Date: March 2012
Creator: Ignatow, Gabe; Webb, Sarah M.; Poulin, Michelle; Parajuli, Ramesh; Fleming, Peter; Batra, Shika et al
Description: This article explores the role of social capital. Investments in public libraries in developing countries have been made based on the idea that libraries contribute to societal democratization. Yet scholarly understanding of the relationships between public libraries and democratization is sharply limited. In this article the authors review historical studies of national public library systems that cast doubt on widely held assumptions that a positive relationship necessarily pertains between the establishment of public libraries and democracy. Based on this historical review and on sociological theories of social capital (e.g. Bourdieu 1986), the authors develop a theoretical framework intended to facilitate systematic investigation of the contributions public libraries may make to democracy. Using comparative historical and ethnographic methods, the authors analyze the relationship between public libraries and democratic systems of government in Namibia, Nepal, and Malawi, and find that in all three cases public libraries were established mainly during democratic regimes. However, they were not necessarily established by democratically elected governments directly, but rather because democratic regimes proved to be relatively open to the influence of diasporas and global civil society. The authors only find evidence of public libraries contributing to societal democratization, as the authors conceptualize the process, in Nepal ...
Contributing Partner: UNT College of Public Affairs and Community Service