Public libraries are long-acknowledged places for information provision and knowledge transmission, but they increasingly also function as important socio-cultural infrastructures contributing to the everyday life in cities. However, austerity pressures heavily threaten libraries’ function as spaces of encounter. ILIT examines how public libraries in Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands as socio- cultural infrastructures address systemic challenges in rapidly transforming societies. It deploys the analytics of ‘infrastructuring’ and ‘librarising’ to unpack libraries’ transformative capacities to develop best-practice, community-oriented solutions for resilience in austerity urbanism. Focusing on innovative library practices, the research goals are to 1) enhance libraries’ institutional support for libraries, 2) strengthen libraries’ capacities as local places of community and care, and 3) amplify community librarianship as innovation driver towards community-based developments. Using an innovative mix of ethnography and creative approaches, the interdisciplinary team uses stakeholder and critical policy analysis, interviews, participant observation and shadowing. In addition, ILIT develops co-productive zine-making as an innovative participatory method, engaging library staff, patrons, urban government authorities and other stakeholders to simultaneously study and cultivate a sense of community and social infrastructuring performed in and through public libraries.
ILIT investigates the (in)formal practices (or ‘infrastructuring’) that library staff, patrons, policy-makers and other stakeholders employ to provide, perform and maintain public libraries as important socio-cultural infrastructures, particularly in Austrian, Swedish and Dutch communities that struggle with systemic challenges such as unemployment, loneliness and segregation.