Public libraries as promoters of social sustainability?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction. The aim of this paper is to critically examine how public libraries are portrayed as contributing to social sustainability. Meanings ascribed to the concept are investigated and if, and then how, the public library is shaped in relation to it.
Method. Library plans from five municipalities in Sweden are analysed and discussed in the light of previous research.
Analysis. Bacchi’s method ‘what’s the problem represented to be’ is used to scrutinize what problem the public library is supposed to be part of the solution of.
Results. Three policies represent the ‘problem’ as a current threat to democratic values, safety and stability. By favouring social sustainability, the library contributes to robust communities and to enable trust. In two policies sustainability is related to development and change.
Conclusions: When libraries are put forth as places fostering users to take responsibility for social sustainability a tremendous responsibility is placed on individuals. Our suggestion for disrupting this argument is to recognise social unrest as a consequence of inequalities and unequal distribution of resources and to acknowledge pluralism and difference. Thereby, libraries may contribute to social sustainability and democracy by being places where social antagonism can be transformed to agonism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Information Studies


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