Friday, May 16, 2014

Conceptualizing library and information consulting

As I continue with my research (or sense-making), I want to report on my evolving and ongoing conceptualization of library consultants. So far, it has been a scavenger hunt to find literature that clearly conceptualize library consultants and library consulting.

Currently, I rely mainly on De Stricker's (2008) as the most recent book to discuss library and information consulting. From her perspective, library and information consultants are not narrowly confined to those formally educated as librarians. She argues that while some library and information consultants are formally educated in librarianship, others possess informal education from experience or expertise in working within library settings, from which they offer library-related expertise and services. De Stricker also defines library and information consulting as consisting of both librarians offering “skills to a variety of clients (not necessarily libraries)” and of “other types of professionals (e.g. architects, staff training experts)”. She provides a nice little quadrant or diagram to show the scope of library and information consulting from which I could use to have a clear picture of the activities that fall under library and information consulting.

However, from my reading of blogs and tweets on the subject and further published library literature, I have come up with a diagram to model what a library consultant looks like conceptually (You can click on the image to make it larger).

In theory, a library consultant can be a qualified librarian or some other professional without library school credentials that brings about either:

a) a change or transformation in a library system, library or library staff
b) creates or establishes a library system or library where there was none.

Technically, information consultants are not necessarily library consultants (even if they have an MLIS or library-related credentials). Information consultants can only be classified as engaging in library consulting when they:

  1. offer information consulting services to librarians (which may lead to transfer of skills or knowledge to librarians) or 
  2. when their information consultancy involves transforming a library system or a library, as in the case of an information consultant providing advice about a library's collection development.

Currently, this is the understanding that I have derived from my varied sources about library consultants. But I'm open to receiving comments that will help me accurately understand the nature of job or occupational identity of library consultant. (Unfortunately or fortunately, the librarian's mind is to put concepts into discreet categories or neat little boxes).


Broughton, D., Blackburn, L., & Vickers, L. (1991). Information brokers and information consultants. Library management, 12(6), 4-16.

De Stricker, U. (2008). Is consulting for you? A primer for information professionals. Chicago: American Library Association.

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