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Public libraries as reserves of cultural and digital capital: addressing inequality through digitalization

journal contribution
posted on 28.06.2021, 14:52 by Adrian Leguina, Sabina Mihelj, John Downey
Public libraries are among key sites for the acquisition of cultural capital, and possibly one of the most potent means through which the state can address inequality. While digitalization of public libraries already attracted significant scholarly attention, the evidence of its contribution to the acquisition of cultural skills and knowledge and social mobility remains limited, as does the conceptual understanding of links between digitalization, cultural capital, and social stratification. This article draws on two disconnected bodies of research, the sociological analysis of cultural capital and stratification and research on digital divides. To bridge these two bodies of research, the interplay of cultural and digital capital in public libraries was investigated. The extensive dataset from the UK Taking Part Survey (2016-17) was analysed using two-step cluster analysis and multinomial regression models to explore the contrasting profiles of contemporary library users. Results identify four distinct user groups: Traditional, Active, Family, and Tech Access, which possess different degrees of cultural and digital capital, have different demographic profiles, and benefit from digitalized libraries in different ways. If libraries are to fulfil their role in reducing social inequalities, it is important that they tailor their digital services to the specific characteristics of each user group. This approach also provides a useful template for exploring the interplay of digitalization and (in)equality in other cultural institutions.

History

School

  • Social Sciences and Humanities

Department

  • Communication and Media
  • Social and Policy Studies

Published in

Library and Information Science Research

Volume

43

Issue

3

Publisher

Elsevier

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Rights holder

© Elsevier

Publisher statement

This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Library and Information Science Research and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lisr.2021.101103.

Acceptance date

25/06/2021

Publication date

2021-07-05

Copyright date

2021

ISSN

0740-8188

Language

en

Depositor

Dr Adrian Leguina. Deposit date: 25 June 2021

Article number

101103