Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (2.2 MB)

Factors influencing professional identity development and negotiation of public librarians in Aotearoa New Zealand

Download (2.2 MB)
posted on 2021-12-09, 11:23 authored by Cameron Pierson

The definition and fit of the librarian and library in society have been called into question amidst rapid professional and social change. This professional and social change has similarly called into question the professional identity of the librarian. Professional identity is the product of the impact the organizational and/or professional life has had on one’s understanding of self within its context (Whyte, 1956/2002), influencing discourse and behaviour (Sundin & Hedman, 2009). The influence of professional identity on perception and behaviour underscores the importance of the co-constructed relationship between librarian and those served. Therefore, professional identity is key in discussions concerning the place of the librarian in a 21st century society and beyond.   To examine professional identity of public librarians in Aotearoa New Zealand, this research adopted a multimethod approach. In Phase 1, a questionnaire was designed operationalising elements of a conceptual model and for participant selection. In Phase 2, follow-up interviews were conducted with 40 participants. Semi- structured interviews allowed participants to elaborate on responses and reflect on their professional identities. The multimethod model adopted emphasises qualitative data, which was analysed with an inductive approach.  This thesis begins with an introduction chapter, outlining the motivation, questions, and methodology which guided this research. This thesis also includes four original articles. The first article reviews the relevant literature on librarian professional identity. Previous literature presents as disparate, with foci on specific aspects of this professional identity. The first paper therefore takes a holistic approach to examine this identity, resulting in a conceptual model of the formation and development of librarian professional identity. This model guides subsequent examinations of the data collected. The second article outlines the development of a novel methodological approach. This approach resulted from the combination of methods adopted in this research. It establishes a link between critical incidents impacting professional identity and world- and self-perception grounded through this identity, as expressed by metaphors. The third article presents qualitative results from the interviews conducted. Findings demonstrate that dominant influences on practitioners’ individual perceptions of their professional identity development and to their professional behaviour feature in identity development over time, demonstrated by behaviour. Critical incidents prompt a specific identity negotiation process, identified as the Critical Incident Negotiation Process. This article also offers three theoretical propositions relating to the dominant influences on practitioners’ perception, behaviour, and the above-mentioned negotiation process. The fourth article further presents qualitative results from interviews. Findings demonstrate that librarian professional identity negotiations are grounded in perceptions of profession through meaning ascribed to the profession and through its manifestations (e.g., professional associations, etc.), respectively; and perceptions of practice as related to organisational/institutional contexts. This article also introduces the Relational States of Librarian Professional Identity (the relational states), which indicate variations of individual affiliation with the profession. This article also offers a theoretical process identified as the Professional Identity Negotiation Framework and six theoretical propositions relating to librarian professional identity, its negotiations, and relational states. The thesis concludes with a chapter outlining conclusions and contributions of the four articles in library and information science theory, methodology, and practice.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Victoria University of Wellngton

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Information Systems

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Information Management


Goulding, Anne; Campbell-Meier, Jennifer