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The public library as a meeting‐place in a multicultural and digital context: The necessity of low‐intensive meeting‐places

Ragnar Audunson (Library and Information Studies, Oslo University College, Oslo, Norway)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 1 June 2005




The purpose of the paper is to develop an improved conceptual framework for researching and discussing the public library's role as a meeting‐place in a multicultural and digital society.


The development of today's Western societies from societies dominated by one cultural canon, and where the role of the public library is to give the public access to that canon, into societies where a multitude of cultural expressions and values are tolerated and appraised, is summarized. This development is linked to the digital revolution, which opens up for increased communication but might increase a development where people live in segregated cultural niches without being exposed to other values and interests. The general challenge of creating meeting‐places with a potential of promoting that degree of cross‐cultural communication which a community presupposes is presented. Theory and research on meeting‐places and arenas for community communication are presented.


The concepts of high‐intensive versus low‐intensive meeting‐places are developed. High‐intensive meeting‐places are those arenas where people invest their primary engagement, whereas low‐intensive meeting‐places are arenas where one is exposed to the values and interests of others. The role of low‐intensive meeting‐places in promoting tolerance and community is discussed, and the public library's potential as a low‐intensive meeting‐place is analyzed.

Research limitations/implications

Empirical research based on the concept of high‐intensive and low intensive meeting‐places should be undertaken.

Practical implications

The concept of low‐intensive meeting‐places has practical consequences for public librarianship. Some of these are specified in the paper.


The paper develops a new concept that might prove fruitful for research as well as for practical librarianship.



Audunson, R. (2005), "The public library as a meeting‐place in a multicultural and digital context: The necessity of low‐intensive meeting‐places", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 61 No. 3, pp. 429-441.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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