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Overcoming social divisions with the public library

Tomoya Igarashi (Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan)
Masanori Koizumi (Faculty of Library, Information and Media Science, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan)
Michael Majewski Widdersheim (School of Library and Information Management, Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 25 April 2022

Issue publication date: 10 January 2023




The purpose of this study is to describe the full picture of how public libraries contribute to overcoming social division through their resources, programming and services.


A systematic literature review and analysis was conducted. Literature was collected from LISA and LISTA, two primary databases of library and information science literature. Through individual analyses and discussion among researchers, data from 47 documents were analyzed and classified into three categories: “digital”, “economic” and “demographic” divisions. Examples from the literature were used to illustrate how public libraries impact social division in each of these categories.


The three categories reveal that public libraries contribute to overcoming social division by reducing inequality and promoting interaction among citizens. This is done by addressing digital, economic and demographic divisions within society.


This study is the first to summarize in a comprehensive way how public libraries contribute to reducing social division. By classifying how public libraries address this important social issue, this study contributes to the literature about how social division can be overcome.



This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Numbers JP20H04479, JP21J10661.


Igarashi, T., Koizumi, M. and Widdersheim, M.M. (2023), "Overcoming social divisions with the public library", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 79 No. 1, pp. 52-65.



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