"But Is It a Library?" The Contested Meanings and Changing Culture of the Academic Library Open Access

Milewicz, Elizabeth Jean (2009)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/2801pg488?locale=en
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Abstract

What does it mean, when academic libraries are noisy? After centuries of silence, bound up in architecture, building use policies, and scholarly habits, the American academic library is experiencing abrupt changes in its soundscape as shifts in technology and pedagogy prompt its re-situation in the academic community. Librarians, facing a future in which the role and relevancy of the library is uncertain, argue for its continued validity by linking changes in the library to its educational mission and to the needs and preferences of students born in the Digital Age. Lifelong library users, though acquiescing to these changes, question their appropriateness to the library's essential role. Conflicts over the meaning of the academic library bespeak broader challenges in American higher education over balancing support for the life of the mind with the demands of a consumer-driven academic culture.

Focused on American academic libraries in general and Emory University's Woodruff Library in particular, this phenomenological and ethnographic case study explores the meaning of the library to members of the academic community as a way of assessing the legitimacy of new library spaces. Using theories of discourse and sociological theories of legitimacy, methods of cultural and linguistic anthropology, and a historical and experiential focus on the soundscape of the library, this interdisciplinary research gauges the divergence between users' beliefs about and use of the library and the types of spaces and activities promoted by librarians. In discourse about and observations within libraries, differing expectations of the role of the library emerge, along with a process of legitimating new library spaces by connecting them to broader cultural frameworks and extant beliefs regarding the role of the library. Beyond evidencing the library's expanding technological and pedagogical roles, the soundscape of the academic library signals a deeper shift in the nature of academic life - from the culture of isolated reflection that has long typified the life of the mind, to a new academic culture of productivity, in which a focus on efficiency, outcomes, and consumer demands drive the experience of higher education.

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1 THE SOUND OF CHANGE IN ACADEMIC LIBRARIES 1
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE AND PROJECT SUMMARY 3
THEORETICAL AND HISTORICAL CONTEXT 7
A culture of quiet 8
Justifying the noisy library 12
Valuing quiet 17

CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE STUDY AND PREVIEW OF CHAPTERS 21
REFLECTIONS ON INSIDER ETHNOGRAPHY 28
Library positions 30
Constructing insider status 32

CHAPTER 2 THEORETICAL AND HISTORICAL REVIEW 35
THE SANCTUARY AND THE SILENT READER 37
From communities of mumblers to silent communion 39
The functional aesthetics of reading rooms 41
Making space for quiet, books, and reading 45

SHIFTING EXPECTATIONS OF SCHOLARLY WORK AND THE LIBRARY 48
Leveling pedagogy and building the Commons 50
A library by another name 56
Contesting the meaning of the academic library 59
The meaning of quiet 66

DISCOURSE, AUTHORITY, AND CULTURAL CHANGE 73
Legitimacy and innovation in organizational fields 73
The dispersion of authority 77
Structured and structuring discourse 80
Discourse, legitimacy, and cultural change 83

CONCLUSION 85

CHAPTER 3 DEFINING AND DEFENDING THE SOUND OF THE LIBRARY 88
DEFINING LIBRARIES 91
Quiet place of books and study 95
Refuge from other distractions 99
Transcendence and communion 104
Computers, librarians, and people 109

SOUNDS AND SPACES 113
Machine City 115
Disturbing Quiet 119
Open Walls 122

ORDER OF THE LIBRARY 124
A Lively Library 125
Something for Everyone 129
Someone Else's Library 133

CONCLUSION 139

CHAPTER 4 SOUNDING THE LIBRARY 143
A BRIEF HISTORY OF WOODRUFF LIBRARY 145
THE COMMONS 148
Level 2: The Business Library 151
Level 2: Reference 156
Level 3: The Quiet Study Area 162
Level 3: Mezzanine and Bridge 171

MATHESON READING ROOM 174
JAZZMAN'S 184
CONCLUSION 194

CHAPTER 5 STRADDLING CONCEPTUAL WORLDS 197
DISTINGUISHING SOUND 201
Noisy life 202
Gilded silence 207
Preserving quiet 210

SECURING QUIET IN PUBLIC SPACE 213
Enclosures and environments 213
Avoiding confrontations 219

THE BUSINESS OF LIBRARIES 222
Measuring productivity and value 223
Serving customers 225

CONCLUSION 229

CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSIONS 231
SOUNDING THE LEGITIMACY OF THE NOISY LIBRARY 232
Ordering discourse about (and in) the library 235
Balancing quiet, noise, and the needs of others 238
THE CULTURE(S) OF PRODUCTIVITY 242
Privatizing Public 243
Talking Shop: Business approaches to public goods 244
Outsourcing relevance 246
LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY 247
Recruiting library users 247
Recording sound 249
DIRECTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH 251
Siting new studies 251
Crystallization versus triangulation 253
Library 'utterances' and finalization 254

APPENDIX 1: INTERVIEWING 256
INTERVIEWEES AND RECRUITMENT 257
ANALYSIS OF INTERVIEWS 258
EXPLICATION OF INTERVIEWS 259
INTERVIEWEE DEMOGRAPHICS 260
INTERVIEW PROTOCOL 263

APPENDIX 2: PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION 273
FIELD SITE AND OBSERVATION LOCATIONS 273
OBSERVATION PROCEDURES 275
Measuring sound levels 275
Recording the scene 277
Role switching in the scene 278

APPENDIX 3: DISCOURSE ANALYSIS 280
DOCUMENT COLLECTION 281
Coding and Analysis 286
Everyday discourse and ideological commonsense 289
Article types 291

BIBLIOGRAPHY 294

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