Public libraries, citizens and the post democracy

John Blewitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay explores the relationship between the development of public libraries in the context of an increasingly market-dominated economy and marketised society. It argues that although neo-liberalism as a policy goal and practice has taken different forms over time, there are common themes in terms of its emphasis on market values, privatisation, and the support of measures that reduce the role of public funding and the state in the provision of public services. This has led some commentators to express concerns that the meaning and practice of citizenship and democracy is being transformed, managed or otherwise diminished. These concerns are compounded by changes effected by new digital technology. Imbricated with this issue are debates surrounding the future of the public
library, and attempts by librarians and others to reinvent and reimagine its purpose. With reference to some innovative initiatives in the USA and Scandinavia, it is suggested that public libraries, through their service and spatial rearticulation, can conceivably help strengthen and revitalise public democracy and the public sphere.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-98
Number of pages15
JournalPower and Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2014


  • library
  • public
  • city
  • Neoliberalism
  • democracy


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