Geographies of the public library: Political economy, architecture and everyday use

Authors: Salene Schloffel-Armstrong*,
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: austerity, public, public libraries, public provision
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 34
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Across the global North, austerity agendas are reshaping an important but often overlooked site of social reproduction: the public library. While significant disinvestment from library facilities and services has been a hallmark of austerity, in some cases, consolidated resources are being funneled into ‘flagship’ central libraries, often tied into entrepreneurial politics of urban redevelopment. These projects of public library withdrawal and investment are restructuring urban social reproduction, undermining, facilitating and, at the very least, altering the interactions, experiences, resources and spaces through which urban life is composed. In this context, it seems increasingly important to grasp the multi-dimensional geographies of the public library. This paper proposes three strands of enquiry. The paper begins by framing the political economy of the library, and the associated reorganisation of urban space that is currently occurring. The second strand involves the architectural geographies of the library, drawing attention to the design and construction of library spaces. Lastly, the paper discusses the geographies of the everyday, focusing primarily on day-to-day occupation and encounters, as well as the changing role of librarianship in the contemporary city. An understanding of the contemporary geographies of the library will prove a useful starting point for analysing the reorganisation of public service provision, social reproduction and urban space in an era of austerity.

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