Library ethnographies

As I mentioned in my last post, this summer I am doing a special problems / independent readings course on the use of ethnographic methods in analyzing library services. The first article I read was a rather theoretical treatise, which seemed to take forever to slog through! But, I’ve been making some progress, and now the remaining articles are going much more smoothly!

I think I’ve found a good set of resources to start with, and should be able to mine the references for more useful pieces. However, it would be silly not to take advantage of any crowd-sourcing opportunities available! So, I am posting my list of resources below — please let me know if there are any other works on the topic that I should hunt down!

Also, if anyone is interested, I set up some space on my drupal site with my bibliography and links to summaries of each article… Of course, I haven’t yet written up every article that I’ve read, but it’s a work in progress!

  • Antonijevic, S. (2008) From text to gesture online: a microethnographic analysis of nonverbal communication in the Second Life virtual environment. Information, Communication & Society, 11(2), 221-238. doi:10.1080/13691180801937290
  • Asher, Andrew et. al. (2011) Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL) Project. Website with description & publications at
  • Carter, D. (2005) Living in virtual communities: an ethnography of human relationships in cyberspace. Information, Communication & Society, 8(2), 148-167.
  • Crabtree, A., & Nichols, D. M. (2000) Ethnomethodologically informed ethnography and information system design. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 51(7), 666-682.
  • Delcore, Henry D. et. al. (2008) The library study at Fresno State. Fresno, CA: Institute of Public Anthropology, California State University, Fresno. Retrieved from
  • Delcore, Hank and Jim Mullooly (2009) Practicing anthropology in the shelves: designing academic libraries via ethnography. The Anthro Guys blog. Retrieved from
  • Dent-Goodman, Valeda (2011) Applying ethnographic research methods in library and information settings. Libri, 61(1), 1-11.
  • Foster, Nancy Fried and Susan Gibbons (2007) Studying students: the undergraduate research project at the University of Rochester. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries. Retrieved from
  • Green, N. (2002) On the move: technology, mobility, and the mediation of social time and space. Information Society, 18(4), 281-292. doi:10.1080/01972240290075129
  • Hartmann, T., Fischer, M., & Haymaker, J. (2009) Implementing information systems with project teams using ethnographic-action research. Advanced Engineering Informatics, 23(1): 57-67.
  • Jahn, N. (2008) Anthropological motivated usability evaluation: an exploration of IREON – international relations and area studies gateway. Library Hi Tech, 26(4), 606-621.
  • Nycyk, M. (2008) Records management practices in construction industries: Australian perspectives. Records Management Journal, 18(2), 140-149. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
  • Sandstrom, A. R., & Sandstrom, P. (1995) The use and misuse of anthropological methods in library and information science research. Library Quarterly, 65(2), 161-199.
  • Sandstrom, A. R., & Sandstrom, P. (1998) Science and nonscience in qualitative research: A response to Thomas and Nyce. Library Quarterly, 68(2), 249-254.
  • Sandstrom, P. (2004) Anthropological approaches to information systems and behavior. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science & Technology, 30(3), 12-16.

2 thoughts on “Library ethnographies

    1. Absolutely! I listed citations for everything that I had found so far that looked applicable to the topic. Unfortunately, yours is still on the “to read” list. I’ll get to it one of these day!

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