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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the role of public libraries as institutions underpinning a democratic public sphere as reasons legitimizing libraries compared to reasons that are more traditional and the actual use of libraries as public sphere arenas.

Design/methodology/approach

A survey of representative samples of the adult population in six countries – Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Hungary and Switzerland – was undertaken.

Findings

Legitimations related to the libraries role as a meeting place and arena for public debate are ranked as the 3 least important out of 12 possible legitimations for upholding a public library service. Libraries are, however, used extensively by the users to access citizenship information and to participate in public sphere relevant meetings.

Originality/value

Few studies have empirically analyzed the role of libraries in upholding a democratic and sustainable public sphere. This study contributes in filling that gap.

Details

Journal of Documentation, vol. 75 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0022-0418

Keywords

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Article

Ragnar Audunson, Svanhild Aabø, Roger Blomgren, Sunniva Evjen, Henrik Jochumsen, Håkon Larsen, Casper Hvenegaard Rasmussen, Andreas Vårheim, Jamie Johnston and Masanori Koizumi

The purpose of this paper is to examine the shaping of public libraries as an infrastructure for a sustainable public sphere through a comprehensive literature review.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the shaping of public libraries as an infrastructure for a sustainable public sphere through a comprehensive literature review.

Design/methodology/approach

In order to capture the whole picture of this research field, we utilize comprehensive review methodology. The major research questions are: first, to what extent have research topics regarding libraries as public sphere institutions expanded and diversified? Which theoretical perspectives inform research? Second, which challenges and topics does the research focus upon, such as: social inclusion and equal access to information; digital inequalities; censorship and freedom of expression; and access to places and spaces with a democratic potential and the role of libraries in that respect? Third, what influence has social media exerted on libraries in the context of the expanding digital world?

Findings

The authors identified mainly four themes regarding the public library and public sphere, such as: the importance of public libraries by using Habermas’s theory; the function of meeting places within the public library and setting those places in the center of the library in order to enhance and encourage democracy; the relationship between social inclusion and public libraries and its functions in current society such as diminishing the digital divide; and the emerging electronic resources and arena of SNS in public libraries and utilizing them to reach citizens.

Originality/value

Capturing the recent history of this research field through comprehensive review is valuable.

Details

Journal of Documentation, vol. 75 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0022-0418

Keywords

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Article

Maja Dorota Wojciechowska

The purpose of the paper is to present the latest scholarly trends in the field of social capital in libraries, to review research concepts published by LIS professionals…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of the paper is to present the latest scholarly trends in the field of social capital in libraries, to review research concepts published by LIS professionals and to suggest further research possibilities in this area.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper presents a review and critical analysis of literature associated with research on social capital in libraries to highlight its importance for the development of LIS and its impact on the functioning of environments linked with various types of libraries. The goal of literature analysis was to determine the current condition of research on social capital in libraries. The main trends were identified and the need for further qualitative analyses, which are missing at the moment, was confirmed.

Findings

It was determined that, so far, LIS professionals have focussed mainly on the role of municipal libraries in developing social capital, the problem of building trust, especially in immigrant circles and the impact of libraries on promoting a civil society. Academic libraries, rural libraries, organisational capital in libraries and individual social capital of librarians were a much less frequent subject of research. The role of libraries in developing social capital in educational (primary and secondary education) and professional (non-university professionals) circles is practically non-existent in research, and it will require in-depth studies and analyses in the coming years.

Originality/value

This paper constitutes a synthetic review of the latest research concepts concerning social capital in libraries. It identifies the most important research trends and areas that so far have not been explored and suggests research methods to help LIS professionals design future research in this area more effectively.

Details

Global Knowledge, Memory and Communication, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2514-9342

Keywords

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Article

Andreas Vårheim

The purpose of this paper is to show why studies of public libraries, regarding their possible contribution in creating social capital, are important for social capital…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to show why studies of public libraries, regarding their possible contribution in creating social capital, are important for social capital research in general, and are important for library practice in particular.

Design/methodology/approach

Building on the latest theoretical developments and empirical findings of social capital research, the role of the public library as a potential creator of social capital is discussed. Findings from both quantitative and qualitative empirical research are discussed, and also the need for further studies is presented.

Findings

The paper reports quantitative macro‐level results concerning whether public library expenditure can contribute in explaining social trust patterns in the OECD countries. However, to be able to ascertain this, numerous qualitative studies revealing the mechanisms actually generating generalized trust are needed. Preliminary qualitative interviews suggest that this approach can prove fruitful.

Research limitations/implications

The implications for further research into public libraries and the building of generalized trust are twofold: one the one hand, more specific research questions on the role libraries can be asked regarding accommodating diversity and increasing trust among diverse groups, e.g. immigrants. On the other hand, the suitability of the public library for investigating these questions makes the results relevant for social capital research in general.

Practical implications

The library profession points to the importance of libraries for social capital and maintain that libraries have been overlooked in this matter. Strong sentiments like this should be ideal for implementation of research based library policies, strategies and activities for creating social capital.

Originality/value

What is new in this research is that studies of public libraries may contribute in resolving the impasse within contemporary social capital research where neither institutional nor societal perspectives seem to be able to verify how social capital is created.

Details

Library Hi Tech, vol. 27 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0737-8831

Keywords

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Article

Andreas Vårheim, Sven Steinmo and Eisaku Ide

Librarians and the library profession keep repeating that libraries contribute greatly to generating social capital by “building community”. However, little evidence of…

Abstract

Purpose

Librarians and the library profession keep repeating that libraries contribute greatly to generating social capital by “building community”. However, little evidence of this has been presented. This paper aims to be a first step towards correcting this situation by asking whether public libraries matter in the creation of generalized trust.

Design/methodology/approach

This study used quantitative data in analyzing macro‐level data on whether public library expenditure could explain social trust patterns in the OECD countries. Additionally, a few qualitative interviews with public library leaders in the USA and Norway were used to indicate by what mechanisms, or by which processes, libraries generate generalized trust.

Findings

The main finding is that public libraries seem the most important factor in creating generalized trust in the OECD area, even more so than efficient/impartial public institutions. However, there is the problem of causal direction. It might be the case that it is high trusting countries that prioritize public libraries. Therefore, times series data are needed as well as qualitative data on the process of trust creation in the library. Interviews with library leaders point towards the fact that they see outreach activities as creating trust and that people trust the library. Replication of these results, however, is crucial. Moreover, the findings appear to indicate that when the library's attention is directed at disadvantaged groups of non‐users it is the widespread trust in the public library institution that breeds trust among these groups too.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to the understanding/theory of the creation of generalized trust in general and to the role of the public library in this process.

Details

Journal of Documentation, vol. 64 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0022-0418

Keywords

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Article

Maja Dorota Wojciechowska

Social capital, understood as intangible community values available through a network of connections, is a factor in the development of societies and improving quality of…

Abstract

Purpose

Social capital, understood as intangible community values available through a network of connections, is a factor in the development of societies and improving quality of life. It helps to remove economic inequalities and prevent poverty and social exclusion, stimulate social and regional development, civic attitudes and social engagement and build a civic society as well as local and regional identity. Many of these tasks may be implemented by libraries, which, apart from providing access to information, may also offer a number of services associated with social needs. The purpose of this paper is to present the roles and functions that libraries may serve in local communities in terms of assistance, integration and development based on classical social capital theories.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper reviews the classical concepts of social capital in the context of libraries. It analyses the findings of Pierre-Félix Bourdieu, James Coleman, Francis Fukuyama, Robert Putnam, Nan Lin, Ronald Stuart Burt, Wayne Baker and Alejandro Portes. Based on their respective concepts, the paper analyses the role of the contemporary library in the social life of local communities. In particular, it focuses on the possible new functions that public libraries may serve.

Findings

A critical review of the concept of social capital revealed certain dependencies between libraries and their neighbourhoods. With new services that respond to the actual social needs, libraries may serve as a keystone, namely they may integrate, animate and engage local communities. This, however, requires a certain approach to be adopted by the personnel and governing authorities as well as infrastructure and tangible resources.

Originality/value

The social engagement of libraries is usually described from the practical perspective (reports on the services provided) or in the context of research on the impact of respective projects on specific groups of users (research reports). A broader approach, based on original social theories, is rarely encountered. The paper draws on classical concepts of social capital and is a contribution to the discussion on possible uses of those concepts based on an analysis of the role of libraries in social life and in strengthening the social capital of local communities.

Details

Library Management, vol. 42 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0143-5124

Keywords

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Article

Tim Gorichanaz

The purpose of this paper is to invite further consideration of and research into the authoritativeness, reliability and trustworthiness of documents. How do documents…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to invite further consideration of and research into the authoritativeness, reliability and trustworthiness of documents. How do documents come to be trusted? Why are some more trusted than others?

Design/methodology/approach

The cases of the Oxford English Dictionary and Wikipedia policies are explored from a historical perspective, and other cases are considered.

Findings

Authoritativeness seems inherent to documents because of a cognitive metaphor that says “what is persistent is trustworthy”.

Practical implications

This feature of documents exposes users to a number of pitfalls related to trusting illegitimate documents. This has important implications for document literacy.

Originality/value

New insight into documents is achieved by applying cognitive metaphors and prototype theory to documents.

Details

Journal of Documentation, vol. 72 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0022-0418

Keywords

Content available
Article

Abstract

Details

Library Hi Tech, vol. 28 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0737-8831

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Article

Maja Dorota Wojciechowska

The purpose of this paper i to determine which group – the managerial personnel or the directors of libraries – had a more extensive social network and were more eager to…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper i to determine which group – the managerial personnel or the directors of libraries – had a more extensive social network and were more eager to engage in cooperation, in other words – had the qualities believed to be important in managerial positions.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper presents the results of research on the levels of individual social capital, as well as the social activity among librarians in 20 countries across the world, which are important for integration with the local community and development of library services.

Findings

The research confirmed that library directors are more active than managerial personnel or line workers, although there were areas in which line workers and managers scored higher than directors. In some areas of civic activity, line workers and managers, rather than directors, led the way.

Research limitations/implications

This is the first research into the social capital and social activity of the managerial personnel of libraries conducted on such a large scale – in 20 countries across the world. The electronic survey resulted in the total of 6,593 valid responses, which were analysed statistically. The one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) statistics were calculated, and the chi-square test of independence and the Mann–Whitney U test were applied. The level of individual social capital was calculated on the basis of a resource generator – Questionnaire for the Measurement of Individual Social Capital (KPIKS).

Originality/value

This is the first research into the social capital and social activity of the managerial personnel of libraries conducted on such a large scale – in 20 countries across the world. The electronic survey resulted in the total of 6,593 valid responses, which were analysed statistically. The one-way ANOVA statistics were calculated, and the chi-square test of independence and the Mann–Whitney U test were applied. The level of individual social capital was calculated on the basis of a resource generator – Questionnaire for the Measurement of Individual Social Capital (KPIKS).

Details

Library Management, vol. 42 no. 1/2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0143-5124

Keywords

Content available
Article

Jorge Tiago Martins and Rosa Canhoto

This paper aims to identify and conceptualize a set of relational capabilities that school libraries in the Alentejo region of Portugal develop for acquiring new knowledge…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to identify and conceptualize a set of relational capabilities that school libraries in the Alentejo region of Portugal develop for acquiring new knowledge that exists externally in the wider community.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative research design operationalized via case studies was followed for the empirical analysis. Empirical findings are based on the analysis of the 84 narrative reports submitted by school libraries as part of a national performance evaluation exercise that took place between 2010 and 2012. Data analysis followed the techniques of inductive data categorization, within case-analysis, and cross-case analysis.

Findings

The exploration of the relational capabilities that school libraries in the Alentejo region of Portugal develop for acquiring new knowledge that exists externally in the community resulted in the identification of relationships that school libraries in the region have established to acquire new knowledge: connecting with and supporting organizations committed to civic engagement; facilitating discussions about challenging issues through strategic partnerships; convening community conversations to identify shared concerns and solutions; and embracing local culture to foster endogenous development.

Originality/value

The ability to seek and recognize the value of new and external knowledge, assimilate it and apply it to organizational ends has been traditionally linked to the concept of absorptive capacity. While absorptive capacity literature in business settings is prolific, literature that focuses on school libraries’ ability to identify and explore external knowledge and applying it to improve their performance is scarce. Focusing on the specific context of the Alentejo region of Portugal as an archetypical rural area, this paper identifies how knowledge existing externally in the community is absorbed by rural school libraries through specific relational capabilities that reflect school libraries’ community orientation and engagement in participatory processes that develop social resilience.

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