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Libraries and the circulation of power: A historical case study of Pittsburgh, 1924-2016

Widdersheim, Michael M. (2017) Libraries and the circulation of power: A historical case study of Pittsburgh, 1924-2016. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This project explores how political power shaped the development of a regional public library infrastructure in greater Pittsburgh, United States. The project is interdisciplinary in that it addresses research problems from two fields. In library studies, research related to the public sphere and public libraries uses an exhausted paradigm, one that is anachronistic and anatopic. A new public sphere paradigm is needed for research about public libraries. Also in library studies, historical accounts of libraries in greater Pittsburgh have overlooked the history of the regional public library system. A history of the system has yet to be written. In political science, Habermas’s Machtkreislauf, or circulation of power model faces several objections and it has not received sufficient empirical testing. The model could be refined by applying it to an actual case. To address these problems, this project dovetails them by asking the following research question: How does the Machtkreislauf model apply to the regional public library system in Pittsburgh? To answer this question, this project uses historical case study, a research strategy that was newly developed for this project. This study proceeds in several stages: source collection and analysis, data collection and analysis, and data interpretation. Source collection combines archival research, interviewing, and fieldwork to gather source materials, periodize the case, and limn the boundaries of the case. Data collection uses qualitative content analysis to construct a coding instrument, validate it, and apply it to the source materials. Data interpretation uses qualitative comparative analysis to identify and describe the causal conditions that explain the case’s outcomes. This project contributes new findings to multiple areas. To the area of research methodology, it proposes a novel research design, historical case study. To political science, it revises the Machtkreislauf model using new concepts, including circuits, tessellations, broadcast/narrowcast, and formal decision. To library studies, it offers a historical account of the regional public library system in Pittsburgh using the concept of decision cycles. Also to library studies, it proposes a new theory where configurations of civil activity, responsiveness, legitimacy, and resistance explain how the public sphere affects public library development.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Widdersheim, Michael M.mmw84@pitt.eduMMW840000-0001-7743-0605
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCurrier,
Committee MemberCorrall, Sheila
Committee MemberBowler, Leanne
Committee MemberKoizumi, Masanori
Date: 21 September 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 March 2017
Approval Date: 21 September 2017
Submission Date: 28 July 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 832
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Information Sciences > Library and Information Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Machtkreislauf, Qualitative Content Analysis, Qualitative Comparative Analysis, Decision Cycle, Circuit, Tessellation
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2017 18:29
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2017 18:29


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