Ready or Not: Managing Change in Academic Libraries

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In my previous blog posts, I have reflected on the leadership attributes that can foster trust, collegiality, and authenticity in the digital learning environment. I was greatly inspired by an adaptive leadership model proposed by Khan (2017), which has, in my opinion, the potential to greatly impact the way we perceive change in the digital learning environment. In line with the adaptive leadership model, I would like to start this blog with one of the principles of the Agile Manifesto for Teaching and Learning, which states: “Continous improvement over maintenance of current practices” (Krehbiel et al., 2017).  Using this Agile principle when reflecting on change management, I would like to focus on change management in academic libraries and its effect on teaching and learning.

Academic librarians have been often called “change agents” (Katayoon & Abrizah, 2017). As library collections rapidly move online, the services provided by academic librarians are also progressively changing and are adapting to the needs of online learners (Lynch & Smith, 2001; Nitecki & Davis, 2017).  The literature on change management in academic libraries as well as a profession itself, has been continuously evolving. Librarians have been taking new roles in their respective institutions, related to online teaching and learning, instructional design, RDM, Digital Humanities, open access, and more (McTavish, 2019; Otto, 2014).

In my experience as an academic librarian, change in libraries often is a three-way process, initiated either by a client (such as for example, request for a service), service providers (librarians who work directly with the clients and are aware of their needs), or library management. When assessing the organizational readiness for change, which refers to “organizational members’ change commitment and change efficacy to implement organizational change”  (Weiner, 2009, “Discussion”, para. 2), the “change valence” is identified by Weiner (2009) as one of the key elements of the organizational readiness. One of the great examples of seeing the value in bringing change is addressing the needs of the students. in this sense, the students, indirectly, initiating the change, reversing the role of top-down approach to change implementation.

This approach to change management is user-centred and adaptive. Wong and Chan (2018) have demonstrated a great example of this by applying an adaptive leadership model to manage change in academic libraries. Feldstein (2017) discusses the needs of the users as a driving force behind the development of the LMS features, stating that “context is everything” (para. 20). The contextual conditions that support change management are linked to “an organizational culture that embraces innovation, risk-taking, and learning” (Weiner, 2009, “Discussion”, para. 12). Following the lead of our users by maintaining openness and flexibility in designing services and courses can ensure that an organization and its services remain relevant, and the change is embraced as an essential and proactive step towards innovation and organizational wellbeing. This requires a strong “visionary leadership” Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015, p. 242), listening to those who work directly with the clients and are “change-enablers”, and an effective change management method that aligns with change type “to achieve the desired change outcomes” (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015, p. 251).


Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: a model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 28(2), 234-262.

Feldstein, M. (2017, May 28). A flexible, interoperable digital learning platform: Are we there yet? [blog post]. Retrieved from:

Katayoon, K., & Abrizah, A. (2017). Librarians’ role as change agents for institutional repositories: A case of Malaysian academic libraries.  Malaysian Journal of Library & Information Science15(3), 121-133.

Khan, N. (2017). Adaptive or transactional leadership in current Higher Education: A brief comparison. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 18(3), 178-183. doi: 10.19173/irrodl.v18i3.3294.

Krehbiel, T., Salzaruloa, P., Cosmaha, M., Forrena, J., Gannodb, G., Havelka D., Hulshult A., & Merhouta, J. (2017) Agile Manifesto for Teaching and Learning. The Journal of Effective Teaching. 17 (2), 90–111. Retrieved from

Lynch, B. P., & Smith, K. R. (2001). The changing nature of work in academic libraries. College & Research Libraries62(5), 407-420.

McTavish, H. (2019).  Emerging online roles for academic librarians in Canada. (Master’s thesis). Ontario Tech University, Oshawa, Canada. Retrieved from

Nitecki, D., & Davis, M. E. (2017). Changing landscapes: New roles for academic librarians. Paper presented at IFLA WLIC 2017 “Libraries. Solidarity. Society,” Wrocław, Poland.  Retrieved from

Otto, P. (2014).  Librarians, libraries, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2014(139), 77-93. doi: 10.1002/tl.20106

Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science4(67). doi: 10.1186/1748-5908-4-67

Wong, G. K. W., & Chan, D. L. H. (2018). Adaptive leadership in academic libraries. Library Management, 39(1/2), 106‑115. doi: 10.1108/LM-06-2017-0060

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