Over the last several years, an increasing number of libraries and librarians have utilized ethnographic methods as a way to better understand their institutions and constituents (Khoo, et. al 2012).  Much of this recent history of ethnography in libraries has been heavily influenced by the principals and methodologies of design-ethnography as modeled by Nancy Fried Foster’s “Studying Students” project at the University of Rochester (Foster & Gibbons 2007 ).  However, anthropology as a discipline has had a long relationship with libraries that is often overlooked by these more recent works, and has a tradition of examining the culture of academia and the practices and meanings surrounding people’s location and use of information.

This blog is an attempt to mine that longer, broader history, to delve into and discuss works that are relevant to the ethnography of academic spaces (including libraries), to build on and expand the work of current library ethnography projects (including our own) (see Duke & Asher 2012, Wu and Lanclos 2011; Connaway, Lanclos, and White 2011; Lanclos, Ferrara, Evans, Davies and Suleski 2012), and to examine the theoretical underpinnings of design-ethnography and other methodological approaches to library ethnography.

Our goal is to post a couple of times per month, with each post discussing and commenting on a specific work or set of works that relate to these interested.  We begin with a post that was published by Donna Lanclos on her “The Anthropologist in the Stacks” blog, which examines a study conducted by Pierre Bourdieu and his students nearly 50 years ago that helped to inspire the creation of this blog.

Connaway, Lynn Silipigni, David White, and Donna Lanclos. 2011. “Visitors and Residents: What Motivates Engagement with the Digital Information Environment?” Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 48 (1): 1–7. doi:10.1002/meet.2011.14504801129.

Duke, Lynda M, and Andrew D Asher. 2012. College libraries and student culture : what we now know. Chicago: American Library Association.

Foster, Nancy Fried, and Gibbons, Susan, eds. Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester. Association of College and Research Libraries.

Khoo, Michael, Lily Rozaklis, and Catherine Hall. 2012. “A Survey of the Use of Ethnographic Methods in the Study of Libraries and Library Users.” Library & Information Science Research 34 (2) (April): 82–91. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2011.07.010.

Lanclos, Donna, A. M. Ferrara, M. A. Davies, C. J. Evans, and T. J. Suleski, “Collaborative work within Optical Engineering: Ethnography and curricular development,” in Applied Industrial Optics: Spectroscopy, Imaging and Metrology, OSA Technical Digest (online) (Optical Society of America, 2012), paper JTu5A.1.

Wu, Somaly Kim, and Donna Lanclos. 2011. “Re-imagining the Users’ Experience: An Ethnographic Approach to Web Usability and Space Design.” Reference Services Review 39 (3): 369–389. doi:10.1108/00907321111161386.

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Introduction / Biblio|Ethno|Historio|Graphy by aasher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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Biblio|Ethno|Historio|Graphy by Andrew Asher & Donna Lanclos is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.