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The impact of grassroots community campaigns on public library closures in the UK

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This presentation is derived from a short research paper accepted to the i3 conference, which is being held at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen between 23rd and 26th June 2015. Conference themes include information and its societal impact. The research was carried out in June 2014, and sought to determine the impact of those grassroots campaign groups which are fighting to save substantial portions of their library provision from closure. These groups have proliferated across the UK, and are engaged in an ongoing struggle with their respective local authority decision makers.

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The impact of grassroots community campaigns on public library closures in the UK

  1. 1. The impact of grassroots community campaigns on public library closures in the UK By John Mowbray Co Author: Professor Hazel Hall Acknowledgements to research supervisor: David McMenemy Twitter: @jmowb_napier
  2. 2. Structure of the paper • Research context • Research question and aims • Literature review • Research methods • Findings & discussion • Conclusion • References • Any questions?
  3. 3. Research context • Between 1st April 2014 and 19th January 2015 241 libraries were: 1. Closed 2. Earmarked for closure 3. Handed over to community groups • Grassroots community campaigns have been fighting decisions of local authorities Anti-cuts protester in Gloucester © Photo by: Quisnovos (2010) Web: https://goo.gl/R8rPHa License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by- sa/2.0/legalcode
  4. 4. Research question and aims
  5. 5. What impact have grassroots community campaigns had on public library closures in the UK? • To explore the nature of grassroots community campaigns, and the activities they have engaged in • To explore the scope and nature of local newspaper coverage which relates to the closure of public libraries, and how grassroots campaigns are represented in the coverage
  6. 6. Literature review
  7. 7. Grassroots activism – Non-violent protest is favoured in public opinion – Can lead to more extreme forms of protest – Lobbying campaigns also effective – Have a significant impact on legislators – Social media is a cheap and effective means of recruiting support Bergen, 2009; Neumayer & Raffl, 2008; Zunes, 1999
  8. 8. Media influence – “Reinforcement theory”, “agenda setting”, and “framing” by news outlets highlighted in media theory – National news reports on recent library closures focus on celebrities and “nostalgia” themes – Regional press circulation dwindling, yet still cited as considerable influence on public Fletcher (2011); Jernigan & Wright (1996); McCombs (2004); Scheufele, (2006)
  9. 9. Methods
  10. 10. Strand 1: Cross-sectional design • Survey questionnaire • Snowball sampling • Distributed electronically via “Library Campaign” online directory • 57 campaign groups contacted • Aimed at library campaigners across UK • Quantitative with qualitative element embedded (open-text responses)
  11. 11. Strand 2: Comparative case studies • Local newspaper reports in Newcastle upon Tyne and Lincolnshire • Quantitative content analysis – Frequency, words, and prominence of articles counted • Qualitative content analysis – Coding manual applied for line-by-line analysis of sub-sample • Accessed online - LexisNexis • 6 month time period analysed from proposed closures
  12. 12. Findings: survey questionnaire
  13. 13. Questionnaire response • 68 respondents • 24 local authority areas represented • Lincolnshire most represented area (n=16)
  14. 14. Profile of library campaigners • 60% of respondents female • 44% 60 years and over • 34% previous experience of grassroots activism • 53% founding members of local campaign group • 38% use libraries weekly
  15. 15. Reasons for involvement ‘I live in an area where there are very few public facilities (…) the small outreach library was an important community hub’ ‘I couldn’t have obtained my MBA without the local library’ ‘I was worried that if I didn’t do it, nobody would and I could not let that happen’ ‘I cannot bear bullies (…) their plans smacked of bullying and not listening’
  16. 16. Barriers to library campaign groups ‘Lots of people were keen to get involved at a very superficial level, but ultimately the running of the campaign fell to too few individuals, who suffered “burn out”’ ‘Too many people believing that “austerity” is a “necessary evil”, not challenging the narrative…’ ‘Pig ignorant councillors’
  17. 17. Findings: Comparative case studies Local newspapers in Newcastle upon Tyne & Lincolnshire
  18. 18. Scope of regional newspaper coverage Monthly no. of articles: Newcastle upon Tyne Newspaper Nov-12 Dec- 12 Jan- 13 Feb-13 Mar- 13 Apr-13 TOTAL Evening chronicle 23 6 11 11 2 - 53 Sunday Sun 2 1 2 3 - - 8 The Journal 10 2 7 10 3 - 32 TOTAL 35 9 20 24 5 - 93
  19. 19. Scope of regional newspaper coverage Monthly no. of articles: Lincolnshire Newspaper Jun-13 Jul-13 Aug-13 Sep-13 Oct-13 Nov-13 TOTAL Boston Standard - 1 1 1 1 - 4 Bourne Local 2 8 2 2 2 3 19 Gainsborough Std - 1 2 - - 1 4 Grantham Journal 1 1 - 3 1 - 6 Horncastle News - 4 1 3 4 17 Lincolnshire Echo 6 13 19 10 4 6 58 Louth Leader - 1 3 2 1 - 7 Market Rasen Mail 1 4 2 2 1 3 13 Skegness Std - 2 2 1 1 1 7 Sleaford Standard 1 1 2 - 1 2 7 Spalding Guardian - 3 2 3 - 1 9 TOTAL 11 39 36 29 15 21 151
  20. 20. Other key findings • Total combined word count over 6 month period – Newcastle upon Tyne: 49,454 – Lincolnshire: 52,903 • Total combined word count per individual actors FOR closures – Evening Chronicle: 740 – Lincolnshire Echo: 835 • Total combined word count per individual actor AGAINST closures – Evening Chronicle: 3,617 – Lincolnshire Echo: 2,957
  21. 21. Other key findings (2) • Library campaign activities featured: – Evening Chronicle: 77% of articles – Lincolnshire Echo: 62% of articles • Library advocacy: – Evening Chronicle:73% of articles – Lincolnshire Echo: 69% of articles • Library professional advocacy – Evening Chronicle: 7% of articles – Lincolnshire Echo: 23% of articles
  22. 22. Conclusion • Grassroots campaigns supported by loyal, seasoned and adept library campaigners • Local newspapers overwhelmingly support plight of public libraries and showcase actions of campaign groups • Local authority decision makers equally determined to follow through with closure proposals
  23. 23. References Anstice, A. (2015). Latest: Numbers. (Public Libraries News), Available at: http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/, [Accessed 19th June 2015]. Bergan, D. E. (2009). Does grassroots lobbying work? A field experiment measuring the effects of an e-mail lobbying campaign on legislative behavior. American Politics Research, 37(2), 327-352. Fletcher, K. (2011). What do we stand to lose? Discourses on public library cuts: an analysis of media representations of public library campaigns. MA, University of Sheffield, UK. Jernigan, D. H., & Wright, P. A. (1996). Media advocacy: lessons from community experiences. Journal of Public Health Policy, 306-330. McCombs, M. (2013). Setting the agenda: The mass media and public opinion. John Wiley & Sons. Neumayer, C., & Raffl, C. (2008). Facebook for global protest: The potential and limits of social software for grassroots activism. In Prato CIRN 2008 Community Informatics Conference: ICTs for Social Inclusion: What is the Reality. Scheufele, D. A. (1999). Framing as a theory of media effects. Journal of communication, 49(1), 103-122. Zunes, S. (1999). The role of non-violent action in the downfall of apartheid. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 37(01), 137-169.
  24. 24. Any questions? Blog site: www.johnmowbray.org

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