Key Note Speaker 2 - Thursday 25th of August
Public Libraries & social Justice
John Pateman, author and librarian
Pateman has worked as a librarian for most of his life and have been the head of many libraries in England, but recently left the library profession in order to have time to write books.
He describes how the libraries in England have been actively involved in finding solutions in areas with serious social riots. One example was when a library he worked at played an active mediator role in a conflict among Portuguese immigrant workers and local English workers.
Pateman argues that libraries as institutions should be in the social front line, working for social justice.
The study’s results
Pateman´s study shows that ethnic minorities use the library more frequently than white ethnic English men. He connects the lack of white users strongly with the class division in the English society.
His study shows that only 12.8 % of the English population use the libraries regularly, 26.6% are passive users and as many as 60.6 % are non users. Pateman wants the libraries to have more focus on the 60% of non users, and look into how to activate them. A study showed that one way of doing this is to be more inclusive and reach out to the people instead of waiting for them to come to the library. In order for the library to be more inclusive the staff needs education about how to be more open towards all types of users.
Pateman also promotes partnerships between libraries and relevant local community groups.
Pateman asks the audience to check out the Network: www.seapn.org.uk . The Network supports libraries, museums, archives, galleries and other cultural heritage organizations (as well as individuals) who works towards ending social exclusion.
Pateman underlines that it is important for the libraries to be “holistic and systemic”. This can be done by involving all of the staff, facilitate creative processes and review existing services. He notes that it is very important that the staff have well developed “empathy skills”.
Pateman says that he has worked to change the “culture” amongst the librarians. One way of doing this is by changing the way the librarians work for instance by removing their counter. This creates less distance between employees and library users and makes the employees more service minded as they are forced to interact more with the users.
Other successful initiatives have been to recruit staff from the local community, with another ethnic background as well as by creating networks among libertarians, social workers etc.