Public libraries as public sphere institutions: A comparative study of perceptions of the public library’s role in six European countries

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to analyze the role of public libraries as institutions underpinning a democratic public sphere as reasons legitimizing libraries compared to reasons that are more traditional and the actual use of libraries as public sphere arenas. Design/methodology/approach: A survey of representative samples of the adult population in six countries – Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Hungary and Switzerland – was undertaken. Findings: Legitimations related to the libraries role as a meeting place and arena for public debate are ranked as the 3 least important out of 12 possible legitimations for upholding a public library service. Libraries are, however, used extensively by the users to access citizenship information and to participate in public sphere relevant meetings. Originality/value: Few studies have empirically analyzed the role of libraries in upholding a democratic and sustainable public sphere. This study contributes in filling that gap.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Documentation
VolumeVol. 75
Issue numberNo. 6
Pages (from-to)1396-1415
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2019

    Research areas

  • Citizenship information, Community meeting place, Democracy, Public libraries, Public sphere, Social role of libraries

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