Arenas for conflict or cohesion? Rethinking public libraries as potentially democratic spheres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction. In policies and research, public libraries are often put forth as public spheres promoting inclusion and shared values. This article investigates possible implications of replacing the idea of the library as public sphere with a plurality of public spheres, thereby acknowledging existing inequalities and conflicts between adversaries.
Method. The paper is conceptual, focusing on deepening the theoretical analysis. Analysis. Fraser’s elaboration on the concept public sphere is utilized alongside Chantal Mouffe’s concept agonism to critically discuss the perception of libraries as public spheres, and to explore the library as a place enabling multiple public spheres where different groups can strengthen their social identity and make claims of power.
Results. Two main risks with a consensus-oriented starting point are identified: Firstly, marginalized groups may be silenced when inclusion and shared values are emphasized rather than plurality. Secondly, when cultural and social hierarchies are ignored, the ‘others’ are turned into enemies and antagonism replace agonism.
Conclusion. If the notion of libraries as promoters of democracy and inclusion shall not result in upholding the status quo, we must go beyond what we know and make room for pluralistic communities and agonistic conflicts.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbercolis2220
JournalInformation Research
Issue numberSpecial Issue
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Oct
EventConceptions of Library and Information Science - Oslo Metropolitan University, Oslo, Norway
Duration: 2022 May 292022 Jun 1
Conference number: 11

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Cultural Studies


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