Library metaphors: Laboratories and more

Two female laboratory workers test synthetic rubber in the Polymer Rubber Corporation plant. / À la Société Polymer Limitée, deux employées font des essais sur du caoutchouc synthétique.
Image from, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

I’ll start the new year with some metaphors.  Howard (2009) uses the laboratory metaphor for describing special collections.  Gluibizzi (2008) uses the concept of a salon to discuss libraries.  Mathews (2011) refers to a “learning boutique.”

What do these three metaphors have in common–aside from their library connection?  Each one involves interaction and engagement.  In a laboratory one observes how materials interact.  In a salon people engage with ideas and with each other.  In a boutique one interacts with the merchandise.

Likewise libraries are places not only for finding information but also for engaging with it.    Isn’t this engagement what information literacy is all about?


Gluibizzi, A. (2008). Tickling the ivory tower: Toward a salon culture in libraries.  Art Documentation, 27(1), 24-27.  Retrieved from

Howard, J. (2009, October 16). Special collections as laboratories [Web log post].  Retrieved from

Mathews, B. (2011, September 7). Just don’t call it a Commons: Building the learning boutique model [Web log post].  Retrieved from