libraries

Futures in Things: Locating the Promise of Infrastructures in Public Libraries

SANDJAR KOZUBEV Georgia Institute of Technology CARL DISALVO Georgia Institute of Technology Public libraries in the U.S. and around the world are rapidly changing due expanding technological and social needs of their communities. The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the debates about the future of public spaces and public services. In this paper, we report on a qualitative study of librarians in a U.S. urban public library system. The focus of the study was to understand how the concept of “the future of library” is constructed and contested both socially and materially. Using mixed methods, including participant observation, interviews, participatory design and action research, we developed insights about the socio-political dynamics of futures in a public infrastructure. We argue that futures can be shaped not only by socio-technical imaginaries, and representations, which tend to be abstract and distant, but also by socio-material conditions in the present. Specifically, drawing on the work of infrastructure studies,...

The Mixed-Up Files of a 21st Century Librarian: Changing Demographics, Conceptions of Democracy, and The Public Library

ALANNAH BERSON University of Chicago With the rise of the internet, the role of the public library as a distributor of education, skills, and cultural capital has come under question while continuing to grow increasingly vital. This paper examines how libraries are dealing with changing technology while negotiating their relationship with their diverse patron populations., Using the concept of chronotope, a specific space and time that gives rise to a particular understanding of a person's character or an idea, this paper explores conceptions of patrons through systematic assumptions about patrons’ background and needs. Through the library's continued inclusion of technology in its services, it seeks to reach out to more patrons and support existing ones. This paper makes clear the connections between the current state of the library, its diverse audience of patrons, and the need for new ways of measuring library usage to generate a more nuanced understanding of patrons....