Communities of Practice in the Academic Library: Strategies for Implementation

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From this book, academic librarians will learn how to develop and maintain agile and lasting learning relationships amongst their colleagues, fostering professional growth and greater coordination and collaboration within their institution.

How can academic librarians strengthen their practice of teaching and provide education through access to information, using intentional efforts to both learn and share in a social context? Building and fostering communities of practice (CoP) is the ideal way forward, as Reale demonstrates in her new book, which is both inspirational and practical. With her guidance, readers will

  • understand how coming together in pursuit of knowledge and shared goals can lead to a more fulfilling work environment and better professional outcomes;
  • get pointers on how to begin with simple, casual collaborative efforts that won’t conflict with busy schedules;
  • learn from Reale’s personal narratives of how CoP took root at her own institution, and the ways in which it continued to flourish during the lockdowns necessitated by the pandemic;
  • receive a flexible CoP framework for implementation that can be tailored to fit their own needs and goals;
  • see how to nurture conversation, participation, collaborative inquiry, and mindfulness, all essential ingredients of the CoP;
  • feel comfortable using personal stories as tools for sensemaking within the CoP as well as ongoing individual learning and growth; and
  • be encouraged to follow through and stick with it, using the reflection questions and activities at the end of each chapter.


Chapter 1    All Together Now
The Beginning

Chapter 2    A Framework for Learning Together

Chapter 3    Learning Together through a Sociocultural Dynamic

Chapter 4    Communities of Practice as Transformational

Chapter 5    Keep Talking, I’m Listening
Conversation and Collaborative Inquiry

Chapter 6    No Punchline
Telling Stories That Matter

Chapter 7    Looking Back
Extending Our Learning Alone and Together

Chapter 8    Getting Better All the Time
The Potential of Appreciative Inquiry

Chapter 9    Well, Here We All Are
Mindfulness as Strategy


Michelle Reale

Michelle Reale is a professor and access services and outreach librarian at Arcadia University. Her books include Inquiry and Research: A Relational Approach in the Classroom, The Indispensable Academic Librarian: Teaching and Collaborating for Change, Mentoring and Managing Students in the Academic Library, Becoming an Embedded Librarian, and Becoming a Reflective Librarian and Teacher: Strategies for Mindful Academic Practice. Her research interests are embedded librarianship, mentoring, narrative inquiry, poetic inquiry, and reflective practice.

"Reale does an excellent job explaining how the CoP collaborative approach can nurture conversations, even difficult ones, and create an environment focused on learning and listening. Her clear writing and story-telling ability draws the reader in immediately, and she is able to communicate the value of starting your own Community of Practice ... While the content aligns strongly with the academic library and shares the essence of collegiality and shared governance, this work would be suitable for any library environment as the elements of CoP speak toward teambuilding and developing a healthy, happy workplace. For academic libraries, it should be required to have on the shelf as much of the work that takes place in academia requires the tools and elements found in CoP."
— Technical Services Quarterly

"There are excellent ideas and strategies in this book for setting up a CoP ... The author maintains a warm engaging tone throughout."
— Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association

"Reale’s professional experiences make the text a valuable resource for anyone considering creating a community of practice ... The language and concepts are easily relatable and transferrable to any professional librarian.”
—Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

"Without question, many academic librarians share a set of concerns, problems, and passions that may serve as the basis for a productive and professionally supportive Community of Practice (CoP), and in this brief, nine-chapter book, Reale takes the reader through the strategies necessary to create a successful CoP ... Reale has written a work that actually succeeds admirably at being both a practical manual and a positive inspiration to librarians.”
—Public Services Quarterly