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In-between strengthened accessibility and economic demands: Analysing self-service libraries from a user perspective

Lisa Engström (Det Informationsvidenskabelige Akademi, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Johanna Rivano Eckerdal (Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 9 January 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore the implementation of self-service at public libraries from the perspective of their users. The implementation of self-service is related to a diverse societal context including, for example, an overall digitalisation, budget constraints and political expectations on public libraries to contribute to marketing the local community.


Semi-structured interviews with users and observations have been undertaken at self-service libraries in the south of Sweden. The material is analysed by means of a theoretical framework consisting of previous critical LIS-research, Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis and Habermas’ theory of the colonisation of the life world.


The implementation of self-service is affecting the users’ library practices as well as their expectations on the library. These expectations are shaped by various and sometimes competing discourses.

Social implications

To support public libraries’ role as democratic, public spheres, the complexity of the users’ understandings should be taken into consideration when implementing self-service.


The differing expectations articulated by the users, and the various discourses they can be related to, implicate a hegemonic struggle, corresponding to a changing view on public libraries.



This article is based on a Master Thesis by Lisa Engström in Information Studies at the Lund University 2015. Engström is currently at the Copenhagen University, working on her PhD dissertation in which she is elaborating her research regarding users’ perceptions on self-service libraries.


Engström, L. and Rivano Eckerdal, J. (2017), "In-between strengthened accessibility and economic demands: Analysing self-service libraries from a user perspective", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 73 No. 1, pp. 145-159.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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