Public Libraries are safe (and neutral spaces)…when people aren’t in them!

DERR, Leonee Ariel (2018) Public Libraries are safe (and neutral spaces)…when people aren’t in them!. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2018 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Transform Libraries, Transform Societies in Session 114 - Metropolitan Libraries.

Bookmark or cite this item: http://library.ifla.org/id/eprint/2272
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Language: English (Original)
Available under licence Creative Commons Attribution.

Abstract

Public Libraries are safe (and neutral spaces)…when people aren’t in them!

The libraries “of old” - mostly quiet, staid and occupied by sincere researchers and readers- have transitioned into the public libraries we know today: a seemingly paradoxical experience of quiet reading, study, and shared work adjacent to sound-filled, diverse spaces full of song, activity, and machine play. Ostensibly, everyone is welcome. It is also a space where the full spectrum of antisocial behaviour coexists. To acknowledge the evolution of libraries “of old” to how public libraries look, act, and behave today, is to address the evolution of how people engage in these spaces, with information, each other, and their communities. It is also to recognise and challenge the parochial assumptions aligned with an anachronistic understanding of libraries as “safe” or “neutral” spaces and offer alternatives- such as choosing to integrate language that sets a more accurate definition of contemporary library practice. Responding to the notion of public library as a safe space, this paper will first reflect on the term “safe”, and thus “neutral”, when describing inner-city public libraries and librarianship as well as the risks involved when these words are inaccurately cast in a contemporary context. Within the frame of an alternate language, this paper will demonstrate the notion of the public library as a refuge in inner-city life rather than a sanctuary.

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