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The legitimacy of public libraries: cross‐pressures and change processes

Nanna Kann‐Christensen (Department of Library and Information Management, The Royal School of Library and Information Science, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Niels Ole Pors (Department of Library and Information Management, The Royal School of Library and Information Science, Copenhagen, Denmark)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 September 2004

Abstract

This paper aims to explore the concept of political legitimacy in relation to change processes in the public library sector. The concept of legitimacy consists of stakeholders’ perceptions (such as those of politicians, users and staff) of the public library, including the value they ascribe to such perceptions. The theoretical approach to exploring this concept is institutional theory, which is concerned with the norms, perceptions and values in the library profession. The theoretical discussion in this paper arises from three different studies illuminating some of the pertinent change processes in relation to the political legitimacy of the public library. The case studies are the project culture in the library world, the consequences of technological changes reflected in the debate regarding filtering information and images of a sexual and racist nature, and the profound changes in users’ information‐seeking behaviour due to the indiviual citizen's free access to all materials in whichever library found. Taken together, these three cases illuminate change processes and highlight the appropriateness of the institutionalised norms in the profession in relation to the concept of legitimacy. The cases also illustrate how the individual library director or library system has to deal with various cross‐pressures when navigating in a multicultural society.

Keywords

Citation

Kann‐Christensen, N. and Ole Pors, N. (2004), "The legitimacy of public libraries: cross‐pressures and change processes", New Library World, Vol. 105 No. 9/10, pp. 330-336. https://doi.org/10.1108/03074800410557286

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited