Public libraries as an infrastructure for a sustainable public sphere: A comprehensive review of research
AuthorAudunson, Ragnar Andreas; Aabø, Svanhild; Blomgren, Roger; Evjen, Sunniva; Jochumsen, Henrik; Larsen, Håkon; Rasmussen, Casper Havnegaard; Vårheim, Andreas; Johnston, Jamie; Koizumi, Masanori
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.