The Democratizing Potential of Library Digitalization : Re-inventing the democratic mission of libraries

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för ABM

Abstract: This thesis examines how the democratic mission of public libraries has been affected by library digitalization by examining discourses on library digitalization in the Swedish national library strategy (2019). The research is based on a methodological framework combining a critical discourse approach with questions from Bacchi’s (2009) What’s the Problem Represented to Be? (WPR) methodology. The empirical analysis revealed a notable discrepancy between the discourse on the problems of digitalization and the proposed strategic reforms. On an implementation level, the apparent aim is to provide an incentive for increased funding of library digitalization projects by demonstrating their value through quantifiable measures. This could potentially explain why increased access would be one of the main priorities of the strategy, even if the outcome could contribute to the problem. The study concludes that the problems of digitalization demand that libraries evolve from passive informers to vigorous advocates for democratic values; reconsidering the idea that equality of access will lead to equity of access. Future strategies for library digitalization should explore how the societal obligations of libraries can be fulfilled in the digital age. This could result in a more proactive approach to digitalization; reaffirming their value as active contributors to political discourse.

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