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M S Sridhar@
N G Sathish and Anil Takalkar. Case studies for teaching library management. Edited by L J Haravu. Secundarabad: Kesavan Institute of Information and Knowledge Management, 2012, xv + 159p, Paperback, Rs.290/-.
Teaching and practice, unfortunately, are two different streams in Indian librarianship and they meet quite rarely. With an exception of a few, most teachers of LIS have no option than borrowing case studies from others’ experiences for presenting to their students, if at all they wish to do so. Well articulated true-to-life case studies are not easily and readily available. Here is a book which very effectively fills this gap and probably the first of its kind to provide a number of well thought out case studies of library management. The book has 39 case studies, a brief introduction to library management, ‘case analysis’ for the first two cases and ‘suggested discussion leads’ for the remaining cases. Changing from ‘teaching’ to ‘learning’ is an important shift in education and case study method has a role to play in this process. For a long time, the structure of management education itself gave prime importance to case studies. Almost every LIS course has also ‘library management’ as a subject and management theory is taught regularly as propounded in management text books minus cases from the experiences of practitioners. Even nascent topics like ‘strategic management’, ‘change management’, ‘disaster management’ are routinely taught in master’s courses and even explored for doctoral works without practical cases to record and discuss. This book provides sufficient scope to library education for adopting, though belated, case studies approach and fuel for gaining momentum and mileage. Case studies method of learning is going to be revolutionary for library education. It calls for whole hearted commitment and a lot of efforts on the part of faculty to make it happen.
Each case study is well presented like a mini story in an interactive mode and in a typical journalistic style in the book. I am sure practitioners would love these case studies as each one looks as if it is their own. Having retired four years ago, as I read through the case studies, my memory is stirred and made me involuntarily and vividly recall number of similar incidents in my own career. I consider this as a testimony for the effectiveness of case studies presented in the book. There are case studies on many important and practical issues of libraries. I wonder this compendium of case studies may also serve, in a limited way, as a brief history of management of Indian libraries during two crucial decades of 1980s and 1990s when they were on the verge 1
of automation and entering digital era. I congratulate the authors and the editor of the book for this path-breaking attempt to imbibe case studies in library education. Now, it is up to the faculty of library schools to take this forward and make the case study approach a reality in LIS education. It is highly desirable that the book is also reviewed from the perspective of teachers highlighting problems/ obstacles, if any, in implementing the case study approach.
The right, wrong or hypothetical nature of case studies is immaterial. More importantly, what makes case studies complete is their ability to involve participants after presentation (i.e., invoking wide participation with intensive discussion/ debate). I am confident that the case studies in this book have that quality to evoke absorbing discussions in group meetings both in library schools and in professional meetings of practitioners (incidentally, the case study approach of management teaching should not be mistaken or equated with case study as a method in research methodology). Each case study in the book has well thought out, practical and sufficiently intricate plot. Resolving such cases is certainly a good practical exercise that every student must undergo. It is not just the theoretical knowledge of management technique/ tool but the rich experience and the insight into librarianship that is more important in case study method.
An exposure to management theories and some understanding of the practical working of libraries are the two important pre-requisites for adopting case study approach to learning. The book, fortunately, has a brief introduction to library management and as claimed by the authors it is intended to facilitate the use of the case method as a means of addressing typical problem situations presented. This is an excellent, but highly brief exposition on ‘library management’ as a preamble to case studies and obviously stands separate from the case studies. Though it touches upon most of management concepts and techniques, a little more elaborate adjunct library management manual either embedded with or cross referenced to case studies is desired. While doing so, if embedding is not feasible, at least grouping case studies by the management facets or skills involved will make the book more like a work book for class rooms as it is not supposed to be read from the beginning to end. Alternatively, an index of case studies using broad management issues like leadership styles, HR strategy, organization culture, job description/ enrichment, motivation/ de-motivation, communication (or lack of it), responsibility/ power struggle, and win-win situation is more convenient to students.
It is high time that practical sessions in LIS education include more and more case studies. We can expect more case studies in the future revision of the book and also additional books on case studies embedded in library management, if LIS schools show adequate interest. No 2
doubt, course material and teachers have important roles in supplementing the book with management theories and library practices. Authors do provide a very useful ‘case analysis’ for the first two cases and ‘suggested discussion leads’ for the remaining cases at the end making the book quite close to a practical work book. It is indeed a reference manual for teachers and students of LIS. An apprehension about the ‘suggested discussion leads’ is that they are indicative of answers (i.e., what is right or wrong) and as they are not expected to be exhaustive, they may indirectly restrict or direct the thinking process of students. An alternative is to either give generic examples and guidelines to raise questions or give fairly exhaustive questions for two sample case studies.
There is one potential danger in the perception of these case studies. That is some case studies are concerned with so called routine/ mundane functions and services of libraries. Unfortunately, some wrongly think or believe that case studies involving library circulation, shelf arrangement/ rectification, etc. as trivial or less important and even not-so-professional. In fact this wrong perception of some professionals, particularly academicians and IT stalwarts, itself is an theme/ objective covertly addressed in these case studies. When management gurus are exploring use of video games and other advanced tools and techniques for teaching and training, LIS should at least make a modest beginning with the good old case study method.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------* SRELS Journal of Information Management, February 2013, v. 50 (1) 131-132. @ Former Head, Library & Documentation ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore. Address: 1103, ‘Mirle House’, 19th B Main, J P Nagar 2nd Phase, Bangalore – 560078; E-mail: email@example.com
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