Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


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Communities of practice have been touted in the organizational literature as an effective form of professional development in the workplace. When the University of Idaho Library faculty created one in the fall of 2008, they hoped the group would enhance new librarians’ understanding of publication requirements and research methods. Although the community seemed healthy during its first year, problems arose in subsequent years that led to its decline. Seeking to understand the nature of this decline, the authors conducted a survey and initiated a focus group discussion of former members. Analysis of data led the authors to identify three themes related to the group’s struggles: an overly formal structure, a gap between expected and realized benefits, and ambiguity of purpose. Evaluation of these themes in light of literature related to learning theories and organizational learning offers further insights as to why the group faltered after a seemingly successful start. The authors conclude by offering possible next steps for revitalizing the community of practice by altering its format to better match the constructivist learning principles that seem to characterize successful communities of practice.