in its bite-sized interviews but also in the way it captures the current moment in academic libraries. This type of work has potential to grow in usefulness as it is reproduced in different times and spaces and contextualized through outside work. As a monograph, it excels as an index of current leadership and the exciting projects, plans, and goals they envision for the future of their libraries. As an artifact, it conveys a perspective on contemporary academic librarianship through the voices of library leaders.—Laura Costello, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Copyright Laura Costello


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