Self disclosure

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In several venues recently I have suggested that it would be useful to do some content analysis on various documents to see how institutions are describing themselves, their priorities, their relationships and so on.
I am thinking of strategy documents, annual reports, but also things like websites, organizational charts and job adverts. I know that I could dig up some work in this area, but in a time of reported change it becomes interesting seeing how folks are adapting.
As interesting, or perhaps in some cases more interesting, is how the library is reported in the ‘documents’ of its home institution, the university or city for example. What is emphasized about value; what are seen as major achievements; what needs to change.
Curious, this morning I spent an hour or so very quickly looking at the websites of the first 30 universities in the Newsweek top 100 global universities. I was interested to see what this very superficial examination had to say about libraries in those institutions. A couple of things:

  • There was a link to the library on the majority of the sites. I counted four where there was not (and appearing in a drop down list did not count). I thought this was high compared to a randomly selected 30? This is just based on my own observation, I may be wrong.
  • As expected there was quite a variety of ways in which the library was presented. Perhaps the largest category was where the library was part of the general infrastructure, or visible in a set of quicklinks to central services or departments. I was interested to see the number of institutions where the library was associated with university museums and/or archives, sometimes as part of a general ‘collections’ category. This was higher than I expected. And the number where the library was associated with computing infrastructure was lower than I expected. In several cases, the library was presented in a research or academics category. (I am just using ‘category’ to refer to the grouping on the website – it doesn’t necessarily represent any organizational grouping at the institution.)

Now, I have spoken about stuff being more or less than I expected above. My basis for this? Nothing more than hunch …
I do think that looking at how organizations present themselves and what is important to them in the documents they produce is revealing, documents such as annual reports, strategies, job ads, websites, org charts, and so on. It would be interesting to see more analysis of them. Of course, we would have to be cautious in assuming too much about what they do reveal!




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