Professor Bob Usherwood

BA (Open), PhD (Sheffield), Hon FLA, FCLIP, FRSA

Information School

Professor Emeritus

Full contact details

Professor Bob Usherwood
Information School
The Wave
2 Whitham Road
S10 2AH

I joined the Information School in 1976 as a public library specialist and this remained a major focus of my research and teaching. Other interests included management; intellectual freedom; the political and policy dimensions of LIS; professional ethics; books and reading. Immediately prior to my appointment, I was Senior Assistant Director (Libraries) with the Directorate of Amenity Services, London Borough of Lambeth, a post equivalent to Chief Librarian. Previously I held posts with Devon County, The London Boroughs of Havering and Sutton, and the Polytechnic of North London.

I remain active in professional organizations; from 1970- 1973 I edited The Assistant Librarian. Later, I developed The Library Association's Code of Conduct. I chaired, and served on, numerous Library Association Committees and elected its President in 1998. In 1976, I was invited by the then Minister for the Arts to join the Library Advisory Council for England. I was one of two British librarians invited to participate in the 1991 White House Conference on Libraries and regularly contributed to IFLA. I became an Honorary Fellow of the Library Association in 1992 and of the Institute of Information Scientists the following year. I also worked for the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

Research interests

Throughout my career I have set out to demonstrate the relevance of theory to practice and have argued that we need to take a “GRIPP”. That is Getting Research Into Policy and Practice. I am indebted to my colleagues Sheila Corrall and Barbara Sen for elaborating on this in Library Trends 61 (3) 2013. (

I am a strong advocate of qualitative research methods and have used these to demonstrate the value and impact of library and information services. I established the then Department’s Centre for the Public Library and Information in Society and awarded major research contracts by the British Library Research & Innovation Centre and the AHRB. I have also undertaken research & consultancy for a number of national and international organizations, including The Audit Commission and the Swedish Ministry of Culture.

I am the author of over 250 publications. These include major books that have been translated into Korean, Russian, and Portuguese. In my most recent book, Equity and Excellence in the Public Library: Why Ignorance is Not our Heritage (Ashgate, 2007) I discuss how library professionals can meet the demands of policy makers to open up the public library system without destroying its values, and advocate a service that is sensitive to difference and seeks to provide access to the best.

I currently edit Post-Lib a journal for retired librarians which includes a column called Next Gen librarians. This provides "Next Generation” librarians with the opportunity to question/ admonish/ praise/ inform those of us who are retired and may, in some way, be responsible for the present LIS world. A number of Sheffield students have already contributed. Please contact me if you would like to join them.

Professional activities and memberships

On my retirement in 2005, I took up a long-standing invitation to become a Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce) I have continued to advise on research projects, undertake external examinations and contribute to professional publications. I long been interested in the similarities between public libraries and public service broadcasting and have now found time to pursue my interest in public service broadcasting and am a Trustee of, and occasional spokesperson for, “The Voice of the Listener & Viewer” ( which works for quality and diversity in broadcasting.