What is a practice-based approach?

What is a practice-based approach (PBA) to organizing and why is it relevant for libraries? At some level, this question occupies most of my reflections and my thinking about how libraries and information organizations are already or perhaps should be changing or reorienting themselves. There are different definitions of PBA in the literature, mainly from sociological theory, but all definitions share the idea that “practice” is central and all share the idea that practice is emphatically “anti-dualistic” (Marshall, 2008). In practice, agency and structure come together in action, in “doing.” And doing is often understood as “organizing” [for] and “learning.” The togetherness aspect of practice is the dimension that makes practice a “social” theory and an activity that is fundamentally shared. Practice also occurs in time-space, it is always situated in this way. Which means that practice is often described in very “local” terms, making it difficult often to replicate “practices” across time and space and across differing socialities or activities. Making it also difficult sometimes to discuss practices in more theoretical or abstract ways.

Now, you can [and should] ask me, so what is “structure” and what is “agency” and what do they mean for libraries? And these are very important preliminary questions because everything we understand about practice and all of its significance as a theoretical approach to understanding and managing organizations today, comes originally from these two concepts.

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