Innovative public library services – staff-less or staff-intensive?

Carl Gustav Johannsen (Royal School of Library and Information Science, Copenhagen)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Publication date: 5 August 2014



Several recent library innovations seem to make professional and clerical staff superfluous such as automated loan and delivery equipment, staff-less libraries open in 80 hours a week, and virtual services, enabling users to search the library catalogue and make reservations of library materials from their home address. The purpose of this paper is to examine whether such developments will necessarily lead to a situation where public libraries become self-service institutions or to what extent self-service and innovative staff-intensive library services can develop and co-exist. Furthermore, the paper will examine what challenges library leaders face and what they can do, and actually have done, to handle staff resistance and other related problems to the benefit of both the users, the local communities, and also, the staff, in particular, when introducing new and innovative services.


The paper is based on the author's evaluations of two recent Danish library development projects. Both evaluations are based on empirical data and apply quantitative (questionnaires) as well as qualitative (interviews, observations) methods.


The findings reveal that staff attitudes toward staff-less libraries, and – more surprising – also toward more staff-intensive practices have been somewhat reluctant and skeptical. The paper also presents leadership initiatives which have proved to handle such resistances constructively.


The paper contains a first-hand report on the results of a recent (2011-2012) unique, full-scale, Danish public library development project, investigating the experiences with pro-active and guest-customer relationships within a public library setting.



Gustav Johannsen, C. (2014), "Innovative public library services – staff-less or staff-intensive?", Library Management, Vol. 35 No. 6/7, pp. 469-480.

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