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Article
Publication date: 29 December 2021

Jamie Johnston, Ágústa Pálsdóttir, Anna Mierzecka, Ragnar Andreas Audunson, Hans-Christoph Hobohm, Kerstin Rydbeck, Máté Tóth, Casper Hvenegaard Rasmussen, Henrik Jochumsen, Mahmood Khosrowjerdi and Sunniva Evjen

The overarching aim of this article is to consider to what extent the perceptions of librarians in Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Poland and Sweden reflect a…

Abstract

Purpose

The overarching aim of this article is to consider to what extent the perceptions of librarians in Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Poland and Sweden reflect a unified view of their professional role and the role of their institutions in supporting the formation of the public sphere and to what extent the variations reflect national contexts.

Design/methodology/approach

The multi-country comparison is based on online questionnaires. The central research questions are how do librarians legitimize the use of public resources to uphold a public library service? How do librarians perceive the role of public libraries as public spaces? How do librarians perceive their professional role and the competencies needed for it? Consideration is given to how the digital and social turns are reflected in the responses.

Findings

The results show evidence of a unified professional culture with clear influences from national contexts. A key finding is that librarians see giving access as central for both legitimizing library services and for the library's role as a public sphere institution. Strong support is shown for the social turn in supporting the formation of the public sphere while the digital turn appears to be a future challenge; one of seemingly increased importance due to the pandemic.

Research limitations/implications

This study shows that libraries across the seven countries have expanded beyond simply providing public access to their book-based collections and now serve as social, learning and creative spaces: both in the physical library and digitally. Qualitative research is needed concerning librarians' notions of public libraries and librarianship, which will provide a more in-depth understanding of the changing professional responsibilities and how public libraries recruit the associated competencies.

Originality/value

The article provides a much needed insight into how librarians perceive the role of public libraries in supporting the formation of the public sphere and democratic processes, as well as their own role.

Details

Journal of Documentation, vol. 78 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0022-0418

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 31 May 2019

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.

2744

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

Article
Publication date: 27 March 2009

Sunniva Evjen and Ragnar Audunson

The purpose of this paper is to discusses people's images of public libraries, and whether or not they constitute a barrier to institutional change.

2535

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to discusses people's images of public libraries, and whether or not they constitute a barrier to institutional change.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is based on two studies carried out in two Norwegian cities, Drammen and Oslo, where this is a current topic. Focus is on discerning conservative and liberal attitudes of what a library is, and how such attitudes affect people's perception of change. How the library's social role is viewed by the informants is also considered. In total, nine focus groups were interviewed. In Drammen, two user groups and two non‐user groups with younger (18‐39) and older (40+) participants. The same was the case in Oslo, with one additional expert group. Each group contained 6 participants, giving a total of 54 respondents.

Findings

The informants had many thoughts regarding what a library is and should be, and drew a picture of the public library as a complex institution with many tasks. They had many ideas for library developments, especially regarding social activities. The non‐users had a slightly more conservative view of what a public library is, while the users were more informed about new developments and facilities. It seemed important to all groups that the public libraries are updated and inviting, but they expressed that recognisability was important.

Practical implications

Both liberal and conservative attitudes were found among the respondents, but interestingly enough, there was little negativity towards change. On the contrary, it seems change is perceived as a requirement for public libraries to stay relevant. Their role as meeting places is one of the areas both users and non‐users expressed great interest in, and certainly an area worth investigating further.

Originality/value

There is not much research analysing the relationship and possible conflicts between different stakeholders. The research undertaken is likely to be of importance both to the academic community and the field of practice.

Details

New Library World, vol. 110 no. 3/4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0307-4803

Keywords

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