Infrastructuring the Social: Public Libraries and their Transformative Capacity in Austerity Urbanism (ILIT)
Public libraries are long-acknowledged places for information provision and knowledge transmission. In recent years, another role has come to prominence: Libraries act as socio-cultural infrastructures which contribute to the everyday life in cities. However, austerity pressures heavily threaten libraries’ function as places of knowledge and encounter.
The ILIT research project examines how public libraries in Rotterdam, Malmö and Vienna address systemic challenges in rapidly transforming societies. It unpacks libraries’ transformative capacities through the lens of ‘infrastructuring’ and ‘librarising’, with a keen eye on ways to address conflict between different views and positions productively. Focussing on everyday library practices, the ILIT team is set to contribute to and develop comparative knowledge about the capacities of libraries. We look for community-oriented practices exchange which are enhancing libraries’ resilience in austerity urbanism.
The research is organized in three themes:
- Politics of the library aims to enhance libraries' institutional support
- Local involvement aims to learn from and strengthen libraries' capacities as local places of community and care
- Community librarianship aims to amplify community librarianship as a creative driver for care toward community-based developments
The interdisciplinary ILIT team uses a mix of approaches: Besides stakeholder and critical policy analysis,we draw on ethnographic methodology by conducting interviews and engage in participant observation, including informal conversations and shadowing.
Especially, ILIT develops co-productive zine-making as a creative participatory method. We invite library staff and users, management, decision-makers and other stakeholders to simultaneously study and cultivate a sense of community and practices of social infrastructuring as performed in and through public libraries.