The public library, democracy and Rancière’s poetics of politics

Timothy Huzar

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Abstract

Introduction This paper applies the thought of Jacques Rancière to the concept of democracy as it is traditionally understood in library studies literature. Methods The paper reviews a cross-section of instances of the link between democracy and the public library in library studies literature. It offers a close textual analysis of Michael Gorman's Our Enduring Values as typifying the link between the public library and democracy. It critically applies the theoretical account of democracy developed by Jacques Rancière to Gorman's account in Our Enduring Values. Analysis Making use of the theory of Rancière, the paper argues that the link between the public library and democracy should instead be situated in the impropriety of the public library: the assumption of equality libraries make, and the consequent open possibility for the contestation of their function and values. Results The paper finds that the link between democracy and the public library is situated in libraries' instrumental value to democracy; libraries are typically seen as holding an educative function for democracy. Conclusion The paper concludes by arguing that focusing on the impropriety of public libraries is especially important in the context of their current neo-liberal restructuring. An instrumental link between democracy and the public library too easily falls prey to neo-liberal rationalisation. A link which focuses on the improper character of public libraries encourages a contestation over this restructuring.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Research
Volume18
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2013

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Published under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) license

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