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Professions, legitimacy and change : the impact of political and economic forces on a large city library system in Britain

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:41 authored by Antonio. Chiarenza
The aim of this research is to investigate developments in public librarianship in a period of fundamental change which took place in the first half of the nineties. Within the framework of the sociological approach to the study of occupations, an attempt is made to understand how the profession responded to changed circumstances due to external political and economic pressures. The general hypothesis is that the librarian's process of adaptation to new cultural and technological conditions has, in the last decade, undergone rapid acceleration because of political reforms and economic constraints which seemed to have the potential to undermine the distinctive identity of the profession. Financial pressure, government reforms, emphasis on accountability, competition, cost-effectiveness and consumer choice reshaped the internal organisations of library work and questioned the principle governing quality of library service. The conflict between the economic criteria for the established of the aims and objectives of the library service and the statutory duty to provide a "comprehensive and effective" service to the public created a feeling of uncertainty and lack of confidence in those who had to carry out those tasks. The librarians' traditional orientation to service, their qualifications and competence seemed no longer sufficient to ensure either user satisfaction or public benefit. The purpose of this research is to draw a picture, from the testimonies of professional librarians, manager librarians, politicians and administrators, of how public librarianship has changed its internal organisation, its relationship with the public and its professional practice and culture. The focus of analysis can be grouped into the following areas of investigation: the organisational context, the working context and finally the institutional context where the legitimacy of the librarian's status and competence is brought into question.


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Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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