Research and Scholarly Interests

Research Interests

  • Role of libraries in higher education
  • Academic library leadership
  • Mentoring in academic libraries and higher education
  • Scholarly communication & social media
  • Emerging models of research support

Statement of Scholarly Interests

My academic background is in both the study of higher education and of library science. My scholarship focuses on the role of academic libraries in higher education. As institutions of higher education evolve, we must assess how relevant our library leadership, resources, and services are to these changes. This is important to ensure that we provide valuable services and resources to our constituency (students, staff, faculty, and at some institutions, the public). Assessing library relevancy will also help prove their value and worthiness of continued funding, an issue of concern in the community as indicated by ACRL in the report Value of Academic Libraries (Oakleaf, 2010).

These questions are at the core of my research:

  1. How can we best prepare diverse, effective leaders for academic libraries?
  2. In a higher education environment of rapid change, particularly technological, how can academic libraries best support learning and research?

I am trained in both quantitative and qualitative methods. I believe the nature of my research questions should determine the appropriate method for each research project.

 1.     How can we best prepare diverse, effective leaders for academic libraries?

Ongoing debate about the preferred educational background of academic librarians led to my co-authoring a conference paper on the topic, The Value of the PhD for Academic Librarians (Downey and Hoffman, 2009). We furthered this investigation in a presentation titled The Educational Background of ARL Library Deans (Downey and Hoffman, 2010). This study focused the exploration to the education of academic library deans at ARL institutions and led to my dissertation research.

My dissertation, The Preparation of Academic Library Administrators (Hoffman, 2012), was a quantitative study of methods by which academic library deans and directors prepared for their administrative roles. At the time, there were no contemporary surveys of academic library deans to compare to past data from Caldwell (1962), Cohn (1976), DePew and Allison (1984), McAnally and Downs (1973), Myers and Kaufman (1991), Parsons (1976), Rooks (1994), and Wong and Zubatsky (1985). The study’s goal was to provide data to address the debate in library literature concerning appropriate training and education for library administrators, and the lack of agreement on such qualifications in posted position descriptions. It also aimed to identify whether mentoring was perceived to be effective preparation for women and minorities in leadership positions.

I considered six preparatory methods: formal mentoring, informal mentoring, on-the-job training, advanced education other than the MLS, conferences and seminars, and training programs. Administrators ranked these methods for their perceived effectiveness in preparing them for academic leadership. Rosser, Johnsrud and Heck (2000, 2003) defined the seven theoretical constructs of effective academic leadership upon which this study was based. This research also built on the work of Greicar (2009), who created the survey instrument used, and on the work of Hernon, Powell and Young (2003, 2004), who used mixed methods to study the preparation of library deans at ARL institutions.

There were 749 usable responses for a 30% response rate. Respondents were primarily female and White non-Hispanic, with a mean age of 56. The largest minority group was Black, non-Hispanic. Many respondents held multiple advanced degrees; 46% held a subject master’s in addition to a MLS, and 19% held a doctorate. On the job training was both the most commonly experienced method and the most highly valued. Mentoring was a particularly important preparation method for female and minority deans. Female deans perceived informal mentoring to be significantly more valuable than did males. Minorities rated formal and informal mentoring significantly higher than did non-minorities. The high value of mentoring perceived by library leaders, particularly women and minorities, indicates that library deans and those who wish to seek such positions should pursue mentoring opportunities with established, effective library leaders.

Because of the complex nature of the data gathered in the above research, I plan to perform additional statistical analyses on it. I will examine significant differences in deans’ perceived value of advanced degrees related to academic leadership by aggregating their data by degree type and subject, as well as stratifying results by institutional type. Examining what time degrees were earned with respect to time of first administrative library position could also provide insight into career paths of deans, adding valuable information to the career path studies of Karr (1984) and Wong and Zubatsky (1985).

I further explored the mentoring of library leaders in my chapter, “Mentoring Diverse Leaders in Academic Libraries,” to be published in the forthcoming book Leadership in Academic Libraries Today: Connecting Theory to Practice (Eden and Fagan, 2013). This chapter aggregated existing research and interpreted results from my dissertation research. In the future, I plan to perform an in-depth study of the mentoring experiences of academic library leaders, particularly women and minorities. The goal of this further research will be identifying which mentoring practices are most or least effective, and ways that mentoring may be improved and expanded. I will continue to pursue this topic using both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Mentoring has been a key strategy to reach gender and ethnic parity in academic library leadership. Librarianship has been historically female-dominated, but a disproportionate number of males have occupied positions of authority (Fennell, 1978; Kirkland, 1997; Moran, Leonard, & Zellers, 2009; Moran, 1983). Mentoring helps remove barriers for female librarians, allowing them to “bypass the hierarchy, to get inside information, to short-circuit cumbersome procedures, and to cut red tape” (Turock, 2003, p. 495). Moran, Leonard, and Zellers (2009) state that although higher numbers of females are in positions of library leadership, they are still not proportionate to the overall percentage of female academic librarians.

Ethnic parity is even further from realization. Academic librarian demographics have remained stagnant for some time with 85% being white (American Library Association [ALA], 2012; American Library Association [ALA] Office for Research and Statistics & ALA Office for Diversity, 2012; Davis & Hall, 2007; Kyrillidou & Morris, 2011). Even worse, only 9% of research library managers and just 5% of research library deans are minorities (Hernon, Powell, & Young, 2003; Hipps, 2006; Wheeler, 2000). This does not reflect increasingly diverse U.S. demographics, which show that 38% of the population is from minority groups, and 37% of students in higher education institutions are minorities (Humes, Jones, & Ramirez, 2011; National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], 2012). As our culture becomes increasingly diverse, academic libraries do themselves and their patrons a disservice by failing to diversify library leadership. Effective mentoring methods must be examined in order to determine ways to encourage minorities and women into positions of library leadership and reach parity.

2.     In a higher education environment of rapid change, particularly technological, how can academic libraries best support learning and research?

Studies of library services and resources are important to weigh their continued relevance and impact in higher education. This is particularly the case for emerging services and resources such as online information literacy instruction, reference for online courses, and developing digital collections.

As online education increases and changes, I am interested in exploring the role of academic librarians for this environment. I am particularly interested in the information literacy instruction and reference activities that librarians perform for online courses. I performed a mixed-methods study of six academic librarians embedded in online courses to determine their activities and their perceptions of the embedded experience. The participants indicated overall positive experiences that had generally low impact on their existing in-person reference duties and schedule, although one participant experienced a dramatic increase in workload. Anecdotal evidence suggested positive experiences from students in the online courses, and most participating librarians planned to continue or expand their embedded activities. Results from this study were presented at the 2010 International Conference on Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries and published as “Embedded Academic Librarian Experiences in Online Courses: Roles, Faculty Collaboration, and Opinion” in Library Management (2011). Conversation with another librarian about her online information literacy instruction resulted in a presentation on best practices for embedded librarians at the 2010 Texas Library Association Conference. This was subsequently published as “Best Practices for Librarians Embedded in Online Courses” in Public Services Quarterly (2010). I plan to continue studying information literacy practices of academic librarians in online courses, particularly considering their assessment methods, their use of digital learning objects, and their collaborative relationships with faculty.

Technology is also impacting library collections, particularly unique collections with significance for researchers. My professional experience with digital collections has resulted in several presentations and a paper on the development of the CyberCemetery, an archive of websites of now-defunct government agencies and commissions. The paper was presented at the 2008 International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions Conference, “Preserving Access to Government Websites: Development and Practice in the CyberCemetery,” and was published in the proceedings. I published an article on the process and best practices of digitizing a large collection in DttP: Documents to the People titled “Utilizing Needs and Offers Lists to Complete Mass Digitization Projects: Strategies, Workflows, and Collaborative Opportunities” (2011). As archiving born-digital materials (such as the CyberCemetery) and digitization become more common practices in libraries, such studies of digital collection development and processes become increasingly important. I plan to study ways that such collections can not only be created, but also effectively marketed to students and faculty (particularly researchers in digital humanities programs) and how to encourage use of digital primary sources in online courses.


American Library Association [ALA]. (2012). Member demographic study. Retrieved from

American Library Association [ALA] Office for Research and Statistics & ALA Office for Diversity. (2012). Diversity counts 2012 tables. Retrieved from

Caldwell, J. (1962). Degrees held by head librarians of colleges and universities. College & Research Libraries, 23(3), 227-228, 260.

Cohn, W. L. (1976). An overview of ARL directors, 1933-1973. College & Research Libraries, 37(2), 137-144.

Davis, D. M. & Hall, T. D. (2007). Diversity counts. Chicago, IL: American Library Association, Office for Research and Statistics and Office for Diversity.

DePew, J. N. & Allison, A. M. (1984). Factors affecting academic library administration 1976-1981. Journal of Library Administration, 5(2), 13-57.

Downey, A. & Hoffman, S. (2009, November). The value of the PhD for academic librarians. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education [ASHE], Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Fennell, J. C. (1978). A career profile of women directors of the largest academic libraries in the United States: An analysis and description of determinants. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 7909754)

Hernon, P., Powell, R. R., & Young, A. P. (2004). Academic library directors: What do they do? College & Research Libraries, 65(6), 538-563.

Hernon, P., Powell, R. R., & Young, A. P. (2003). The next library leadership: Attributes of academic and public library directors. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Hipps, K. (2006). Diversity in the US ARL library workforce. ARL Bimonthly Report, 246(June 2006), 1-2. Retrieved from Association of Research Libraries website:

Hoffman, S. (2012). The preparation of academic library administrators. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of North Texas, Denton, TX.

Hoffman, S. (Accepted, forthcoming 2013). Mentoring Diverse Leaders in Academic Libraries. (chapter) In B. Eden and J. Fagan (Eds.), Leadership in Academic Libraries Today: Connecting Theory to PracticeScarecrow Press.

Humes, K. R., Jones, N. A., & Ramirez, R. R. (2011). Overview of race and Hispanic origin: 2010 (2010 Census Briefs: C2010BR-02). Retrieved from U.S. Census Bureau website:

Karr, R. D. (1984). The changing profile of university library directors, 1966-1981. College & Research Libraries, 45(4), 282-286.

Kirkland, J. J. (1997). The missing women library directors: Deprivation versus mentoring. College & Research Libraries, 58(4), 375-383.

Kyrillidou, M. & Morris, S., (Eds). (2011). ARL statistics 2008 – 2009. Washington, DC: Association of College and Research Libraries [ACRL].

McAnally, A. M. & Downs, R. B. (1973). The changing role of directors of university libraries. College & Research Libraries, 34(2), 103-125.

Moran, B. B. (1983). Career patterns of academic library administrators. College & Research Libraries, 44(5), 334-344.

Moran, B. B., Leonard, E., & Zellers, J. (2009). Women administrators in academic libraries: Three decades of change. Library Trends, 58(2), 215-228.

Myers, M. J. & Kaufman, P. T. (1991). ARL directors: Two decades of changes. College & Research Libraries, 52(3), 241-254.

National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES]. (2012). The condition of education 2012.

Oakleaf, M. (2010.) Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report. Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL).

Parsons, J. L. (1976). Characteristics of research library directors, 1958 and 1973. Wilson Library Bulletin, 50(8), 613-617.

Rosser, V. J., Johnsrud, L. K., & Heck, R. H. (2003). Academic deans and directors: Assessing their effectiveness from individual and institutional perspectives. Journal of Higher Education, 74(1), 1-25.

Rosser, V. J., Johnsrud, L. K., & Heck, R. H. (2000, November). Mapping the domains of effective leadership: The case of deans and directors. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education [ASHE], Sacramento, CA.

Turock, B. J. (2003). Developing diverse professional leaders. New Library World, 104(11), 491-498.

Wheeler, M. B. (2000). Averting a crisis: Developing African-American librarians as leaders. In E. J. Josey and M. L. DeLoach (Eds.), Handbook of Black librarianship (pp. 169-182). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.

Wong, W. S. & Zubatsky, D. S. (1985). The tenure rate of university library directors: A 1983 survey. College & Research Libraries, 46(1), 69-77.