Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

True North Journeys in Leadership of Women Library Directors in Canadian Academic Libraries
by De Long, Kathleen, Ph.D., Simmons College, 2012, 324; 3710780
Abstract (Summary)

Women library leaders are fairly common at the beginning of the twenty-first century but this has not always been the case. Today there is a generation of Canadian women administrators who came up through the ranks of libraries that were overwhelmingly led by male librarians and who may have been perceived as less desirable than their male colleagues for promotion into leadership positions. Nonetheless, these women were able to attain leadership roles and account in some part for the reversal in numbers of males and females in leadership and administrative positions. This senior cohort of women is also likely to retire within the next five to ten years.

Many lessons in leadership can likely be learned from the current generation of women leaders. As women have made the decision to become library leaders, they will have had individual experiences of developing themselves in the role. At the same time it is possible that there are common experiences that have influenced the professional development of women in senior library positions. No studies have examined the professional lives of current women library directors to determine how their expectations, perspectives, and experiences shaped their development as leaders. This study reveals and describes the professional lives of women in leadership positions in Canadian research/academic libraries. When and why did they make the decision to apply for positions as managers or directors of libraries or to take a leadership role? What is their definition of leadership and has it changed over time? Are there stories, conversations, or critical incidents in their development as leaders that have been documented or that they can identify? Who or what influenced them and their career progression?

The data for this study were collected using a qualitative methodology known as narrative inquiry research. Qualitative interviewing that incorporates narrative inquiry allows study participants to focus on stories or events that are critical to them and that allow them to make meaning of their professional life experiences. This process of data collection involved semi-structured, in-depth, interviews with study participants in order to explore their career path and to determine critical incidents in their development as leaders. Data were analyzed using a categorical-content perspective.

Findings focus on early experiences, mid-career events, decisions and relationships, and development of authentic leadership capability in the study group of four women library directors. Critical incidents have been identified and re-storyed. These critical incidents are usually change experiences that could not be predicted and that served to affect study participants. development as leaders, and change their definition of leadership over time.

The results of this study contribute to strategizing on the part of women who are interested in leadership roles and promote fuller understanding of both the challenges and opportunities inherent in these roles. The study is also of interest to those who seek to understand the role of women in librarianship and how their leadership has influenced the development of libraries and of the profession. It should also provide a historical view of library leadership and changing thinking about women and their roles as leaders over time.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hernon, Peter
School: Simmons College
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 76/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Canadian studies, Library science, Womens studies, Management, Information science
Keywords: Academic libraries, Canada, Canadian libraries, Leadership, Narrative inquiry, Women leaders
Publication Number: 3710780
ISBN: 9781321867985
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