“Open to All?” Vol 3 – Working Papers

The 3 volumes of the report, Open to all?, were published in 1999. Vol 1 is published here, and Vol 2 here. Vol 3 includes the 16 Working Papers written by the project team:

Working Paper no.1 – Dave Muddiman. Theories of Social Exclusion and the Public Library
Abstract: “Social exclusion” has increasingly taken over from terms like poverty and deprivation as a term for describing social division. The paper considers social exclusion, and the related term “social inclusion”, and its implications for the public library. It reviews the development of the concept of social exclusion and assesses its strengths and weaknesses as a way of describing social division. Here, it distinguishes between narrower and broader manifestations of the social exclusion idea, with the former suggesting targeted action and the latter a wider social project. The paper then identifies aspects of exclusion in the UK, and links these to the transition from an industrial to a claimed “information” society. The final part of the paper explores implications of the social exclusion debate for the public library, concluding that a wide range of policy initiatives will be needed for libraries to have a significant impact on poverty and inequality (April 1999).

Working Paper no.2 – Dave Muddiman. Public Libraries and Social Exclusion: the Historical Legacy
Abstract: This paper reviews the history of attempts made by public libraries to develop services for the “disadvantaged” and socially excluded. It analyses in particular three models: the Victorian “working class” public library; the “welfare state” public library of the mid twentieth century and the “community” librarianship of the 1970s and 80s. Overall, it argues that the focus of public libraries on social inequality and division has been patchy and ambivalent and that action in this field has been hampered by a legacy of universal but passive service provision which has favoured the middle class. It concludes by noting, however, that the current context of rapid technological and cultural change provides an opportunity to reconfigure the service, and it urges that libraries prioritise the creation of a socially inclusive “information” society. (April 1999).

Working Paper no.3 – John Pateman. Public Libraries and Social Class
Abstract: The paper argues that there is an intrinsic link between social exclusion and social class, that social exclusion is endemic to capitalism, and that the class system pervades every aspect of society, including library usage. After reviewing different models of social stratification, the paper identifies three main classes, the capitalist class, the middle class and the working class. The focus is on the latter groups. It is argued that, because capitalism is the root cause of social exclusion and class, social exclusion policies, such as promoting employment, ignore the causes of poverty and inequalities. This means that ‘solutions’ are short-term and ineffective. It is further argued that libraries themselves are a means of social control and are therefore alien to working class life and rejected by working class people. The paper then examines the literature to support this hypothesis. The paper concludes by identifying various barriers to action being taken, and makes recommendations for plans to overcome these barriers (April, 1999).

Working Paper no.4 – John Vincent. Literacy, Social Exclusion and the Public Library
Abstract: The paper reviews recent research to show the impact of illiteracy on people’s lives and its contribution to social exclusion. It considers the background to low basic skills attainment, referring to factors such as class and race. The relationship between literacy and political power is discussed. The paper then considers the situation in the UK, covering the extent of poor basic skills, and their relationship with social class. It describes Government and other initiatives on basic skills issues, such as the National Literacy Strategy. It is argued that lifelong learning and basic skills initiatives could, and should, have an impact on the role of public libraries. However, changes relating to both staff and stock may affect their ability to carry out this role. Children and young people’s literacy is considered, and public library initiatives are detailed. The literature review carried out suggests that public libraries are paying less attention to adult literacy. IT literacy is discussed. It is concluded that, although progress has been made in some localities, more work needs to be done. Public libraries are urged to form partnerships with organisations involved in basic skills work, and recommendations for further development are made (April 1999).

Working Paper no.5 – John Vincent. Lesbians, Bisexuals, Gay Men and Transgendered People
Abstract: The paper argues that although writings on social exclusion have largely ignored “lesbigays” (lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people), they can be socially excluded. It begins by contrasting the cultural acceptance of lesbigay images with the reality of discrimination and homophobia. It then gives instances of this discrimination, such as criminal attacks, harassment and legal discrimination, including “Clause 28”. The next section of the paper looks at developments in the US and Canada and emphasises progress made within the US library profession. The paper then turns to UK public library services, referring to past research, including the (presently unpublished) Burning Issues Group survey of public library provision in London. It also comments on the general lack of research on lesbigays and public libraries. The effect of “Clause 28” is considered. The paper also suggests that libraries could learn from developments in the field of museums. It is concluded that overall provision for lesbigays is still patchy, with little attention having been paid to the needs of lesbigay communities. Recommendations for action are made (April, 1999).

Working Paper no.6 – Shiraz Durrani. Returning A Stare: People’s Struggles for Political and Social Inclusion (Social Exclusion; An International Perspective, Part 1)
Abstract: This is the first of two linked working papers analysing social exclusion at an international level (the second being by John Pateman). It reviews struggles against exclusion and poverty in different societies, emphasising the role of information, and the potential of role of libraries. Social exclusion is described in the context of global capitalism. The process of exclusion is seen as having intensified with the rise of the ‘information age.’ The paper then looks at resistance to this exclusion. The following examples of the role of information and communications in this resistance are described: film in Chile; video activism; the Alternative Davos; various protest and campaign movements; the Adivasis in Tamil Nadu; political communications in Kenya; the Kurdish people and the Zapatistas in Mexico. Lessons for public libraries are drawn throughout. It is concluded that if libraries are to be relevant to those who are excluded, then information workers need to purposively support people’s struggles against exclusion (April, 1999).

Working Paper no.7 – John Pateman. The State, Communities and Public Libraries: Their Role in Tackling Social Exclusion (Social Exclusion; An International Perspective, Part 2)
Abstract: This is the second of two linked papers reviewing social exclusion at an international level and follows from the critique of globalism in the first paper (written by Shiraz Durrani). The paper applies Miller’s “models of communities” and “roles of the state (exclusive diversity; voluntary inclusion; required inclusion; and inclusive diversity) to economic and political systems in different countries. It then applies different sets of performance indicators to different countries, specifically considering indicators in the areas of literacy, education and libraries. It is argued that social exclusion is best tackled using an approach based on required inclusion or inclusive diversity, rather than on the basis of exclusive diversity or voluntary inclusion. The joint conclusion of both this and the linked paper is that social exclusion cannot be separated from a country’s political system. Social exclusion can therefore only be alleviated, by libraries and other agencies, in emerging economies, capitalist and majority world countries. Recommendations are made (May, 1999).

Working Paper no.8 – John Vincent. Public Libraries, Children and Young People and Social Exclusion
Abstract: The paper begins by considering the dimensions of the social exclusion of children and young people, including poverty and its relationship with exclusion from school. It then reviews central initiatives in the area of children’s literacy. The paper then considers children’s use of public libraries, including access to library services and the effect of local and national initiatives on library provision. Challenges facing library services to children and young people (including school libraries) are considered. Stock selection is specifically discussed as a key means of making an impact on social exclusion. The paper then traces the transition from the outreach approach pioneered in the 1970s to a focus on building based services, followed, in turn, by an increased emphasis on education from the change of Government in 1997. Various initiatives are detailed, but it is questioned whether there is sufficient emphasis on social exclusion. It is concluded that services to children are often marginalised, for reasons such as non-mainstream funding, and that libraries are still institutions serving primarily the privileged. Public libraries therefore need to tackle social exclusion as their main purpose, and recommendations towards this end are made (May 1999).

Working Paper no.9 – Dave Muddiman. Images of Exclusion: User and Community Perceptions of the Public Library
Abstract: The paper examines how disadvantaged groups, communities and individuals use and perceive the public library. It reviews recent research on the use of, and attitudes towards, public libraries by working class and disadvantaged people and on perceptions of the value and impact of the public library in poor and excluded communities. It is argued that there are limits to libraries’ perceived social roles, as these are associated with individual projects, rather than “mainstream” services. The paper considers conflicting claims about the relevance of the public library to excluded groups and classes, referring to evidence of non users’ perceptions of the institutional culture of libraries. Specifically, it makes the case that it is an aspirant minority of working class people who particularly use and value library services. The final section of the paper argues that there is inadequate research evidence about “excluded” non-users’ perceptions of library services and their information and library related needs. Research and communication strategies focusing on disadvantaged communities and client groups are examined. It is concluded that research has an important role in shifting the institutional core of the public library service and innovating newer social roles, particularly as a way of identifying the reading and information needs of disadvantaged people (August, 1999).

Working Paper no.10 – Martin Dutch. Central and Local Government Policies and Social Exclusion
Abstract: This paper gives an overview of the impact of social exclusion on national and local government policies since 1997. First, it analyses how government has viewed poverty issues since 1945, focusing on the post-1979 Conservative administration. Th political consensus of 1945-1979 had limited achievements in terms of equality and in 1979-1997 an intentional strategy of inequality was pursued, driven by a desire to cut state intervention and public spending. The paper then describes local government’s response to national policy in the latter period, notably through anti-poverty work in urban authorities, whilst also referring to the under-use of local services by the poor. The Labour Government elected in 1997 is then discussed, with three policy strands identified: morality; work ethic within post-monetarist neo-liberalism (rather than redistribution) and an emphasis on the multi-dimensional nature of the problem (which requires ‘joined-up solutions’). Overall, a centralised, directional approach is identified, with initiatives in a number of policy areas. Criticisms of new Labour’s agenda are reviewed, such as its espousal of equality of opportunity, rather than equality. Here, the paper concludes with Levitas’s view that the political framework within which social exclusion operates itself precludes a more equal society. Observations for public libraries are made, relating to opportunities for libraries to realign services to local needs and the impact of Government emphasis on partnership and consultation (November, 1999).

Working Paper no.11 – Rebecca Linley. Public Libraries, Disability and Social Exclusion
Abstract: This paper considers ways in which disabled people are excluded in society and then reviews public library provision. The concepts of disability and impairment are discussed, with the case being made for a social model of disability, as used by many within the UK disability movement. The paper then describes some of the barriers, including prejudice and discrimination, that exclude disabled people. Current legislation and Government policy are then considered, including the impact of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Public library policy and provision are then reviewed, through a consideration of broad themes relating to access and independence; information provision; specialism and integration; tackling discrimination; and local and national partnerships. Good practice is identified throughout the paper, but it is concluded that the main emphasis has been on providing access for disabled people, rather than the actual use they make of public libraries. A policy approach recognising the civil rights of disabled people is recommended (May 2000).

Working Paper no.12 – John Vincent and Rebecca Linley. Women, Social Exclusion and the Public Library
Abstract: This paper gives a gender perspective on social exclusion and public libraries. It begins by giving examples of discrimination against women. Recent debates around feminism and post-feminism are discussed. The paper then reviews evidence of women’s use and non-use of public libraries, and refers to the distinct nature of their information needs, with examples of currently unmet needs being given. The experience of women as public library workers is then discussed, in terms of both their contribution to librarianship, including the idea of the library as a feminised space, and evidence of the under-representation of women at senior levels. Finally, recent work on women and ICTs is discussed and it is suggested that more use could be made of public libraries as a ‘safe space,’ addressing current concerns about women’s access to ICTs. Overall, it is concluded that gender (and other) injustices should be related to wider global issues. A number of recommendations are made (May 2000).

Working Paper no.13 – Shiraz Durrani. Struggle against racial exclusion in public libraries; a fight for the rights of the people
Abstract: This paper discusses racism in the UK, relating it to both social and economic exclusion, and to social class. Institutional racism is discussed, as is racism’s relation to wider global factors. The history of race relations in the UK and US, including the experience of US public libraries, is discussed. Manifestations of racism in the UK are described in relation to various institutions and legal provisions. The next section of the paper considers the employment of Black workers, both nationally and in the public libraries sector, with a need for cultural change being identified. This is followed by consideration of the Black community perspective, with reference to national issues and recent public libraries research. Various proposed solutions to tackle racism are discussed. It is concluded that whilst it is only Black communities and library workers that can eliminate racism, everyone, at all levels within public library authorities, has a responsibility to tackle racism (July, 2000).

Working Paper no.14 – John Vincent. Political correctness
Abstract: This paper begins by discussing the history of debates around “political correctness” in public libraries, notably in relation to the social relevance of children’s stock in the 1960s and 1970s. Developments up to the 1980s are described, followed by a discussion of the reaction to these, which was often negative. The current decline in concern with matters such as racism and sexism, in relation to library stock, is then discussed. It is concluded that stock selection principles should be restated in the context of accountability to the local community, and further recommendations are made (May 2000).

Working Paper no. 15 – Martin Dutch and Dave Muddiman. Information and Communication Technologies, the Public Library and Social Exclusion
Abstract: This paper seeks to locate public library efforts to address social exclusion within the wider debate about the transition to an “information” society and UK public policy responses to this. It notes, first of all, that utopian perspectives on information societies have little basis in reality and serve only to obscure a widening “digital divide”. It is suggested that UK government policy, whilst to some degree recognising this problem, has focussed on labour market led responses to it, based on training for IT skills and literacy. This, it is argued, neglects the need to create access to and control of infrastructure and resources by excluded people themselves. The public library clearly represents one possible mechanism through which such “informational” inclusion might be achieved, but we argue that thus far public libraries, in comparison with initiatives such as community networks, have not been particularly successful in linking ICT developments to a focus on exclusion. In the end, therefore, we suggest that public Library ICT policy will need to shift from a focus on the creation of a universal “people’s network” to a prioritisation of access to ICT by excluded people and communities. Libraries will thus need to develop proactive ways of encouraging excluded communities and groups to utilise ICT, and working in partnership with agencies with similar aims, and with local people themselves, will be an especially important part of this process (September 2000).

Working Paper no.16 – Rebecca Linley. Public libraries, Older People and Social Exclusion
Abstract: This paper considers ways in which older people can be excluded in UK society and then reviews public library provision. It begins by considering the position of older people in the light of current social and economic policy, and also individuals’ experience, and others’ perceptions, of ageing. It then briefly reviews studies of the information needs of older people. UK public library policy and provision are then considered. Drawing on research on the social impact of public libraries, it is argued that public libraries represent a broadly positive, and valued, resource for older people. At the same time, the diversity of individuals grouped together as ‘older people’ is emphasised and it is suggested that this needs to be reflected in the delivery of library services. Much existing good practice is identified as being based on local partnerships and consultation, and the paper argues for the increased usage of these (September 2000).


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