Doctoral candidate E.E. Lawrence successfully defended their dissertation, "Reading for Democratic Citizenship: A New Model for Readers' Advisory," on March 28.
Their committee included Associate Professor Emily Knox (chair); Associate Professor Kate McDowell; Professor and Dean Allen Renear; and Jonathan Furner, professor and chair of the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.
From the abstract: Readers' advisors are tasked with suggesting leisure reading materials to library patrons. The current discourse within the field has it that these advisors ought to adhere to (what I am calling) a pure preference satisfaction model wherein they aim to satisfy readers’ existing preferences without judging or altering them. While such an approach to Readers' Advisory (RA) is politically commendable in some respects, in this dissertation I interrogate the incompatibilities that have emerged between contemporary theory and practice as a result of librarians’ core commitments to social justice, diversity, and democracy. In so doing, I provide a critical inventory of the (in some cases intractable) tensions evident in RA service, going on to offer normative critiques of the dominant moral framework underpinning RA. In each case, I propose theoretical revisions that will help to alleviate harms associated with the problems identified. In light of the cumulative effects of these revisions, I propose an alternative aesthetic education model for RA. Drawing on insights from reader-response theory, I argue that leisure reading is valuable in part because it offers us opportunities to deliberate on our aesthetic experiences. Ultimately, I hold that RA-as-aesthetic-education functions as a dynamic forum for readers to practice democratic citizenship and thus develop its requisite character traits. The new model both furthers the overarching political aims of the public library and reestablishes continuity between theory and critical practice.