CFP: CJAL Special Issue: Academic Libraries and the Irrational (Canadian Journal of Academic Librarianship) @CjalRcbu

This is for academic libraries, but academic archivists can definitely relate to the irrational and absurd found within academia.


This special issue of the Canadian Journal of Academic Librarianship (CJAL/Rcbu) will consider whether the seemingly logical pursuit of innovation, accountability, and efficiency puts academic libraries at risk of becoming irrational or even absurd, that is, marked by contradiction and incoherence, ultimately alienating library workers and their publics.

Academic libraries are bureaucratic and technocratic institutions: highly structured, rule-bound, and rationalized. In the current climate of austerity in higher education, which asks academic libraries to demonstrate their value to their host institutions by doing more with less, rationalization is a process that would appear to serve academic libraries well. However, as Max Weber (1968) argues, rationalization, when carried to an extreme, can become a form of irrationality, rendering bureaucracies inefficient, maladaptive, and dehumanizing. Drawing on this idea, David Graeber (2015) goes so far as to claim that bureaucracy is a form of existential violence that infringes upon human imagination and creativity.

As a growing number of LIS scholars have noted, this irrationality is evident in managerialism, McDonaldization, the cult of busyness, and discourses of the future and innovation in academic libraries, all of which serve to create a growing chasm between our stated values and our practices, ultimately alienating library workers. We seek articles and creative works that help us to see the irrational in the seemingly rational, to recognize the absurd in the commonsensical, and refocus our labour on those practices which more meaningfully support our constituents and communities.

Possible topics might include: 

  • Linguistic absurdities (e.g. doublespeak, buzz words, rhetorical obfuscations)
  • Bureaucracy/irrationality and professional practice (e.g. metrics, reporting requirements)
  • Bureaucratic structures/processes, and the irrational/absurd (e.g. managerialism, technocratic restructuring, hierarchies)
  • The fetishization of leadership
  • The cult of innovation and the future

Call for Proposals

Authors interested in participating are asked to submit a 750-1000 word proposal as an attachment by December 20th, 2019 by email to irrationaleditors@gmail.comCJAL (Rcbu) is an open access, peer-reviewed journal published by the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians (CAPAL). Articles submitted for review must fit the journal’s Focus and Scope. The journal is bilingual (Eng/Fr); proposals may be submitted in both languages.

This will be a peer-reviewed issue of CJAL (Rcbu). However we recognize the limits of traditional scholarly research in engaging the absurd and the irrational, and as such,  photo essays and/or creative works are also welcome. Authors interested in submitting a creative work are asked to contact the editors at with a description of their project. If you have questions about themes or formats not listed here that you would like to discuss, please contact the editors: Karen Nicholson, Jane Schmidt and/or Lisa Sloniowski at

Proposal acceptances will be confirmed by January 20, 2020. Completed papers are due April 15, 2020. Anticipated publication date for the issue is December 15, 2020.

Guest Editors

Karen Nicholson is Manager, Information Literacy at the University of Guelph. She holds a PhD (LIS) from Western University. Her research focuses on academic libraries, critical librarianship, information literacy, time/space, and higher education.

Jane Schmidt is a liaison librarian at Ryerson University Library. Her research interests include community-led service, literary philanthropy and collection development.

Lisa Sloniowski works at York University as a teaching and liaison librarian in the Scott Library, and as an associate faculty member in the Graduate Program in English. Her research focuses on the archival function of academic libraries, affective labour, and the role of librarians in knowledge production.


Weber, Max. 1968. Economy and society. New York: Bedminster Press.

Graeber, David. 2015. The utopia of rules: On technology, stupidity, and the secret joys of bureaucracy. Melville House Publishing.

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