Conceptions of Librarians’ Expertise

Bridging the Gap Between Discourses and Practices


  • Deborah Hicks San Jose State University
  • Amy VanScoy University at Buffalo
  • Heidi Julien University at Buffalo



Professional expertise, Intersectionality, Professional issues


In the sociology of professions, expertise, or a specialized area of knowledge, is considered a core attribute (Abbott, 1988). Typically, when the expertise of a particular profession is examined, it is examined as it relates to the interests and actions of a profession (Brady, 2018). This means that the way professional expertise shapes and is shaped by axes of oppression and privilege, such as gender, race, and class, is overlooked. For librarianship, this is a particularly important lens through which to understand professional expertise given the predominance of cisgendered, able-bodied, white, middle-class women who make up the demographics of the field. Understanding the” feminized forms of expertise, as it is intersected by multiple, embodied forms of privilege and oppression” (Brady, 2018, p. 136), will provide LIS instructors and researchers with new insights into how we can bridge the gap when recruiting for librarians of color. 

 In LIS, professional expertise has largely been examined at the discursive level (Hicks & Llyod, 2022; Hicks & VanScoy, 2019), although aspects of expertise have been examined in practitioners’ understandings of their professional roles and relationships (e.g., Julien and Genuis, 2009; VanScoy, 2013). This poster will present findings from an ongoing study exploring librarians’ experience of professional expertise, examined through an intersectional lens. Interviews with 30 librarians representing multiple identities including gender, race, type of role (public-facing and non-public-facing roles), and managerial level are being conducted to examine how professional expertise shapes and is shaped by intersecting identities. 


Abbott, A. (1988) The system of professions: An essay on the division of expert labour. University of Chicago Press.

Brady, J. (2018). Toward a critical, feminist sociology of expertise. Journal of Professions and Organization, 5, 123-138.

Hicks, A. & Llyod, A. (2022). Relegating expertise: The outward and inward positioning of librarians in information literacy education. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 54(3), 415-426.

Hicks, D., & VanScoy, A. (2019). Discourses of expertise in professional competency documents: Reference expertise as performance. The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 89(1), 34-52.

Julien, H., & Genuis, S. K. (2009). Emotional labour in librarians’ instructional work. Journal of Documentation, 65(6), 926–937.

VanScoy, A. (2013). Fully engaged practice and emotional connection: Aspects of the practitioner perspective of reference and information service. Library & Information Science Research, 35(4), 272–278.






Works in Progress Posters