To what ends, by what means?: The development of the library faith from moral uplift to makerspace

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Introduction. This paper explores the historical development of the “library faith” as a sociotechnical imaginaire necessary to the development and support of public libraries. It examines a current iteration of this faith, described in library makerspace rhetoric. The study’s purpose is to consider how the faith has changed, and whether the latest incarnation of the faith aligns with foundational library values.
Method. The study looks at instances of the “library faith” to seek the instrumental means-ends chains identified in these texts. It also examines thirty-one texts featuring discussion on public library makerspaces. These texts were published between 2009 and 2014, the period in which pioneering libraries developed makerspace services.
Analysis. Discourse analysis methods examine the library faith and library makerspace literatures, including metaphor analysis.
Results. The library faith has shifted from public aims, such as a strong democracy, to individualistic aims, such as a marketable skill set. Though an individualistic faith was always apparent, it is particularly so in the makerspace rhetoric.
Conclusion. A theoretical shift to include Illich’s concept of “convivial tools” can re-centre the library faith rhetoric in broadly applicable social goals, while retaining utility for grounding makerspace services.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalInformation Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017


  • library faith, makerspaces, public libraries, convivial tools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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