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Democracy, digitisation and public libraries

Bo Skøtt (Department of Design and Communication, University of Southern Denmark, Kolding, Denmark)

Digital Library Perspectives

ISSN: 2059-5816

Article publication date: 14 June 2021

Issue publication date: 11 August 2021




The purpose of this paper is to investigate what democratic challenges the digitisation of the public libraries in Denmark has entailed. Using the concepts from a national library professional strategy from 2012, an analysis of 9 librarians’ experiences with digital dissemination in practice is conducted.


The paper is a part of a larger research project called “If digitisation is the answer, then what was the question?”. This sub study builds on the semi-structured interviews with library staff members, case-descriptions of two central providers of digital public library materials, as well as literature studies of missions, vision and strategies from different public library policy institutions. To frame the study, a literature review has been conducted.


The author detects the presence of several incompatible conditions in digital dissemination. These conditions are predominantly of an organisational nature, potentially containing major consequences for citizens’ free and equal access to information, knowledge and culture. Among other things, the Danish public libraries risk substantiating an already existing and problematic polarisation between technologically capable and incapacitated groups of people.


The digital transformation of society has only just begun. Therefore, it is important to examine the consequences of the transition to digital media types for central cultural institution such as the public libraries. The present study is an early and minor contribution to the illumination of a process requiring many more and large-scale studies.



The author wishes to thank employees at public libraries in Southern and Central Jutland. Without their benevolent participation this study could not have been conducted.


Skøtt, B. (2021), "Democracy, digitisation and public libraries", Digital Library Perspectives, Vol. 37 No. 3, pp. 305-323.



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