An investigation of the important elements that may make community engagement work in public libraries: An exploratory qua...
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An investigation of the important elements that may make community engagement work in public libraries: An exploratory qualitative research study

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An investigation of the important elements that may make community engagement work in public libraries: An exploratory qualitative research study

  1. 1. An investigation of the important elements that may make community engagement work in public libraries: An exploratory qualitative research study<br />Hui-Yun Sung, Dr. Mark Hepworth and Dr. Gillian Ragsdell, Department of Information Science, H.Sung@lboro.ac.uk<br />1. Value of CommunityEngagement<br />3. Rationale and Research Aims<br />5. Preliminary Findings<br />Community engagement is an emerging area in the public librarianship literature, and may be one way to help explain how public libraries can effectively involve communities. In addition to fulfilling the statutory duties (for example, Public Libraries Act 1850, Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, Framework for the Future 2003, and Public Library Standards 2008), libraries have seen the importance and value of community engagement in their services. There are a variety of good projects that focus on engaging with local communities in library service planning, management and delivery, that are currently being undertaken in the UK. This research is very timely and provides a unique opportunity to gain access to the three selected public libraries. <br />There is a body of literature from which essential factors for successful community engagement have been identified by researchers, but there have been no in-depth, empirical, systematic and longitudinal studies of the community engagement process across a number of diverse projects involving all stakeholders in the Information Science field. <br />This research aims to investigate the important elements that help make community engagement work in public libraries, using an exploratory, qualitative approach.<br />The preliminary findings have been drawn from the interview data with library staff in Leicester Central Library. <br />Figure 4 shows an initial framework of important elements that may make community engagement work in public libraries. <br />Take ‘action’ for example. It is important to realistically work in partnership with organisations and really involve local communities <br />in the library service, instead of doing it as a paper exercise. <br />4. Research Methods<br />2. Summary<br />This research has employed multiple qualitative research methods (Figure 3) to explore the important elements that may make community engagement work in public libraries. The three public libraries selected for investigation are: Leicester Central Library, Leicestershire County Council: Library Services and Derby City Libraries.<br />An awareness of the importance of effective community engagement has been increasing over the past ten years. A number of public bodies in the U.K. and overseas have recognised the importance of engaging with local communities in their services and are tackling this issue. This research will help to provide an overview of what is being done, lead to a detailed insight into what form community engagement can take and what makes it work, as well as the challenges. Hence, the research will inform future community engagement projects in information services.<br />Figure 4: An initial framework<br />6. Conclusions and Future Work<br />The initial framework has provided a synthesis of the important elements that could help to make community engagement work in public libraries, including communication, ownership, relevance, diversity, integrity, action and loyalty.<br />In future work, those important elements will be broken down into their component parts, i.e. examples of practices and outcomes, in order to identify and measure the degree to which these are evident and the impact they have had.<br />Figure 3: Multiple research methods - triangulation<br />Figure 1: Wave meeting every Monday <br />evening at Leicester Central Library<br />Figure 2: Leicester Central Library<br />

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