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Transforming library communication: from Gutenberg to Zuckerberg

Olga Einasto (University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia.)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 11 May 2015




The purpose of this paper is to analyse institutional and functional development of a library with the help of communication theories. The library as a social institution should have a quite strong position in today’s information society, but new ways of information search have made its position unstable. Thus, a library needs theoretical and cultural-political comprehension and reassessment. The paper tries to answer the questions as to how a library can satisfy the needs of modern society and which strategy of library communication will be in demand tomorrow.


The theoretical background is represented by communication theories of Marshal McLuhan, Denis McQuail and Yuri Lotman, as well as Michel Foucault’s concepts of disciplinary power and governmentality.


The analysis revealed that library–user communication is based primarily on power relations, where “access” is the main keyword. The article brought out differences in library communicative processes in the “Gutenberg Galaxy” and today’s global network society, “Zuckerberg Era”. The analysis showed that library–user relationship is shifting from disciplinary power and monologue to the governmentality and new communicative forms, dialogue and participation.

Research limitations/implications

The study demonstrates the possibility of implication of communication theories for library functional analysis. The new studies investigating which methods and forms of communication do libraries use today, how are the elements of power relations transforming would be very useful for the understanding of the topic.

Practical implications

The study proposes to libraries some ideas that may be useful for developing the library communication strategy.


This study, based on the communicative approach, corresponds well to library phenomenon and nature, as well as allows for reflection on the role of libraries in the society of today and future.



The author would like to thank Pille Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, Marju Lauristin and Krista Lepik for their valuable commentaries and useful advice for writing this article.


Einasto, O. (2015), "Transforming library communication: from Gutenberg to Zuckerberg", New Library World, Vol. 116 No. 5/6, pp. 247-263.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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