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This exploratory study, a Ph.D. dissertation completed at the University of Western Ontario in 2013, examines the materially embedded relations of power between library…
This exploratory study, a Ph.D. dissertation completed at the University of Western Ontario in 2013, examines the materially embedded relations of power between library users and staff in public libraries and how building design regulates spatial behavior according to organizational objectives. It considers three public library buildings as organization spaces (Dale & Burrell, 2008) and determines the extent to which their spatial organizations reproduce the relations of power between the library and its public that originated with the modern public library building type ca. 1900. Adopting a multicase study design, I conducted site visits to three, purposefully selected public library buildings of similar size but various ages. Site visits included: blueprint analysis; organizational document analysis; in-depth, semi-structured interviews with library users and library staff; cognitive mapping exercises; observations; and photography.
Despite newer approaches to designing public library buildings, the use of newer information technologies, and the emergence of newer paradigms of library service delivery (e.g., the user-centered model), findings strongly suggest that the library as an organization still relies on many of the same socio-spatial models of control as it did one century ago when public library design first became standardized. The three public libraries examined show spatial organizations that were designed primarily with the librarian, library materials, and library operations in mind far more than the library user or the user’s many needs. This not only calls into question the public library’s progressiveness over the last century but also hints at its ability to survive in the new century.