Sam Dodd deposited Stories Not Statistics: An Autoethnographical & Narrative Exploration of the Value of Public Libraries on Humanities Commons 1 year, 10 months ago
Public libraries in the United Kingdom have faced significant closures since the introduction of austerity in 2010, with this trend predicted to continue. The current tools used to measure the value of UK libraries are crude, insufficient and grounded in competitive market values that focus on numbers. Better methods are needed to capture and express the true social value and potential of public library services.
This research examines what the narratives around libraries reveal about the ways in which they are valued, and explores the use of methods that are still relatively new to the field of LIS. Using thematic content analysis, autoethnography, and narrative inquiry to uncover themes of belonging and loneliness, we find that the physical building matters, that current economic and quantitative ways of measuring performance and allocating funding are inadequate, and that to truly move towards accurate measures of value we require new ways of knowing and appraising the libraries’ contribution to society. An additional emergent theme is uncovered concerning the ‘body’ – where our bodies belong, and how experiences of belonging are connected to experiences of loneliness; interrelated connections to vulnerable and marginalised groups are unearthed; and a new knowledge, one of survival, becomes apparent.
It is also revealed that there is a gap in the current LIS scholarship on work that draws together narratives of belonging, loneliness and the body in relation to the public library with the use of autoethnography and narrative inquiry specifically, and that using narratives to understand and articulate impact should be key to understanding the value of libraries. There is a call for us to use these tools to reach further into new kinds of co-created knowledges, and collective autobiographies and autoethnographies, to highlight the value of the public library and advocate for survival – not just the survival of our libraries, but survival of the individual too.