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ERIC Number: EJ1058465
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Mar
Pages: 11
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0870
The Mcdonaldization of Academic Libraries and the Values of Transformational Change
Nicholson, Karen P.
College & Research Libraries, v76 n3 p328-338 Mar 2015
In his article "The McDonaldization of Academic Libraries?" Brian Quinn explores to what extent and to what effect academic libraries have become "McDonaldized," according to the concept developed by sociologist George Ritzer. Quinn identifies a number of ways in which the four dimensions of McDonaldization--"efficiency," "calculability," "predictability," and "control" (typically realized through the substitution of technology for human labor)--are evident in academic libraries. Tiered reference service, self-check machines, and self-guided tours all represent ways in which libraries have sought to become more efficient. Calculability is represented in the focus on quantity, such as inputs (like financial resources, number of staff, gate counts, number of volumes) and outputs (for instance, circulation stats, online transactions), as a surrogate for quality. McDonaldization is also apparent in the growing predictability of academic libraries' collections resulting from the use of approval plans and journal aggregator databases. Likewise, Quinn suggests, most libraries offer the same suite of core services. Finally, in addition to their hierarchical structure and reliance on rules and regulations--typical of bureaucratic systems, and in itself a form of social control--the increasing use of technology in libraries serves as a mechanism of rationalization and control. In this article, Karen Nicholson, opines that the McDonaldization of academic libraries reflects the growing influence of corporate aims and values (in other words, competition, profitability, risk, value for money, entrepreneurship) in the public sector under the neoliberal philosophy of New Public Management (NPM). NPM has been described as an umbrella term for an array of practices that seek to increase effectiveness and efficiency, introduce flexibility into organizational structures through downsizing and decentralization, develop innovation and entrepreneurialism, and accord users a greater role in decision making. In the neoliberal "McUniversity," economic exchange becomes the defining relationship between students, staff, and the institution. Nicholson notes that Quinn's critique largely foreshadows the current state of academic libraries, the preoccupation with accountability and return on investment. She contends that there are several issues with the McDonaldization of academic libraries and the concomitant discourse of transformational change and draws upon several relevant works to delve into these issues.
Association of College and Research Libraries. 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611. e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A