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Late, lost, or renewed? A search for the public sphere in public libraries

Widdersheim, Michael M. (2016) Late, lost, or renewed? A search for the public sphere in public libraries. In: Conceptions of Library and Information Science (CoLIS 9), 27-29 Jun 2016, Uppsala, Sweden.

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Introduction. This theoretical and historical paper problematizes applications of the public sphere concept to the study of public libraries. By working through identified problems, this study sharpens the theoretical ideas of public library research, reveals new research directions, and speculates on how public library research could contribute to a new conception of the public sphere.

Methods. This paper uses conceptual analysis to test the applicability of the public sphere concept to the study of modern public libraries.

Analysis. This study compares and contrasts the meanings of the public sphere concept with empirical realities of public libraries.

Results. The liberal public sphere differs from the empirical realities of public libraries in terms of temporal and categorical locations. A considerable body of research related to public libraries that has accrued over several decades must therefore confront allegations of anachronism and anatopism.

Conclusion. Objections of anachronism and anatopism can be countered by either acknowledging multiple public sphere paradigms or by revising the substantive models of the public sphere. These strategies raise new research questions and suggest that further study of public libraries could contribute to a fuller understanding of the public sphere concept.


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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Widdersheim, Michael M.mmw84@pitt.eduMMW840000-0001-7743-0605
Date: 29 June 2016
Date Type: Publication
Event Title: Conceptions of Library and Information Science (CoLIS 9)
Event Dates: 27-29 Jun 2016
Event Type: Conference
Schools and Programs: School of Information Sciences > Library and Information Science
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: information history, library studies
Official URL:
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2017 14:33
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2017 14:33


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