A network analysis of the American Library Association: Defining a profession
Battleson, Brenda L.
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The term “librarianship” is a generic one, suggesting one overarching discipline despite the numerous specializations and areas of research within the profession. While many disciplines use bibliometric analysis of their literature to define subfields of study within, such methods are not appropriate to librarianship due to the nature of both the field and the literature. This study follows Barnett & Danowski’s (1992) observation that professional associations may be more meaningful in defining a discipline than analysis of the journal literature. As its largest professional body, the American Library Association (ALA) and its numerous divisions and round tables is evidence of the diverse specializations within librarianship. Using membership data provided by ALA, social network analysis is utilized to describe the structure of this organization and the ways in which these specialized divisions and round tables relate to one another from a network perspective. A single year’s data for the 2004 membership year is analyzed in this thesis, allowing for the identification of the sub-disciplines and specializations of study and practice within librarianship as well as the relationships between and among them. Results suggest a core-periphery network structure with major partitions based on overall library type. Latent attributes include a library-type dimension and a research-practice dimension. Implications for the use of network analysis in defining potential channels for professional communication within librarianship are also discussed.