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PLACE – Public Libraries – Arenas for Citizenship

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Presentation on theme: "PLACE – Public Libraries – Arenas for Citizenship"— Presentation transcript:

1 PLACE – Public Libraries – Arenas for Citizenship
Professor dr. polit. Ragnar Audunson, Oslo University College – Shanghai International Library Forum 2006

2 Background and research objectives
Citizenship implies a feeling of community Community is dependent upon a degree of shared identity and shared values (social capital) Securing welfare presupposes living communities as a level between market and state In today’s multicultural and digital society creating arenas forstering community is not a trivial task Can libraries fulfill that role

3 Research questions How and to what extent do people take public libraries into use as a public space, e.g. As a social meeting place or as a sphere for publicd discourse High intensive versus low intensive arenas – the library as a low intensive arena Study the interplay between the library as a virtual and physical meeting place Barriers to community participation might vary in different communities according to degree of multiculturalism, education etc. Study undertaken in 3 communities in Oslo varying along such dimensions

4 Theoretical background and basic concepts: social capital
Social capital: That glue of trust, common values, standards and norms, stable social relations that bind a communigty together. Is social capital eroding?

5 Basic concepts: Community
The growth of multiculturalism creates a multitute of communities based on age, interests, ethnicity etc. We need a community between this multitude of communities. Their cultural expressions of all these communities are to be found in the library Can the library be the community of communities?

6 Basic concepts: Citizenship
Partly it denotes formal rights, privileges and obligations of being citizen in a given country. Partly it denotes a person who is a concerned and informed participant In many languages – German and the Scandinavian – the concept has a collective dimension. You are citizen together with someone (Mitbürger, medborger) Citizenship presupposes social capital

7 Basic concepts: high intensive versus low intensive meeting places
High intensive meeting places: meeting places where you live out your primary interests Low intensive meeting places: Meeting places where you are exposed to other interests and values than those dominating at your high intensive meeting place Democracy and tolerance presupposes low-intensive meeting places Low intesive meeting places have to be designes

8 The project’s initial survey
A survey was unertaken in three communities in Oslo to measure: Social participation, integration and social capital Trust in different institutions, among them the public library The use of the local library as a meeting places Opinions as to what the library should do to develop meeting places in the community

9 Caharcteristics of the three communities
One is a suburb with a high percentage of immigrants – more than 30 per cent and a lower educational level than the Oslo average One is a former inner city working class districts, now being gentrified One is a typical middle class districts

10 Is the local community important in people’s lives?
It is more important for the inhabitants in the low status community thsn in the gentrified and bourgeois community It is more important for those with low than for those with high education More important for old people than for young people The effect of education is higher in the gentrified community than in the two other.

11 How is the library used as a meeting placd
As a public square? As a place that directs you to other arenas and meeting places As a public sphere in its own right As an arena where you qualify as a citizen – acquires knowledge and information As an anera where you live out joint ionvolvements with friends and colleagues As an arena for virtual meetings on the web As an arena where you are exposed to the unknown ”other”

12 He library as a meeting place: the results
The library is heavily used as a meeting place along all these dimensions Encounters with people belonging to a different culture than oneself has the highest score Two striking differences between the communities: a. Virtual meetings most important in the gentrified community. B. Multicultural encounters most important in the low status community The effect of education differs between the communities: - The library is most important as a virtual meeting place and as an arena for meeting friends in order to work on common projects for the low educated in the gentrified community

13 Some preliminary conclusions
The local community is important in the personal lives of citizens in a metropolitan city. That is an important premise for planning the library structure The library is a complex meeting place where a multitude of meetings take place The concept of low intensive meeting places seems to be fruitful

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