Libraries of, by, and for the people: Reimagining strategies to enhance democratic culture within lis spaces and programming

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter discusses the unique role that public libraries can play to (re) build our Republic by centering the lived experiences and voices of marginalized communities. As robust sites for out‐of‐school time learning and commu-nity‐based information spaces, public libraries have long played a key role in promoting the health and well‐being of our nation’s democracy. Public librar-ies’ inclusivity efforts, though, have not always been evenly balanced, and these efforts have often been underdeveloped, poorly articulated, and undervalued by other key civic actors. Bringing together a Learning Sciences scholar of youth development and civic engagement, Library and Information Sciences scholar on free speech, and an Assistant Director of a public library in the Southeast, this chapter will offer interdisciplinary research‐practice insights into both the challenges and opportunities that exist for public libraries as they grapple with the serious question of how to serve the public in the complex reality that is this third decade of the twenty‐first century. In particular, this chapter explores questions like: how can public libraries balance the constraints of the status quo to hear, share, and amplify the voices of marginalized communities? And in what ways can library staff encourage opportunities that bridge librarians’ expertise and libraries’ resources with the lived realities and needs of marginalized communities? In this chapter, the authors expand upon these questions and collectively dream about the ways in which public libraries might be reimagined to more authentically and equitably serve the many faces of the contemporary American public.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Librarianship
Number of pages21
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NameAdvances in Librarianship
ISSN (Print)0065-2830

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Capabilities approach
  • Democracy
  • Democratic culture
  • Equity
  • Libraries
  • Social justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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