January 25, 2022

Research Preprint: “Delivering Bad News: Crisis Communication Methods in Academic Libraries”

The article (preprint version) listed/linked to below was recently shared on the Louisiana State University (LSU) Digital Commons. The final version is scheduled for publication in the May 2021 issue of College & Research Libraries.


Delivering Bad News: Crisis Communication Methods in Academic Libraries


Brittany O’Neill
Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

Rebecca Kelley
Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College


via LSU Digital Commons


This exploratory study analyzed the specific crisis communication methods of academic libraries. A survey was sent to library staff at Association of Research Libraries-member colleges and universities to describe if, who, when, and how they communicated bad news to their stakeholders for major, minor, and emerging crises. The findings show that respondents used multiple communication strategies, which varied based on the crisis. The data show that libraries communicated journal and database cancellations and health and safety emergencies more slowly than access issues and were more likely not to communicate those crises at all. Respondents also more frequently chose to communicate journal and database cancellations only when asked as compared to other crises. While access issues and health and safety emergencies were primarily communicated through social media and the library’s website, stakeholders received communication about journal and database cancellations primarily through targeted emails from library liaisons, face-to-face meetings with faculty, and the library’s website. These findings suggest that respondents communicated more quickly for minor crises but were more hesitant for crises that may have presented the potential for reputational harm. The varied responses between crisis types often conflicted with best practices for whether to deliver bad news, and if so, when and by whom. These findings indicate a need for academic libraries to develop comprehensive crisis communication plans which emphasize timeliness and transparency.

Direct to Full Text Article
41 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.