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This project is complete. I am available for speaking engagements on this or related topics.

Project Description

My overall objective in undertaking a study of library organizations is to identify patterns of gendering within those organizations and to generate theory from an exploration of the gendered nature of libraries and the experiences of library workers. Although there is substantial theory on masculine organizations (Calas & Smircich,1996) and organizations as masculine structures (e.g., Acker, 1990; Ferguson, 1984), no such theory exists regarding female-intensive organizations. Similarly, existing theory posits how a feminist organization should be constructed (e.g., Ferree & Martin , 1995), but no theory that shows a feminine/feminist organization that might have organically evolved in a female-intensive profession. The research that does focus on female-intensive professions either explores differences between men and women within the profession (e.g., Hearn, 1982; Shakeshaft, 1986, 1989, 1999; Shakeshaft & Perry, 1995) or it focuses on the experience of men in female-intensive professions (e.g., Heikes, 1992; Lupton, 2000; Simpson, 2004; Williams, 1995). Libraries differ from other female-intensive professions in that women hold more positions of leadership in libraries than in any other profession (Deyrup, 2004) and libraries themselves function as relatively self-contained organizations within larger bureaucratic structures. My experience in libraries has led me to believe that some academic libraries are stereotypically feminine in their organizational culture, structure, and/or decision making processes. These feminine models may, in addition, be either consciously or unconsciously feminist, or woman-centered.


This project, titled “Academic Libraries as Models of Feminine/Feminist Organization” will therefore explore the gendering of libraries as organizations in order to develop a model of organization that can give voice to ways of working that are invisible in the dominant masculine organization (see Fletcher, 1999).  The research will explore the following questions:

  • In what ways are the libraries included in this study feminine organizations?
  • How are the femininities manifested?
  • What gender ambiguities or contradictions exist in the organization?
  • Are there any explicit or implicit feminist principles at work in these organizations?  If so, what are these principles and how are they implemented?


My aim is to purposefully sample academic libraries. In order to create a sample pool, I am distributing the filter survey that you received along with this project description. I hope to select three sites for my initial dissertation research; additional sites may be added to the study in the future to increase the data pool for subsequent publications. I plan to spend one month at each site, with brief follow-up as necessary.


Once I am in the field, I will gather data using a number of methods appropriate to ethnography, with emphasis on participant-observation using thick description field notes, accompanied by document analysis, formal and informal interview, photography (with the permission of individuals related to the photographic subject) and audio recording (also with permission). Although field work is involved, using the question of gender to focus the study will reduce the immersion time to a manageable few months, rather than the extended field work associated with classic ethnography. This form of ethnography is sometimes labeled “microethnography” (Roper & Shapira, 2000).


Reporting of data will be completely anonymous.  Individuals and organizations will be assigned pseudonyms, and narratives will carefully shield participants.  When I first enter a site, I will introduce myself and my project to everyone in the organization, and I will ask them to sign an informed consent form that will provide them with an overview of the project and will allow individuals to opt out of the project, if they wish.


I am very excited about this project, and I hope that you are interested in participating. If you have any questions about the research, please feel free to contact me at (423)439-4336.



Acker, J. (1990). Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: A theory of gendered organizations. Gender & Society, 4, 139-158.

Calas, M. B., & Smircich, L. (1996). From 'the woman's' point of view: Feminist approaches to organization studies. In S. Clegg  R., C. Hardy & W. R. Nord (Eds.) Handbook of organization studies (pp. 218-257). London: Sage.

Deyrup, M. M. (2004). Is the revolution over? Gender, economic, and professional parity in academic library leadership positions. College & Research Libraries, 65, 242-250.

Ferguson, K. (1984). The feminist case against bureaucracy. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Ferree, M. M., & Martin, Patricia Y.  (1995). Feminist organizations: Harvest of the new women's movement. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Hearn, J. (1982). Notes on patriarchy, professionalization and the semi-professions. Sociology, 16(2), 184-202.

Heikes, J. (1992). When men are in the minority: The case of men in nursing. The Sociological Quarterly, 32(3), 389-401.

Lupton, B. (2000). Maintaining masculinity: Men who do women's work. British Journal of Management, 11, 33-48.

Roper, J. M., & Shapira, J. (2000). Ethnography in nursing research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Shakeshaft, C. (1986). A female organizational culture. Educational Horizons 64, 117-122.

Shakeshaft, C. (1989). Women in educational administration. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Shakeshaft, C. (1999). The struggle to create a more gender-inclusive profession. In Handbook on research on educational administration. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Shakeshaft, C. & Perry, A. (1995). The language of power versus the language of empowerment: Gender difference in administrative communication. In D. Corson (Ed), Discourse and power in educational organizations (pp. 17-29). Canada: Hampton Press.

Simpson, R. (2004). Masculinity at work: The experience of men in female dominated professions. Work, Employment and Society, 18(2), 349.

Williams, C. L. (1995). Still a man's world : Men who do "women's work". Berkeley: University of California Press.



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Last updated: 05/11/10.