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New labour in libraries: the post‐Fordist public library

Siobhan Stevenson (Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 6 September 2011




The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the value of French School Regulation theory for questions of relevance to researchers and practitioners working in the field of information policy in general and public librarianship in particular.


The paper is divided into two parts. Part one outlines Regulation theory's twin analytic tools of Fordism and post‐Fordism and its value for questions about the evolution of the public library. Part two provides an example of the approach's explanatory potential when applied to a series of public library planning documents produced by the Government of Ontario, Canada from the 1950s.


An interpretation of the evolution of the identity of the library user from patron to customer to information producer‐consumer is proposed at the intersection of the neoliberal state's austerity in social spending, the ubiquity of the new information and communication technologies, and fundamental changes in libraries as sites of waged‐work.

Research limitations/implications

The research facilitates the development of a political economy of the contemporary public library of potential value to the international public library community. Also, conceiving of the public library as first and foremost a site of productive work forces one to re‐engage with the meaning of shifting relations between the library user and the institution on working conditions.


The applicability of a relatively under‐utilized theoretical framework is modelled that enables one to ask new questions of relevance to the field of library and information science.



Stevenson, S. (2011), "New labour in libraries: the post‐Fordist public library", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 67 No. 5, pp. 773-790.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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