vol. 27 no. 4, December, 2022

Book Reviews

Schlack, Tim, Corrall, Sheila, and Bracke, Paul. (Eds.). The social future of academic libraries: New perspectives on communities, networks, and engagement. London: Facet Publishing, 2022. xxxix, 345 p. ISBN 978-17833-04714. £59.95.

The last years have been marked by multiple crises: Covid19, market recession, the major war in the centre of Europe that deepens economic, energy, and ecological problems. The solutions will demand even more intensive collaboration on each level of society than before. Thus, the book exploring the future role of academic libraries in the terms of social engagement and participation is not only necessary, but also useful in contemporary context.

The book follows the classical educational pattern: the Foreword by Stephen Town and the Introduction by Tim Schlack present the forthcoming content of the book in detail but from different perspectives. The two parts of the book present the main chapters. The Conclusion by Paul J. Bracke summarizes these chapters in the light of the social future of academic libraries. The chapters of the book have been written mainly by librarians and scholars from North America, though some of them also have British background.

The book consists of 15 chapters that require time for reading and reflection. The first part that includes six theoretical chapters by all three editors explores theoretical approaches and research literature on social mission and organisational development not only of university libraries, but also of the whole sector of higher education to which they belong. This is a rich part exploring the models of social participation and corporate responsibility. Here, the authors apply social network and social capital theories to understanding the role of an academic library, revise the context of social mission of higher education and the mission of academic libraries in that diverse environment.

The second part with nine chapters is devoted to the application of the theoretical approaches explored in the first part. The area of application is evidently the work of academic libraries. However, the authors have managed to cover it quite extensively and sometimes have highlighted rather unexpected aspects. It was natural to me to find among the application areas the extended role of subject specialists or conceptual approach to information literacy and research data management. The treatment of those issues was innovative and engaging. On the other hand, the promotion of quality reading or fundraising may not be expected in a book on academic libraries' social mission. I was also surprised ty the problems of the outreach and liaison librarians, which are not often discussed in our research.

The editors of the book have ensured high theoretical and reflexive level of the first theoretical part. The concepts of social and relational capital, social responsibility, social networking and community building are deconstructed and integrated again as reflected by, in and through academic libraries’ mission, role, and future. They are made visible at the level of the professional practice in the second part, enriching and expanding the notions of subject specialists and outreach, research data management and fundraising, information literacy and service design. The main focus here is on attracting multiple partners and trust building. The mutual trust and respect, the equality and long-term communication among partners emerge as the foundation of all future social responsibilities of academic libraries in these thoughtful essays and enticing stories.

The book includes quite many figures, tables and text boxes illustrating and explaining the text, helping the reader to digest some complex concepts and ideas. I have especially appreciated useful inserts and explanations of participatory approaches in general and participatory design, in particular.

Each chapter is followed by an extensive reference list and there is a comprehensive index at the end of the book. The latter helps in navigating and using the text in a more targeted way, the first ones can serve as guides for further reading.

The book is written mainly from the American and to some extent from the British perspectives, therefore, some of the stories or suggestions will not fit into the legal, economic or cultural frameworks of other countries. Nevertheless, the theoretical foundation and most of the professional practices in the book are suitable for any academic and not only academic library anywhere in the world.

Elena Maceviciute

Swedish School of Library and Information Science
November, 2022

How to cite this review

Maceviciute, E. (2022). Review of: Schlack, Tim, Corrall, Sheila and Bracke, Paul (eds.) The social future of academic libraries: new perspectives on communities, networks, and engagement. London: Facet Publishing, 2022. Information Research, 27(4), review no. R749 [Retrieved from http://www.informationr.net/ir/reviews/revs749.html]

Information Research is published four times a year by the University of Borås, Allégatan 1, 501 90 Borås, Sweden.