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Speaking of users: on user discourses in the field of public libraries

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Author(s): Ase Hedemark | Jenny Hedman | Olof Sundin

Journal: Information Research: an international electronic journal
ISSN 1368-1613

Volume: 10;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 218;
Date: 2005;
Original page

Keywords: Discourse analysis of public library conceptions of users

ABSTRACT
Introduction. The aim of the study reported is to examine user discourses identified in the Swedish public library field. The following questions are posed: What user discourses can be found and what characterises them? How are users categorised and what does this categorisation imply? The departure point in this paper is that the ways users are categorised influence their information behaviour. Plausible consequences for the relation between the interest of the public library and the users are discussed. Method. The empirical focus of the paper is a discourse analysis with a starting-point in Ernesto Laclaus and Chantal Mouffes discourse theory. Analysis. Sixty-two articles from three established Swedish library journals are analysed through a model in four phases. These phases include designations of users, user categories, themes within which users are described and user discourses. Results. Four user discourses are revealed: a general education discourse, a pedagogical discourse, an information technology discourse and an information management discourse. Conclusion. The discourses hold both levels of idealizing and experience related rhetoric. The dominant general education discourse is based on a tradition of fostering and refining as well as educating the general public and thereby reproduces inequality between the user and the library.
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