corporate librarian

Working in academia for a decade invested me with a feeling of security. I’m tenured. That should mean something. My delusions were recently dashed and I have a more realistic notion of the academic library and academia as a whole. I thought we were different. That we weren’t corporate in our thinking.


But enough about that. I didn’t plan to write about personal disappointments with the ivory tower.  This is merely a segue into an article I read this morning about a new book called Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University. A sociologist there, Gaye Tuchman spent six years with her eyes and ears open and uncovered so much yummy stuff at her institution.

Here’s the part that struck me:

And she notes that while professors still have much more freedom than most American employees, “as the decades pass, working at a university will become more and more like working in the corporate world” and administrators will be hired for their ability to carry out corporate-style management.

It’s really no surprise. universities and their libraries take their cues from the oh-so-successful world of business. It’s blind devotion, really. Aren’t businesses and their models and philosophies at the heart of the great depression/recession we’re experiencing?

The university wants to emulate a model that caused people to lose their homes and businesses and retirement funds. Consider misplaced values.

Oh goodness, one of my colleagues pinned the tail on our particular donkey a few years ago. She called it “smoke and mirrors.” That’s what we do. Smoke and mirrors.

Tuchman’s book portrays:

… an administration much more concerned with making the university look outstanding than actually becoming outstanding.

Smoke and mirrors. Band aid solutions. We’re all fumbling to face what’s coming. Nobody is prepared. Long-term planning is a joke. The future changes so quickly that long-term planning is a relic.

Since I haven’t read the book, I cannot speak to whether Tuchman mentioned libraries. Libraries hardly ever figure into anyone’s research of the university.

But the corporatization of the library is well under way. We’ve based our services on business models for years now. A colleague gave a presentation at LITA over the weekend, LiBerry Guides Go Mobile: Creating Usable Handheld Solutions for  21st Century Students, and they modeled their mobile guides from a business model, not anything another library produced. She mentioned my CRLNews article about Zappos and how I suggested that libraries adopt their customer service model. I could probably list 4 or 5 other examples if I had time to think of them.

Something along a similar vein that would be good reading is The McDonaldization of Academic Libraries. It basically posits that fast-food principles that pervade society have entered the academic library and morphed its service model into something slick, greasy, and not nutritious.

How does one develop a corporate mindset then? And does that serve the library, really? Things to ponder.

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