Lor, Peter Johan. International and comparative librarianship: concepts and methods for global studies. De Gruyter, Saur, 2019. xliv, 905. ISBN 978-3-11-026791-4. €69.95. (IFLA: Global studies in libraries and information).
This substantial volume written by Peter Johan Lor most probably is not meant for linear reading. Its size precludes such a possibility as well as its rich content. The author, who has served as a Secretary General of IFLA in 2005-2008 and most of his life worked in the academic institutions and libraries in South Africa, knows the subject of international and comparative librarianship very well. I was very glad to see this work as my own career started with a study of international library programmes of UNESCO. and a course in comparative librarianship. My recent involvement in projects with Rwandan and Ugandan universities brought me in the contact with the development programmes for African libraries.
I am not sure if this double term 'international and comparative librarianship' is known well for all representatives of our study area and profession. It is not so easy to disentagle it as there are several perspectives mixed into one compound term. International librarianship relates to the work of international organizations in the the field of library work and international cooperation of libraries in various other forms, but also to the area of academic study of this phenomenon. Comparative librarianship relates more to the way of conducting library studies - comparing libraries and their work in two or more countries. However, historically these two areas of study used to be merged and adressed together. P.J. Lor explains the emergence and meaning of the term in the preface.
The rich content of the book is divided into four parts logically moving from more general to more concrete topics: from the theoretical concepts to methodological concerns, to global political economy affecting library development, to the effects of ideological, political and scholarly influences on libraries and information science and profession. In each part the author is presenting the topic in great detail.
I have especially appreciated the second half of the book, in which the geopolitical and intellectual contexts of international and comparative librarianship are introduced. The interplay of national, regional and global factors related to the library and information science trends and library development are reflected in all their richness in this volume. I was impressed by the accounts of various agencies dealing with libray and information development on different levels. Their activities are usually complex and intricately knit, changing with the emergence and disappearance of powerful actors on the global arena. It is quite a big job to present one of them, but the author deals with multiple organizations of different kinds spread all over the world. He manages to convey both the compexity of the work that they are doing and a clear picture of their impact in various regions on libraries and library and information science.
The first part would be very useful for researchers looking for suitable conceptual frameworks and methods to conduct their studies not only in comparative and international librarianship, but in a wider context of library and information science. A good historical overview of the development of international library cooperation and research into international and comparative librarianship is provided in the first chapter. It was a pleasure to recognize the names and works, and even citations that I have used so long ago, but also to follow up the modern trends and development of the 21st century.
The theoretical part is presented logically, though I would argue with some of the frameworks and concepts, especially the 'knowledge pyramid' that is more confusing the matters in information science than clarifying them. But all this theoretical chapter 3 is useful as it stimulates thinking and suggests possible frameworks that can be developed or disputed. In any case, it will move the library thought ahead and bring back the comparative dimension into it.
The least interesting for me was Part II on methods. Though adapted to the general subject of the book, it is quite general and duplicates other books and textbooks on methodology. However, I can recommend it to those who start their research career in international and comparative librarianship as a useful overview of possible approaches and research tools. This chapter makes the whole volume suitable for doctoral students and young researchers in the area by pooling all intellectual resources necessary for research together between the same covers.
I am glad to recommend the whole volume to the young generation of library researchers and students with the hope that they will develop this very interesting area of library and information science further. The step taken by P.J. Lor in writing this book is crucial for summing up and raising previous achievements in this area to a higher conceptual level.
University of Borås
How to cite this review
Maceviciute, E. (2020). Review of: Lor, Peter Johan. International and comparative librarianship: concepts and methods for global studies. De Gruyter, Saur, 2019. Information Research, 25(3), review no. R696 http://informationr.net/ir/reviews/revs696.html
Information Research is published four times a year by the University of Borås, Allégatan 1, 501 90 Borås, Sweden.