Understandings of the role
of a public library in Estonia
Mai Põldaas
6th QQML 2014, Istanbul
The territory of Estonia covers 45,227 km2 and
Estonian population is 1.3 million people
Map is taken from Wikipedia
Public libraries in Estonia
• The oldest public library in Estonia
dates back to 1552
• The total number of public librari...
Public libraries in Estonia
(2)
• 47% of citizens in the last twelve
months have visited a public library
at least once
• ...
Public libraries in Estonia
(3)
• The Public Libraries Act is in use
• Various national policies are in use,
but no (publi...
The aim of the study
• To investigate the understandings
of the role of a public library in
nowadays Estonia
Main research question
• How is the public library’s role seen
and understood by those who
make decisions or have impact o...
Context for the study
• Still a few years ago libraries rarely
managed to receive media
attention in Estonia
• Things chan...
Context (2)
• Minister of Culture announce-
ments about state’s plans:
– state no longer supports and gives
money for mass...
Context (3)
– plans to support digitization of
Estonian literature
– state will not give money for acquiring
books on pape...
Context
• Minister’s two
interviews (in
November 2011
and January
2013) caused a
lot of feedback
and initiated
discussions...
Context (5)
• Years 2012-2013 were the time to
update many national polices in
Estonia, including
– The Basics in Cultural...
Context (6)
• It can be said, that among other
things these documents and media
materials reveal the
understandings of the...
Methodology
• an empirical study
• qualitative research methods were
used:
– qualitative content analysis
– discourse anal...
Methodology (2)
• First the documentary analysis of
earlier mentioned three policies
was done by using content analysis
Methodology (3)
• Next various media materials were
analysed by using content analysis
• 54 in total:
– the articles and i...
Methodology (4)
• close reading was done, to find
main statements, expectations and
understandings
• for category creation...
Methodology (5)
• Categories:
– free and equal access to information;
– reading;
– learning and lifelong learning;
– facil...
Methodology (6)
– community engagement;
– providing access to cultural
expressions of all performing arts;
– supporting th...
Methodology (7)
• During the categorization process,
the codenames were given to
these, whose opinions were
gathered from ...
Methodology (8)
• Discourses build on a number of
meaning patterns that are available
in social stocks of knowledge, or
th...
Methodology (9)
• Here the concept of meaning
pattern was used.
• It aims at the statement level of an
utterance, at those...
Some results
• Estonian public libraries roles are seen
mainly in cultural contexts and as a
cultural institution.
• Publi...
Results (2)
• Public library in
Estonia is a book
and reading
oriented
institution.
Results (3)
• Public libraries in
Estonia act as
active community
centers,
especially in rural
areas of the
country.
Results (4)
• They are not seen much as educational
institutions and it is not expected from
them to make different kind o...
Results (5)
• Discourse analysis reveals the
opposition between information
and library worlds, a kind of battle
between t...
Results (6)
• Almost not making available other
media, they are often not seen as a
place being part of the
contemporary i...
Results (7)
• The announcement about the
digitalization of Estonian cultural
heritage and making it available from
one pla...
Results (8)
• The next conflict, difference in
discourses, reveals in the
Minister’s statements about the
public library’s...
• For more, read the paper! 
• The research continues – to
investigate more about the role of a
public library in Estonia.
• Thank you!
• Any comments, questions?
• mai.poldaas@ut.ee
• Institute of Social Studies, UT
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Understandings of the role of a public library in Estonia

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Methodology and some results of the study about understandings of the role of a public library in Estonia are introduced.
Keywords: public library’s role in the society; public library’s policy; challenges before libraries today

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Understandings of the role of a public library in Estonia

  1. 1. Understandings of the role of a public library in Estonia Mai Põldaas 6th QQML 2014, Istanbul
  2. 2. The territory of Estonia covers 45,227 km2 and Estonian population is 1.3 million people Map is taken from Wikipedia
  3. 3. Public libraries in Estonia • The oldest public library in Estonia dates back to 1552 • The total number of public libraries in Estonia is 559, including – 20 central libraries, – 50 city libraries and – 449 village libraries
  4. 4. Public libraries in Estonia (2) • 47% of citizens in the last twelve months have visited a public library at least once • ~384,000 regular users of public library services • Main services are free of charge
  5. 5. Public libraries in Estonia (3) • The Public Libraries Act is in use • Various national policies are in use, but no (public) library’s policy, special vision or other statement is formulated into what kind of a direction will public libraries develop in Estonia
  6. 6. The aim of the study • To investigate the understandings of the role of a public library in nowadays Estonia
  7. 7. Main research question • How is the public library’s role seen and understood by those who make decisions or have impact on decision making?
  8. 8. Context for the study • Still a few years ago libraries rarely managed to receive media attention in Estonia • Things changed in November 2011 with the then Minister of Culture’s interview to one of the Estonian daily newspaper
  9. 9. Context (2) • Minister of Culture announce- ments about state’s plans: – state no longer supports and gives money for mass culture acquisition in public libraries – embargo period for libraries before they can buy new books – compulsory lists for public libraries
  10. 10. Context (3) – plans to support digitization of Estonian literature – state will not give money for acquiring books on paper for public libraries, but will support ebooks acquiring in the National Library instead – local goverments should finance public libraries, not state – does not like the fact that public libraries have become social institutions
  11. 11. Context • Minister’s two interviews (in November 2011 and January 2013) caused a lot of feedback and initiated discussions in media By U. Nemvalts
  12. 12. Context (5) • Years 2012-2013 were the time to update many national polices in Estonia, including – The Basics in Cultural Policy until 2020 – The Development Plan for Information Society in Estonia until 2020 – The Strategy for Lifelong Learning in Estonia 2020
  13. 13. Context (6) • It can be said, that among other things these documents and media materials reveal the understandings of the role of a public library in nowadays Estonia
  14. 14. Methodology • an empirical study • qualitative research methods were used: – qualitative content analysis – discourse analysis
  15. 15. Methodology (2) • First the documentary analysis of earlier mentioned three policies was done by using content analysis
  16. 16. Methodology (3) • Next various media materials were analysed by using content analysis • 54 in total: – the articles and interviews of ministers, politicians, library directors, writers and other opinion leaders published in Estonian daily newspapers, cultural newspaper Sirp, weekly newspaper Maaleht and few others from the years 2011-2013
  17. 17. Methodology (4) • close reading was done, to find main statements, expectations and understandings • for category creation the deductive category development was used, where main missions of the public library by IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto (1994) were followed
  18. 18. Methodology (5) • Categories: – free and equal access to information; – reading; – learning and lifelong learning; – facilitating the development of information and computer literacy skills;
  19. 19. Methodology (6) – community engagement; – providing access to cultural expressions of all performing arts; – supporting the oral tradition and awareness of cultural heritage; – fostering inter-cultural dialogue and favoring cultural diversity
  20. 20. Methodology (7) • During the categorization process, the codenames were given to these, whose opinions were gathered from the media • Using the results of the content analysis, discourse analysis was done to find the discourses there exist in Estonian society about understandings of the public library’s role
  21. 21. Methodology (8) • Discourses build on a number of meaning patterns that are available in social stocks of knowledge, or they may constitute and spread new ones, anchor them in such stocks of knowledge (Keller 2013: 121).
  22. 22. Methodology (9) • Here the concept of meaning pattern was used. • It aims at the statement level of an utterance, at those kinds of core elements that can be labelled as socially typified in a given context – i.e., temporarily conventionalized or fixed meaning figures in social collectives.
  23. 23. Some results • Estonian public libraries roles are seen mainly in cultural contexts and as a cultural institution. • Public library’s missions and roles are part of Estonian cultural policy, Estonian Minister of Culture expects public libraries act as cultural institutions above all. • In accordance with that are readers and writers expectations to public libraries, as well.
  24. 24. Results (2) • Public library in Estonia is a book and reading oriented institution.
  25. 25. Results (3) • Public libraries in Estonia act as active community centers, especially in rural areas of the country.
  26. 26. Results (4) • They are not seen much as educational institutions and it is not expected from them to make different kind of media materials (like music, films) available for the public. • Libraries are not mentioned in the country’s information policy – there is not a word dedicated to them in The Development Plan for Information Society in Estonia until 2020
  27. 27. Results (5) • Discourse analysis reveals the opposition between information and library worlds, a kind of battle between the new and old understandings. • Estonian public libraries being (printed) book oriented, are taken as institutions from a different area, from the past.
  28. 28. Results (6) • Almost not making available other media, they are often not seen as a place being part of the contemporary information environment. • What looms there in the background to support this discourse, is the Estonian success story as an e-state.
  29. 29. Results (7) • The announcement about the digitalization of Estonian cultural heritage and making it available from one place (National Library, for example) is in a very good accordance with this view. • There many services are almost replaced with e-services in Estonia, why not to do the same with books and libraries.
  30. 30. Results (8) • The next conflict, difference in discourses, reveals in the Minister’s statements about the public library’s social role. • And a sexist approach, unequal attitude between sexes, can be detected in this study.
  31. 31. • For more, read the paper!  • The research continues – to investigate more about the role of a public library in Estonia.
  32. 32. • Thank you! • Any comments, questions? • mai.poldaas@ut.ee • Institute of Social Studies, UT

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