International Research in LIS

IFLA LTR Webinar May 26, 2021

Webinar Program

Introduction to the Webinar

Peter Lor (University of Pretoria, South Africa), “Exploring international and comparative research in LIS”

Panel with Journal Editors

Panel moderator: Krystyna K. Matusiak

  • Kendra Albright and Theo Bothma (Libri)
  • Juan Daniel Machin Mastromatteo (Information Development)
  • Steve Witt (IFLA Journal)
Research Paper Presentations
  • Anna Maria Tammaro (University of Parma, Italy), “LIS research in Spain and Italy: A comparative study of research methods”
  • Amy VanScoy, (University at Buffalo, USA), “Methodological Challenges in an International Q Methodology Study”

Presenter Biographies

Kendra Albright, Ph.D., is the Goodyear Endowed Professor in Knowledge Management in the School of Information at Kent State University. She has taught graduate and undergraduate level courses in knowledge management, including Business Intelligence, Information Economics, and the Knowledge Economy across four institutions in three countries, including the University of South Carolina and the University of Tennessee, the University of Sheffield in the UK, and the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs in Tbilisi, Georgia. Dr. Albright’s research interests focus on the ways in which users understand and use information to facilitate positive change and solve organizational problems within the knowledge economy. Dr. Albright serves as a consultant to corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations and has been invited to speak at numerous conferences including the Henley Knowledge Forum in the UK. Dr. Albright is widely published and currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Libri, the international journal of libraries and information Studies. She holds a Ph.D. in Communications, a Master of Science in Library Science, and a B.S. in Human Development.

Theo Bothma is professor emeritus in the Department of Information Science at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. He joined the University of Pretoria in 1991 and was Head of Department from 1 October 1995 – 30 June 2016, when he retired. He was appointed as chairperson of the School of Information Technology on 1 September 2008 and served two terms, until his retirement. His teaching and research focus on information organization and retrieval (including aspects of information literacy and technologies for e-dictionaries), web development and e-publishing (focusing specifically on human-computer interaction, usability studies and ethical design), as well as on curriculum development. He is joint editor-in-chief of Libri: International Journal of Libraries and Information Studies.

Peter Lor holds a D.Phil. degree (1991) as well as an honorary doctorate (2008) from the University of Pretoria. He held positions in special and academic libraries and as a professor of library science at the University of South Africa before becoming the Director of the State Library in 1992. He was South Africa’s first National Librarian (2000-2003) and served as Secretary General of IFLA during 2005-2008. He was a visiting professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee during 2009-2011, where he developed a course in International and Comparative Librarianship. Now a research associate in the Department of Information Science at the University of Pretoria, his current research focuses on international and comparative librarianship and on the ethical and political economic aspects of international information relations.

Juan D. Machin-Mastromatteo is a full-time professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua in Mexico and member of the Mexican National Researchers System. PhD in Information and Communication Science. He focuses on information literacy, action research, evaluation of scientific production and bibliometrics, open access, information architecture, and digital libraries. He is the Associate Editor for the journals Information Development (SAGE) and Digital Library Perspectives (Emerald), as well as an editorial board member for The Journal of Academic Librarianship (Elsevier). He published, from 2015 to 2020, the regular column Developing Latin America in Information Development. In 2019 he created the Juantífico Project, consisting of videos about scientific research, publishing and dissemination.

Amy VanScoy is an associate professor in the Department of Information Science at the University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, USA. Her research explores professional work and practitioner thinking, particularly in the area of reference and information services. She holds a PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She publishes in journals such as Library & Information Science Research and Journal of Documentation and presents at national and international conferences.

Anna Maria Tammaro is Anna Maria Tammaro is professor at the University of Parma teaching in the International Master in Digital Library Learning (DILL), joint international Master of Tallinn University and University of Parma. Her research interests include Digital Library, Data curation and Internationalization of LIS education. She is Director at Large of ASIS&T and the Past Chair of the IFLA Section Library Theory and Research (LTR). She is also editor in chief of Digital Library Perspectives.

Steve Witt has been the Director of the Center for Global Studies (CGS) at the University of Illinois since 2015. In 2018, the Center was designated a US Department of Education National Resource Center for the 5th consecutive time.  Witt is an associate professor and has been head of the International and Area Studies Library since 2011.  In the library, he is the subject specialist librarian for Global Studies and Japanese Studies. Witt is also editor of IFLA Journal, the flagship journal of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.


Krystyna Matusiak (University of Denver, USA), Egbert Sanchez (National Autonomous University of Mexico), and Stefan Schmunk (University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt, Germany)

Organized by the IFLA Library Theory and Research

Select Annotated Bibliography

Peter Johan Lor, Exploring International and Comparative Research in LIS: Select annotated bibliography to accompany LTR Webinar paper, 2021-05-25

International and comparative LIS texts

Older texts

Danton, J Periam. 1973. The Dimensions of Comparative Librarianship. Chicago: American Library Association. – A foundational text. Imbued with the positivist approach of 1960s and 1970s social and educational research methods texts which sought to emulate methods of natural sciences, but still worth reading.

Simsova, Sylva, and Monique MacKee. 1970. A Handbook of Comparative Librarianship. London: Bingley. – First English-language monograph on the field. Very formulaic and theoretically weak in comparison with Danton.

Later work

Lor, P.J. (2019), International and Comparative Librarianship: Concepts and Methods for Global Studies, De Gruyter/Saur, Berlin; Boston. – After the initial flurry of interest, later work was mainly repetitive. This is the only comprehensive monograph since the 1980s. 900 pages, extensive bibliography.

Vitiello, Giuseppe. 1996. ‘Che cos’è la biblioteconomia comparata? [What is comparative librarianship?]’. In Le biblioteche europee nella prospettiva comparata, edited by Giuseppe Vitiello, 11–34. Ravenna: Longo Editore. – Wide-ranging and thoughtful essay on comparative librarianship, from a European perspective.

Cultural factors

Barrett, C.B. and Cason, J.W. (1997), Overseas Research, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore MD, available at: (accessed 7 May 2018). – Practical guide for researchers (particularly in social sciences) going overseas to do research, with emphasis on developing countries. 

Bulmer, M. and Warwick, D.P. (Eds.). (1983), Social Research in Developing Countries: Surveys and Censuses in the Third World, UCL Press. – Edited work comprising chapters dealing with a wide range of issues in social research, with focus on research for development.

Chilisa, B. (2005), “Educational research within postcolonial Africa: a critique of HIV/AIDS research in Botswana”, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Vol. 18 No. 6, pp. 659–684.— Useful discussion of colonialism, colonial legacy, postcolonial condition; also interesting from methodological perspective: language and cultural issues in questionnaire surveys, research ethics in team research.

Liamputtong, P. (2010), Performing Qualitative Cross-Cultural Research, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. – Deals with culturally sensitive qualitative research methods that are appropriate for cross-cultural research, with emphasis on indigenous groups, refugees, and other subaltern groups. Particularly useful for language and translation/interpretation issues.

Comparative disciplines


Hantrais, L. (2009), International Comparative Research: Theory, Methods and Practice, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, England. – Recommended as a multi-disciplinary introduction; only 194 pages but comprehensive; gives a lucid overview of the field, with useful definitions, covering disciplinary approaches, research design, methodological issues, international settings, and project management; from a European perspective.  

Comparative education

Phillips, D. and Schweisfurth, M. (2014), Comparative and International Education: An Introduction to Theory, Method, and Practice, 2nd ed. Bloomsbury Academic, London.—Comprehensive introduction; the nature of comparison and the comparative method; methodology; application of comparative and international education, including ‘educational transfer’ (also known as policy borrowing).

Steiner-Khamsi, G. (2010), “The politics and economics of comparison”, Comparative Education Review, Vol. 54 No. 3, pp. 323–342. – Very useful article, dealing with the nature and purpose of comparative research, especially its use as a policy ‘tool’.

Comparative politics

Landman, T. (2008), Issues and Methods in Comparative Politics: An Introduction, 3rd ed., Routledge, London; New York.—Good introduction, albeit in essentially positivist or behaviourist paradigm. Introductory chapters particularly useful.

Sartori, G. (1991). Comparing and miscomparing. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 3(3), 243–257.—Frequently cited article. Seeks to explain ‘the disappointing performance of the field of comparative politics addressing three basic questions: Why compare? What is comparable? And How?’ Rich in insights.

Examples of International and Comparative LIS research   

“Foreign librarianship”: country studies by insiders

Al, Umut, and Sinan Akıllı. 2016. ‘Public Libraries in Turkey: A Retrospective Look and the Present State’. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science 48 (3): 298–309. doi:10.1177/0961000615592456.—Evaluative overview.

Jackson, Miles M. 1981. International Handbook of Contemporary Developments in Librarianship. Westport CT: Greenwood Press.—Early example of a popular genre: a collection of country chapters contributed mainly by authors from those countries.

Rahmatullaev, Marat, and Akram Khabibullaev. 2012. ‘Uzbekistan: Libraries in Uzbekistan: Past, Present and Future’. In Libraries in the Early 21st Century: An International Perspective, edited by Ravindra N Sharma, 1:375–86. Berlin: De Gruyter Saur.—Detailed and comprehensive country account, also of interest as an example of post-Soviet development aid.

“Foreign librarianship”: country studies by outsiders

Amery, Stephen R. 1998. ‘Romanian Libraries:  Past, Present, and Future’. In Libraries : Global Reach – Local Touch, edited by Kathleen de la Peña McCook, Barbara J Ford, and Kate Lippincott, 110–23. Chicago: American Library Association.—Reflects interest of Western librarians in the post-Soviet period, with emphasis on transformation of library systems along Western lines.

Johnson, Ian M. 2013. ‘Library Development in the Georgian Republic: Problems and Progress since the Dissolution of the USSR’. World Libraries 20 (2). — Background study for a project of the European Commission to modernize professional education and library services.. 

Maack, Mary Niles. 1981. Libraries in Senegal: Continuity and Change in an Emerging Nation. Chicago: American Library Association.—Thorough, detailed historical and descriptive account of library and archives development. Based on author’s PhD thesis.

Munthe, Wilhelm. 1939. American Librarianship from a European Angle. Chicago: American Library Association.—Widely cited as the ‘grand-daddy’ of comparative librarianship, although the comparison is largely implicit and not systematic.  

Regional studies

Abdullahi, Ismail. 2017. Global Library and Information Science. 2nd ed. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Saur. doi:10.1515/9783110413120.—Collection of chapters, mainly contributed by authors from the respective regions, organized by continent.

Kaser, David, C Walter Stone, and Cecil K Byrd. 1969. Library Development in Eight Asian Countries. Metuchen NJ: Scarecrow Press.—A chapter per country, each of which was visited by at least one of the authors.

Rosenberg, Diana, ed. 1997. University Libraries in Africa: A Review of Their Current State and Future Potential. 3 vols. London: International African Institute.—Critical and in many cases devastating assessment.

Thematic multi-country surveys

Armstrong, Chris, Jeremy De Beer, Dick Kawooya, Achal Prabhala, and Tobias Schonwetter, eds. 2010. Access to Knowledge in Africa: The Role of Copyright. Cape Town: UCT Press.– Excellent in-depth study using mainly qualitative methodology (cf. Ferreira et al. below), including use of in-country teams.

Ferreira, Sueli Mara Soares Pinto, ed. 2019. Bibliotecas LAC: El impacto de la legislación de derechos de autor en América Latina y el Caribe [Libraries LAC: The impact of copyright legislation in Latin America and the Caribbean]. São Paulo, Brazil: FEBAB.– Interesting as a large multi-national survey, with well-documented methodology.

Comparative studies in the strict sense

Ignatow, Gabriel, Sarah M Webb, Michelle Poulin, Ramesh Parajuli, Peter Fleming, Shika Batra, and Diptee Neupane. 2012. ‘Public Libraries and Democratization in Three Developing Countries: Exploring the Role of Social Capital’. Libri 62 (1): 67–80. doi:10.1515/libri-2012-0005.—Mainly qualitative comparative study. Authors provide good rationale for choice of countries.

Kramer, Stefan, and Wolfram Horstmann. 2020. ‘Perceptions and Beliefs of Academic Librarians in Germany and the USA: A Comparative Study’. LIBER Quarterly 29 (1): 1–18. doi:10.18352/lq.10314.—Reports findings of a web-based survey. Good example of quantitative study.

Olszewski, Lawrence J, and Paula Rumbaugh. 2010. ‘An International Comparison of Virtual Reference Services’. Reference & User Services Quarterly 49 (4): 360–68.—Example of quantitative, web-based survey with some limited contextual cross-country comparison.

Pong, Joanna, and Celine Cheung. 2006. ‘Cataloging of Chinese Language Materials in the Digital Era: The Cataloging Standards and Practices in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong’. Journal of Library and Information Science (USA/Taiwan) 32 (1): 53–65.—Quite detailed, technical comparison. Ameliorative motive, seeking to promote improved cooperation.

Vakkari, Pertti, Svanhild Aabø, Ragnar Audunson, Frank Huysmans, Nahyun Kwon, Marjolein Oomes, and Sei-Ching Joanna Sin. 2016. ‘Patterns of Perceived Public Library Outcomes in Five Countries’. Journal of Documentation 72 (2). doi:10.1108/JD-08-2015-0103.—Methodologically interesting quantitative study carried out in five countries.

Williams, Marion Lucille. 2018. ‘The Adoption of Web 2.0 Technologies in Academic Libraries: A Comparative Exploration’. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, August, 0961000618788725. doi:10.1177/0961000618788725.—Compared academic libraries in Flanders and South Africa.

International influence and innovation

Bertrand, Anne-Marie. 2009. ‘Inventing a Model Library “à La Française”’. Libraries and the Cultural Record 44 (4): 471–79. doi:10.1353/lac.0.0107.—English-language account of the research reported in Bertrand (2010)..

Bertrand, Anne-Marie. 2010. Bibliothèque publique et public library: essai de généalogie comparée [Bibliothèque publique and public library: an essay in comparative genealogy]. Collection Papiers. Lyon: Enssib.— Very insightful comparative analysis of French and American public library models: the modalities of their creation, relations with government, place in society, functions and functioning.

Byberg, Lis. 1993. ‘Public Library Development in Norway in the Early Twentieth Century: American Influences and State Action’. Libraries & Culture 28 (1): 22–34. Detailed account of US influence, disseminated especially by US-trained Norwegian librarians.

Rochester, Maxine Kathryn. 1990. The Revolution in New Zealand Librarianship: American Influence as Facilitated by the Carnegie Corporation of New York in the 1930s. Occasional Paper 50. Halifax: Dalhousie University.

LIS development in developing and emerging countries

Constantinou, Constantia, Michael J Miller, and Kenneth Schlesinger, eds. 2017. International Librarianship: Developing Professional, Intercultural, and Educational Leadership. Albany NY: State University of New York Press.— Experiences of US librarians involved in academic exchanges, international partnerships and training projects.

Johnson, Ian M. 2016. ‘International Assistance and National and Individual Contributions in the Development of Education for Library, Information and Archival Studies: Some evidence from a Case Study’. Libri 66 (1): 3–12. doi:10.1515/libri-2015-0110.—Based on a detailed study of the development of education for library, archive, and information services in Iraq.

Sturges, R Paul, and Richard Neill. 1998. The Quiet Struggle: Information and Libraries for the People of Africa. 2nd ed. London: Mansell Publishing.—Influential regional survey, important for its critical analysis of LIS development efforts and aid.

Create your website with
Get started
%d bloggers like this: