Participatory and Ethical Strategic Planning: What Academic Libraries Can Learn from Critical Management Studies

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his paper introduces a subfield of management studies, "critical management studies" (CMS) in order to rethink mainstream management practices in academic libraries, with strategic planning as an illustrative example. Mainstream management models from the corporate sector prioritize efficiency, productivity, and numerical measures for assessing impact. Academic libraries have generally borrowed uncritically from this mainstream management praxis, but how well does this serve our needs, especially when it comes to the most complex issues we face? CMS draws on critical theory to interrogate the methods and goals of mainstream management, with an emphasis on denaturalizing "taken for granted" practices and prioritizing ethics and worker equity. After providing a brief overview of the history and adoption of mainstream management in academic libraries, this paper focuses on strategic planning as an illustrative exploration of CMS principles in an academic library context. Strategic planning is a common managerial practice that has been embraced by academic libraries and generally modeled after mainstream approaches. Yet, CMS scholars contend that traditional strategic planning reproduces workplace inequities and universalizes managerial interests. In this article, I employ ideas from CMS to rethink library strategic planning by opening participation, reframing problems, and embracing our ethical agency.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110
Number of pages129
JournalLibrary Trends
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019


  • critical management studies
  • academic library management

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