ALM in the public sphere. How do archivists, librarians and museum professionals conceive the respective roles of their institutions in the public sphere?
ALM in the public sphere.
How do archivists, librarians and museum
professionals conceive the respective roles of
their institutions in the public sphere?
Ragnar Audunson (Oslo), Hans-Christoph Hobohm (Potsdam),
Máté Tóth (Budapest)
Public Sphere and Trends for ALM Institutions
● Increasing pressure on Archives, Libraries and Museums to play a crucial role
in the (democratic) public sphere (cf. Jürgen Habermas).
Two major societal trends:
● Social turn: third place and revalorisation of the analog; community
orientation (third wave): upsurge in physical meetings – discussions and
debates, reading circles, game nights, cafes etc.
● Digital turn: social media platforms, blogs, internet-based news media,
streaming of cultural content.
RQ1: To what extent have digital and social developments led to the
development of new services and new forms of working, particularly the
development of services related to the social turn and services based on digital
technologies? Are there differences between the three fields with respect to taking
digital technologies into use and are there differences between the countries?
RQ2: How do librarians, archivists and define their role as professionals
underpinning the public sphere in a digital age? Do professionals from the three
fields think in similar or different ways and are there differences between the
● undertaken winter 2018 / spring 2019 among librarians, archivists and
museum professional in Norway, Sweden*, Denmark*, Germany, Hungary
● in total 15 surveys
● translated from an English master version into local languages
● with different survey tools, different methods of data collection, and different
*) in Sweden by Kerstin Rydbeck (Uppsala University) / in Denmark by Henrik Jochumsen
and Casper Hvenegaard Rasmussen (Copenhagen University)
in Archives, Museums and Libraries
Eliciting traditional and new ‘socio-political and
meeting place-’roles (libraries)
“Q12. The public library has many roles and there can be many reasons for
upholding a public library service. Below you find a number of statements
reflecting different such reasons. How do you as a library professional evaluate
these different dimensions of the role the library has in your community. Indicate
the importance on a scale from 0 to 10 as a reason for upholding a library service
in your community, where 0 indicates very little important and 10 indicates very of
very high importance.”
● The library provides people with information they need in their everyday lives.
● The library promotes learning, supporting informal as well as formal learning.
● The library promotes contemporary literary and cultural expressions of high
● The library promotes the literary and cultural heritage.
● The library provides their users with experiences and a meaningful leisure
time, e.g. by providing entertainment and popular reading material.
New socio-political and meeting place roles
● The library promotes democracy by being an arena for public discourse.
● The library is an important social meeting place in the community.
● The library promotes creativity and innovation by giving their users options for
performing different activities independently or jointly e.g. knitting club,
reading circles, hip-hop laboratory, poetic lab, maker spaces).
● The library promotes integration and social cohesion by being a meeting
place across ethnic and cultural belongings.
Social and digital turn:
● All of the three institutions have adopted new activities and services to a
limited extent - traditional aspects seem to prevail.
● Differences between countries are often due to national legislation and
development of technical infrastructure.
Adopting new roles and values:
● All of the three fields still perceive themselves as knowledge institutions but
start to combine this with critical empowerment of (new) communities mainly
via physical/analog means.
Audunson, Ragnar; Hobohm, Hans-Christoph; Tóth, Máté (2019): ALM in the public sphere: How do
archivists, librarians and museum professionals conceive the respective roles of their institutions
in the public sphere? In: Proceedings of the CoLIS 10 conference. In: Information Research
Audunson, Ragnar; Aabø, Svanhild; Blomgren, Roger; Hobohm, Hans-Christoph; Jochumsen, Henrik;
Mumenthaler, Rudolf; Schuldt, Karsten; Hvenegaard Rasmussen, Casper; Rydbeck, Kerstin; Tóth, Máté;
Vårheim, Andreas (2019): Public Libraries as public sphere Institutions: A comparative Study of
perceptions of the public library’s role in six European Countries. In: Journal of Documentation