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The study aims to understand better the dynamics of negotiating professional jurisdiction to research from the perspective of academic librarians developing library services for researchers. This qualitative case study consists of 24 semi-structured interviews, 32 recorded non-participant observations, and ten official university library documents collected at one Swedish university library with three division libraries during 2016.
The analytical frame is based on Abbott’s (1988) system of professions approach. It focuses on changes in professional work. It is assumed that all professions have strong or weak control of jurisdictions. These are described as a profession’s exclusive rights to a task area, including the right to decide over tasks and relevant professional knowledge. The assumption is that jurisdictions change, constantly negotiated at the workplace, and are settled. The settlements range from strong to weak control of jurisdiction. The analytical frame also identifies disturbances to negotiate jurisdiction that can be internal or external to a profession, e.g., new knowledge, organization, and technology.
The results show that developing library services for researchers is an ambiguous and complicated task, influenced by several constraints addressed differently by academic librarians. Constraints were related to the task description, organization, management support, communication, academic librarians’ skills and competencies, and level of ambition. The results showed that academic librarians have the potential to approach research jurisdiction. However, disciplinary differences seem to exist. Academic librarians at a science and medical library seem to have more apparent opportunities than academic librarians at humanities and art history libraries or social science libraries to approach research jurisdiction. Conflicts between academic librarians emerged. The study confirms access jurisdiction as a strong jurisdiction for librarians still. New and emerging tasks related to access, e.g., digitization, strengthens it further and appear as a springboard to approach and negotiate research jurisdiction. In addition, the thesis clarified a need to analyze the work and needs of the profession itself. It also highlighted communication and information dissemination as an organizational disturbance not previously considered in the system of professions approach.
Doctoral thesis title
Academic librarianship in flux : The dynamics of negotiating professional jurisdiction