The sense-making practices of hospital librarians
Similar to librarians in other environments, baby-boomer medical librarians are reaching retirement age in record numbers (American Library Association, 2004). In contrast to hopeful predictions that medical libraries will continue to be heavily used (Lindberg & Humphreys, 2005), leaders agree that hospital libraries are at a “critical juncture” (Tooey, 2009), and call for professionals to “be prepared” (Freiburger, 2010) to retool library spaces and redefine practice. Despite prescriptions for change, little is known about the worlds of hospital librarians.
The theoretical perspectives of Sense-Making defined by Brenda Dervin and the work of Karl Weick are used to conduct retrospective, semi-structured interviews to learn more about the sense-making1 behaviors of hospital librarians engaged in recognizing, characterizing, and negotiating barriers to sense-making during task- or situation-related processes. Interviewing techniques pioneered by Dervin were used to enable participants to examine their processes from the stage of their “awareness of discontinuity” in sense-making (Dervin, Foreman-Wernet, & Lauterbach, 2003, p.276), through gap-bridging as the librarians worked to make sense of situations. Analysis used previously validated categories, with additional categories emerged during analysis.
Characterizing the situations and gaps of hospital librarians can assist in the development of support and education, as well as helping the profession to plan for changes that must occur if it is to survive and grow. From this research I have found that the hospital librarians who shared their narratives make sense of their situations through the lens of their place within the organization, and that their feelings of affiliation and stability are vitally important to this process. With the confidence of security, hospital librarians are active participants and contributors to the hospital community. The methods and models provided by both Brenda Dervin and Karl Weick add important perspectives to making sense of hospital librarians’ sense-making.