The future of the public library: reimagining the moral economy of the 'people's university'

John Blewitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


New media technologies, the digitisation of information, learning archives and heritage resources are changing the nature of the public library and museums services across the globe, and, in so doing, changing the way present and future users of these services interact with these institutions in real and virtual spaces. New digital technologies are rewriting the nature of participation, learning and engagement with the public library, and fashioning a new paradigm where virtual and physical spaces and educative and temporal environments operate symbiotically. It is with such a creatively disruptive paradigm that the £193 million Library of Birmingham project in the United Kingdom is being developed. New and old media forms and platforms are helping to fashion new public places and spaces that reaffirm the importance of public libraries as conceived in the nineteenth century. As people’s universities, the public library service offers a web of connective learning opportunities and affordances. This article considers the importance of community libraries as sites of intercultural understanding and practical social democracy. Their significance is reaffirmed through the initial findings in the first of a series of community interventions forming part of a long-term project, ‘Connecting Spaces and Places’, funded by the Royal Society of Arts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-116
Number of pages11
JournalPower and Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

JOHN BLEWITT (2012) The Future of the Public Library: reimagining the moral economy of the 'people's university', Power and Education, 4(1), 106-116.


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