Document Type

Unpublished Paper

Publication Date

January 2005


Colby College. Libraries


The project purpose was to identify and analyze how participation in Virtual Communities of Practice (VCoPs) contribute to the professional development of librarians in the Oberlin Group and how librarians manage and share knowledge gained through participation in VCoPs. A second purpose was to determine how Macalester librarians use of VCoPs compares to those of Oberlin Group librarians.

A web-based survey was developed to collect data related to the purpose of the study. The survey was administered to the 791 professional librarians in the Oberlin Group; with 565 responses and a response rate of 71.5%. Multiple regression analysis and a t-test of independent means were used to analyze the data.

Two conclusions were made. Independent variables of age, gender, job classification, education, years of professional experience, and area of primary responsibility showed almost no ability to predict dependent variables participate, contribute, manage, satisfy, and support. Macalester librarian’s participation in VCoPs did not differ significantly from their Oberlin Group colleagues.

Nine recommendations were made: (a) The importance of informal learning in professional practice should be recognized, (b) expectations of participation in VCoPs should be articulated, (c) how information should be shared should be articulated, (d) a knowledge sharing infrastructure should be put in place, (e) a culture of innovation should be encouraged in each library (f) a means of sharing between Oberlin Group VCoPs should be

instituted, (g), integration of VCoP participation with Macalester’s core competencies and performance measures should be defined, (h) ACRL should further explore the role of VCoPs, and (i) ACRL should conduct a follow-up study.



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