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When librarians speak up: justifications for and legitimacy implications of librarians' engagement in social movements

Nanna Kann-Rasmussen (Department of Communication, Faculty of Humanities, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark) (Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 13 April 2022

Issue publication date: 10 January 2023




This article presents a discussion of how librarians' engagement in certain social movements manifests itself in public libraries, how librarians justify their engagement with specifically the LGBT + movement and the climate movement and what it might entail in terms of legitimacy.


Besides an extensive international literature on libraries and climate/LGBT + issues, the article draws on data from an interview study with librarians from Denmark and Sweden. Theoretically, the article utilizes the orders of worth framework by French sociologists Boltanski and Thévenot. The framework is used to analyse librarians' justifications for engaging in certain agendas in society.


Active engagement in social and green agendas takes place through strategies of education, efforts to make the cause more visible in the library and by setting an example. Justifications for active engagement in social movement agendas draw on inspirational, civic, projective and green orders of worth (OoW).


Much of the existing research on librarians who engage themselves in either climate issues or in agendas concerning minorities has a normative character. However, this study shows that there is no causal (positive or negative) relation between active engagement in social movements' causes and legitimacy of libraries, but that the justifications for doing so might have an impact on legitimacy.



The author wishes to thank the Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences at Lund University, Sweden for funding the research sabbatical which allowed me to work on this article.


Kann-Rasmussen, N. (2023), "When librarians speak up: justifications for and legitimacy implications of librarians' engagement in social movements", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 79 No. 1, pp. 36-51.



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