Facilitating participation: Facilitating participation redefinition of library competence in a networked world

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In an increasingly networked society, citizens expect to participate in open negotiations of what is right and proper whenever civil servants are about to make decisions affecting their specific life conditions. This expectation challenges the self-understanding that has hitherto been a part of contesting a public office. According to Schreiber and Elbeshausen, civil servants can react in different ways whenever their identities are up for discussion: They can struggle to maintain a monopoly of knowledge and practice in an effort to protect the practice field, e.g. against outside theories, methods and knowledge. They can adopt a laissez-faire approach and provide the public with what they want, whereby their relationship is commercialised. They can engage in dialogues with the public to jointly negotiate what functions they are expected to perform. (2005, pp. 15-16) In Scandinavian public libraries, the latter has been the case. During recent decades, citizens have gained more possibilities than ever before to participate in co-creating activities regarding public libraries’ raison d’être. Thereby, they enter realms that were previously reserved for professional practitioners. Library staff, conversely, increasingly become facilitators of the participation of the citizens. This raises the question what competences is required of library staff to meet this role. More specifically, what is required for them, i.e. to both contemplate the needs and wants of a more diverse and participating public and at the same time engage in negotiations about the framework for the fulfilment of these needs and wants. In this chapter, I provide a characterisation of the societal development which caused the shifts in the relationship between the public and library staff, with the aim of discussing the resulting need for a redefinition of library competence.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesigning for Learning in a Networked World
EditorsNina Bonderup Dohn
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication date2018
ISBN (Print)978-0-8153-7843-3
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-351-23235-7
Publication statusPublished - 2018
SeriesRoutledge Research in Education

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