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Engaging with community engagement: public libraries and citizen involvement

Anne Goulding (Department of Information Science, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 9 January 2009




The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of community engagement within a public library context


The paper analyses selected literature discussing the concept of community engagement, focusing particularly on that considering community engagement activities in public libraries. Key issues are illustrated using examples from the literature and data from an interview‐based study of public library practitioners and policy makers.


The evidence suggests that the public library is being positioned as a key community resource. Community engagement in public libraries includes: making the library space available for community activities; working in partnership with the voluntary and community sector as well as with other public services; involving volunteers in the delivery of library services; activities to support community involvement in various levels of decision making. The paper concludes that library services have been quite effective at involving local people in the simpler forms of community engagement, such as surveying their opinions and consulting them on a range of issues, but they could do more to support the development of community capacity building. Activities focusing on work with reading and books could provide a useful way forward.


The paper provides empirical evidence of the views of key stakeholders towards community engagement activities in public libraries and should be of use to policy makers, practitioners, researchers and students of the public library sector.



Goulding, A. (2009), "Engaging with community engagement: public libraries and citizen involvement", New Library World, Vol. 110 No. 1/2, pp. 37-51.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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