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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The rural public library as place in North Florida: A case study
by Most, Linda R., Ph.D., The Florida State University, 2009, 317; 3400213
Abstract (Summary)

Research into the library as place investigates the role of public library buildings as destinations, physical places where people go for various reasons ranging from making use of the library’s resources and services or seeking to fulfill an information or reading need to less easily identified reasons that may include using the library’s building as a place to make social or business contacts, to build or reinforce community or political ties, or to create or reinforce a personal identity. This study asks: How are one rural U.S. county’s public library buildings functioning as places? The answer is derived from answers to sub-questions about adult library users, user and staff perceptions of library use, and observed use of library facilities. The findings are contextualized using a framework built of theories from human geography, philosophy, sociology, and information studies.

This case study replicates a mixed-methods case study conducted at the main public libraries in Toronto and Vancouver in the late 1990s and first reproduced in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2006. It tests methods used in large urban settings in a rural, small-town environment. This study also expands on its antecedents by using thematic analysis to determine which conceptualizations of the role of the public library as place are most relevant to understanding this community’s use of its public library buildings as places.

The study relies on quantitative and qualitative data collected via surveys and interviews of adult library users, interviews of library public service staff members, structured observations—seating sweeps—of people using the libraries, and analysis of selected documents. The five sets of data are triangulated to answer the research subquestions. Thematic analysis derived from the conceptual framework finds that public realm theory informs the relationships that develop between library staff members and adult library users over time. The study finds that the libraries serve their communities as informational places and as familiarized locales rather than as third places, and that the libraries support the generation of social capital for their users.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wiegand, Wayne A.
School: The Florida State University
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 71/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Geography, Library science
Keywords: Florida, Gadsden County, Mixed methods, Place, Public library, Rural libraries
Publication Number: 3400213
ISBN: 978-1-109-66135-4
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