Speaking of users: on User discourses in the field of public libraries

Åse Hedemark, Jenny Hedman, Olof Sundin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Citations (SciVal)
    232 Downloads (Pure)


    Introduction. The aim of the study reported is to examine user discourses identified in the Swedish public library field. The following questions are posed: What user discourses can be found and what characterises them? How are users categorised and what does this categorisation imply? The departure point in this paper is that the ways users are categorised may influence their information behaviour. Plausible consequences for the relation between the interest of the public library and the users are discussed.
    Method. The empirical focus of the paper is a discourse analysis with a starting-point in Ernesto Laclaus and Chantal Mouffe's discourse theory.
    Analysis. Sixty-two articles from three established Swedish library journals are analysed through a model in four phases. These phases include designations of users, user categories, themes within which users are described and user discourses.
    Results. Four user discourses are revealed: a general education discourse, a pedagogical discourse, an information technology discourse and an information management discourse.
    Conclusion. The discourses hold both levels of idealizing and experience-related rhetoric. The dominant general education discourse is based on a tradition of fostering and refining as well as educating the general public and thereby reproduces inequality between the user and the library.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInformation Research
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2005

    Subject classification (UKÄ)

    • Information Studies


    • diskursanalys
    • folkbibliotek
    • användare


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