Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Library & Information Science


McKenzie, Pamela J.


This qualitative research study explores how academic librarians working in Canadian public research-intensive universities experience the space/time of information literacy, the neoliberal university, and the knowledge economy. Information literacy lies at the intersection of higher education and the knowledge economy: it became a priority for librarians in Anglo-American countries in the 1980s in the context of neoliberal educational reforms intended to better prepare skilled workers for the “information society” (Behrens, 1994; Birdsall, 1994).

The shift from Fordist modes of production to flexible accumulation, characterized by the expansion of capital into new markets, flexible workers, and just-in-time inventories, made possible by new information and communication technologies, occurred around the same time, impacting the relationship between space, time, and work, and intensifying and accelerating our everyday experience of time (Castells, 1996; Harvey, 1989).

Temporal labour in the knowledge economy is gendered, raced, and classed (Sharma, 2014). Time serves a form of social control: some workers’ temporal experiences are normalized whereas others’ are recalibrated (Sharma, 2014). In the workplace, time enables, regulates, and constrains performance, attitudes, and behaviours (Adam, 1998). This study explores how academic librarians, members of a feminized profession (Harris, 1992) and marginal educators on campus, experience the space/time of higher education’s globalizing agenda across their roles and responsibilities. The theoretical framework for this research draws from diverse disciplines and critical perspectives. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with twenty-four librarians. Thematic analysis within a constructionist framework was used to analyze the data. Findings suggest time is a key mechanism through which neoliberal governmentality is enacted in Canadian academic libraries. Just-in-time service models and pedagogical approaches and future-oriented corporate strategies and practices characterized the library’s timescape. Librarians experienced time as accelerated and intensified. Time for scholarship iii was rare. Librarians used multiple technologies of the self in order to regulate and recalibrate themselves. Some engaged in self-censorship in order to comply with corporatized institutional values and priorities. As a result, librarians experienced stress and considerable emotional labour (Hochschild, 1983). This study makes a significant contribution to the existing literature on time in the neoliberal university and the conditions of academic librarians’ work.