Libraries, Archives and Museums as Democratic Spaces in a Digital Age
Current Topics in Library
and Information Practice
Libraries, Archives
and Museums
as Democratic Spaces
in a Digital Age
Edited by
Ragnar Audunson, Herbjørn Andresen, Cicilie Fagerlid,
Erik Henningsen, Hans-Christoph Hobohm,
Henrik Jochumsen, Håkon Larsen, and Tonje Vold
ISBN 978-3-11-062954-5
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© 2020 Ragnar Audunson, Herbjørn Andresen, Cicilie Fagerlid, Erik Henningsen,
Hans-Christoph Hobohm, Henrik Jochumsen, Håkon Larsen, Tonje Vold,
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The research on which the contributionsin this anthology is based would not have
been possible to undertake without the generous research grant our project re-
ceived from the KULMEDIA program of The Research Council of Norway. We take
this opportunity to express our gratitude to the council for their support.
We would also like to express our gratitude to colleagues from the interna-
tional LIS community who volunteered to peer review the chapters in this volume,
thereby contributing in important ways to the quality of the papers presented in
this book.
Our gratitude also goes to the respondents who took the time to fill in ques-
tionnaires and take part in qualitative interviews, all the LAM-organizations who
opened their doors to us and the users who accepted our presence when doing
our observations.
November 20, 2019
The ALMPUB research team
Open Access. © 2020Ragnar Audunson et al. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-No-Derivatives 4.0 License.
Acknowledgments V
Ragnar Audunson, Herbjørn Andresen, Cicilie Fagerlid, Erik Henningsen,
Hans-Christoph Hobohm, Henrik Jochumsen, and Håkon Larsen
Introduction Physical Places and Virtual Spaces:
Libraries, Archives and Museums in a Digital Age
Part I: Policies
Kerstin Rydbeck and Jamie Johnston
LAM institutions: a Cross-country Comparison of Legislation
and Statistics on Services and Use
Erik Henningsen and Håkon Larsen
The Digitalization Imperative: Sacralization of Technology
in LAM Policies
Roger Blomgren
The Institutions Go Digital
Sigrid Stokstad
Norwegian National Policies for Digitalization in the LAM Sector
Imperative and Implementation
Máté Tóth
Organization and Funding of Digitization
in the Visegrád Countries
Andreas Vårheim, Roswitha Skare, and Sigrid Stokstad
Institutional Convergence and Divergence in Norwegian Cultural Policy:
Central Government LAM Organization 1999–2019
Part II: Professions
Ragnar Audunson, Hans-Christoph Hobohm, and Máté Tóth
LAM Professionals and the Public Sphere
VIII Contents
Herbjørn Andresen, Isto Huvila, and Sigrid Stokstad
Perceptions and Implications of User Participation and Engagement
in Libraries, Archives and Museums
Roswitha Skare
 Like, Share and Comment! The Use of Facebook by Public Libraries
and Museums: A Case Study from Tromsø, Norway
Kjell Ivar Skjerdingstad
 Reading Between the Shelves the Library as Perspective in Life
and Profession
Part III: Users
Andreas Vårheim, Henrik Jochumsen, Casper Hvenegaard Rasmussen,
and Kerstin Rydbeck
 The Use of LAM Institutions in the Digital Age
Hans-Christoph Hobohm
 Libraries and Democracy in Germany.
As Perceived by the Public in Contrast to the Professionals
Cicilie Fagerlid
 Democratic Coexistence, Tiny Publics and Participatory Emancipation
at the Public Library
Tonje Vold and Sunniva Evjen
 Being, Learning, Doing: A Palace for the Children?
Geir Grenersen
 Libraries and the Sámi population in Norway Assimilation
and Resistance
Erik Henningsen and Håkon Larsen
 The Joys of Wiki Work: Craftsmanship, Flow and Self-externalization
in a Digital Environment
The Authors
Ragnar Audunson, Herbjørn Andresen, Cicilie Fagerlid,
Erik Henningsen, Hans-Christoph Hobohm, Henrik Jochumsen,
and Håkon Larsen
1 Introduction Physical Places and Virtual
Spaces: Libraries, Archives and Museums
in a Digital Age
The research that will be presented in this book documents a seeming paradox: in spite of
massive digitalization of our everyday lives, libraries, archives, and museums are heavily
used as physical spaces and meeting places. The role of LAM-institutions as physical spa-
ces seems to be increasing. Does the massive digitalization we are experiencing lead to a
growing need for and appreciation of physical spaces and meeting places?
In what direction is our digitalized society steering? Are we heading towards more
democracy and more community, due to the forms of crowdsourcing new tech-
nologies open up for (Landemore 2013)? Will digitalization lead to increased par-
ticipation, collaboration, transparency, and thus a deepening and widening of
democracy and community, or will it rather result in technologically advanced
ways of “talking to ourselves” in increasingly closed circuits of communication
or echo chambers” (Sunstein 2001), i.e. in isolation instead of more community?
Will digitalization create new platforms for public discourse and communication
between citizens and between citizens and government, or will it result in degra-
dation of public discourse, with mockery and harassment taking the place of ra-
tional and respectful arguments? Will it empower citizens or facilitate increased
surveillance and a transfer of power from citizens to the state and giant corpora-
tions like Google, Facebook and Amazon (Braman 2007)?
From these remarks it might appear that we are standing at a crossroad and
that our digitalized society is heading towards the realization of either a dark or a
bright vision of the future. However, the contradictory tendencies we have high-
lighted should not necessarily be treated as dichotomies or mutually excluding
scenarios. The development of our digitalized society can be seen rather as multi-
directional. It might, for example, simultaneously lead to increased state and cor-
porate surveillance power and increased empowerment of citizens. Developments
in the digitalized society might also follow dierent paths related to the dilemmas
and challenges described above. This underscores the scope of opportunities that
exists at this juncture for various kinds of actors to influence the direction of de-
velopment of the digitalized society. To create knowledge and understanding that
can help us realize the positive potentials of digitalization and avoid the threats
is therefore of fundamental importance.
Open Access. © 2020Ragnar Audunson et al. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-No-Derivatives 4.0 License.
2 Ragnar Audunson et al.
In order to shed light on the possible contributions of LAM institutions to the
solving of these challenges, this book will address the following questions:
How is the balance between the digital and analogue roles of LAM institu-
tions, as meeting places and providers of knowledge and information? Is it
useful, or even possible, to distinguish between the digital and the analogue,
or do they constitute one socio-material reality?
To what extent do LAM institutions in their policies and practices open for
forms of digital user participation?
What political visions of LAM-institutions as democratic public spaces are
currently articulated by European governments and how does digitalization
feature in these visions?
How do professionals in the LAM fields perceive their institutions’ roles as
democratic public spaces in a digital age?
What characterizes the public’s uses of libraries, archives, and museums
in the digital age? What roles do these institutions play in the dierent life
spheres of their users? How do modes of usage shape and form for example
libraries and how do new trends in design of libraries change, shape, and
form use?
Our Point of Departure
Libraries, archives and museums have traditionally been institutions empower-
ing their users by providing equal access to knowledge, culture, and information
of vital importance.¹ This holds true even in the present situation, characterized
by the ubiquity of the digital. Today, large sections of the population in European
countries relate to digital platforms and digital communication in their profes-
sional lives, at home, in their social life, and leisure time activities etc. Whereas
other institutions of the public sphere, such as printed newspapers, have expe-
rienced a dramatic decline in use in recent years, this has not been the case for
LAM-institutions. Today, in many European countries, libraries and museums are
still used by approximately 50 percent of the population. Our overriding question,
then, is: how do these institutions function as public spaces in the digitalized so-
ciety? Can these institutions be instrumental in realizing what we in another con-
text called “a civilized information society” (Audunson 2001) and what roles do
they play in ongoing transformations of the public sphere described above? Such
questions are at the base of the studies that are presented in this book.
1 All libraries have traditionally had this role. In this project, however, we will focus upon public
1 Introduction Physical Places and Virtual Spaces 3
As participants of the research project The ALM-Field, Digitalization and the
Public Sphere” (ALMPUB),² the contributors to the book have carried out a broad
range of studies of libraries, archives, and museums, in various European coun-
tries. The ALMPUB-project comprises research from the Nordic countries as well
as from Germany, Hungary, and Switzerland.³Acommonthreadtothestudiesthat
have been carried out as a part of the project is a probing of the changing roles
of LAM-institutions as public spaces. The book will approach this subject matter
from three principal angles: through inquiries into national policies pertaining
to LAM-institutions, through inquiries into the professions that belong to these
institutions, and through inquiries into the public or users of the institutions.
When engaging with these questions, the contributors to the book depart with
an understanding of LAM-institutions as complex public spaces. On the one hand,
these are governmental institutions and managed in accordance with the admin-
istrative procedures of public bodies. As such, they are instruments for the imple-
mentation of central and local governments’cultural and educationalpolicies. On
the other hand, libraries, archives, and museums are institutions whose roles and
operations to varying degrees are shaped by the interests and needs of their users,
or by “the people”. Put dierently, LAM-institutions are meeting places for the
public where the public have played a vital role in setting the agenda and defining
their purposes as meeting places. One of the major conclusions from our ethno-
graphic studies of public libraries is that these are multifunctional spaces. In li-
braries visitors move smoothly and without friction between dierent roles and
life spheres. During one and the same visit they can act in the roles of students, cit-
izens, friends, next of kin etc. (Aabø and Audunson 2012). Fagerlid’s ethnographic
studies from several local branches of the Oslo public libraries presented in this
book dig deeper into the findings of Aabø and Audunson from 2012.
2 In the project we used the acronym ALM, as this is common in Norway. In this book we will,
however, use the acronym LAM when referring to the three institutions, as this is common in the
international scholarly literature.
3 The selected countries are all undergoing similar processes related to digitalization and glob-
alization but represent dierent contexts which might be fruitful when studying LAM institutions
in relation to the public sphere. Internationally, the Scandinavian countries are regarded to rep-
resent a Nordic model and have taken up the responsibility of laying the infrastructural founda-
tions for the public sphere (See Engelstad, Larsen and Rogstad 2017; Larsen 2018). Hungary has,
in spite of its socialist past, since the 1970s-1980s developed its public library system according
to Scandinavian and Anglo–Saxon ideals (See Audunson 1996; Audunson 1999). Now, Hungar-
ian politics have embarked upon a nationalistic course, which might be relevant for our research
questions. In Germany, running costs per capita for public libraries are much lower than in the
Scandinavian countries; for example only one fifth in Denmark. Switzerland has its particular
public sphere-traditions with frequent referendums.
4 Ragnar Audunson et al.
Another point of departure for the contributors to the book is an under-
standing of LAM-institutions as democratic public spaces. This should hardly
come as a surprise to readers familiar with academic or political debates on
LAM-institutions. Over the last years, the notion that libraries, archives, and mu-
seums contributes to democracy in important ways has been foregrounded in
cultural policy debates and, increasingly, LAM-institutions have come to profile
themselves in this capacity. In the Nordic countries, where many of the studies
featured in this book have been carried out, this line of thinking has been elevated
into an important if not the most important political legitimation for public
finance of institutions of the cultural sector. As far as libraries are concerned,
this is reflected in recent changes in library legislation in Norway, Sweden, and
Finland, focusing upon the libraries’ role as meeting place and arenas for debate
(Norway), institutions promoting the free formation of opinion (Sweden), and
active citizenship and democracy (Finland). We find similar trends within the
museum field and the archives field. The topic of the Norwegian national meet-
ing for museums in 2019 was Democracy, Digitalization and Bildung. But is this
focus on the LAM institutions’ democratic role first and foremost a Nordic phe-
nomenon? In one of the chapters, based on a survey with representative samples
of the adult population in all our countries, Hobohm compares German versus
Scandinavian attitudes to libraries as institutions promoting democracy.
Our aim in the chapters that follow is to develop analytical accounts of LAM-
institutions’ roles as democratic public spaces that go beyond the idealised dis-
courses that are currently in circulation. In doing so, we take as our starting point
the fundamental criticism voiced by Paul Jaeger et al. (2013); namely that dis-
cussions on the relationship between libraries and democracy lack empirical evi-
dence. According to Jaeger, these discourses tend to proclaimthe institutions’ role
as democratic public spaces more than documenting it. More specifically, the con-
tributors will attend to this task through empirical and theoretical specification
of the entailments of LAM-institutions roles as democratic public spaces. Rather
than simply arming that LAM-institutions fulfil important democratic roles, we
seek to explicate whether and in what ways they come to fulfil these roles. As a
part of this endeavor, we seek also to specify ongoing changes to these roles that
are brought on by digitalization, from dierent empirical and theoretical perspec-
Libraries, Archives and Museums as Institutions a Historical Perspective
Libraries, archives, and museums are organizations and they belong to insti-
tutionalized fields. Our study object is the institutions of library, archives, and
museum. We are studying changes within these individual institutions (in the
1 Introduction Physical Places and Virtual Spaces 5
singular), as well as the institutions seen as a cluster (LAM). Our actual empiri-
cal studies are of actors operating within or at the border of the institutions. We
study professionals employed within concrete archives, libraries, and museums
(organizations), we study individual users of the oering of such organizations,
and we study the cultural policies related to libraries, archives, and museums. In
the policy studies, the authors have analyzed concrete policies related to both the
institutions in the abstract, and to concrete organizations, such as the national
library or the national archive. When wielded together, the individual studies
provide an understanding of ongoing changes within the institutions of library,
archives, and museum.⁴
Libraries, archives and museums have developed historically as institutions
from common roots (Given and McTavish 2010). They are all closely linked to the
nation building project of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which needed
museums and libraries to document the national culture and archives to establish
ecient administrative and governmental procedures; they are linked to the age
of enlightenment which needed institutions to spread knowledge also to lay peo-
ple; they are linked to the growth of the bourgeois public sphere, also in the late
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and they are linked to the development
of modern universities according to the norms of Humboldt. Modern science and
the search for knowledge presupposed institutions where academics could have
access to the works of other academics, thus contributing to establishing a system
of scholarly communication. In some instances, they made up one integrated or-
ganization. The British Museum was the library where Karl Marx in the middle of
the nineteenth century was sitting when writing Capital. The British Library was
singled out as an independent institution as late as 1973.
Libraries, archives, and museums have in common that they have been im-
portant institutions of the public sphere of modern societies. More specifically,
libraries, archives, and museums are similar in that they take on four important
roles: they are memory institutions guarding our collective and public memory,
our cultural heritage. As memory institutions, they provide knowledge and cul-
4 According to American sociologist W. Richard Scott, “Institutions comprise regulative, norma-
tive, and cultural-cognitive elements that, together with associated activities and resources, pro-
vide stability and meaning to social life” (Scott 2014, 56). This definition can be directly applied
to the institutions under analysis in our book: most people know what a library, an archive, or a
museum is and what one usuallydoes when present at one, simply by hearing the word spoken in
a sentence (cultural-cognitive). Most of us think that these institutions should be public and ac-
cessible, as part of our democracy (normative). These institutions are regulated in certain ways
by public bodies though cultural polices (regulative). Due to the cultural-cognitive, normative,
and regulative aspects of our institutions, they tend to be similar across national borders.
6 Ragnar Audunson et al.
tural expressions to large sections of the population. Libraries, archives, and mu-
seums have exerted and continue to exert as agents of popular enlightenment,
and they have a role as local meeting places and arenas of participation in public
Even though there are important commonalities between libraries, archives,
and museums and in spite of them frequently being subsumed under the joint cat-
egory of memory institutions, they are simultaneously constituted as separate in-
stitutional fields via for example institution specific educational programs, insti-
tution specific professional organizations, conferences, journals, institution spe-
cific legislation etc. This institutionalization of a library, and an archival and a
museum field might demarcate the LAM-institutions from each other. Vårheim,
Skare and Stokstad’s analysis of the rise and fall of the Norwegian LAM authority
in this volume illustrates this.
Realizing the public potential in artefacts carrying knowledge and cultural
contentotherwise locked in privatecollections and securing public access tothese
collections is in many ways the basic idea and raison d’être of libraries, archives,
and museums. They have actively strived to reach all segments in society and me-
diate the content of their collections to all social strata. Taking libraries as an
example, the American library historian Wayne Wiegand documents how pub-
lic libraries from the very start served as arenas integrating also groups who did
not have access to other public sphere arenas, e.g. workers, women and teens.⁵
As a corollary of this, libraries, archives, and museums have been public meet-
ing places open to wide sections of the populace. A wide range of meetings and
debates open for all took place in libraries already in the first decades of the twen-
tieth century and Wiegand documents how the public from early on had an influ-
ence over the agenda of their local library. The role of libraries in their communi-
ties, e.g. the balance between popular fiction on one hand and high-quality fiction
and non-fiction on the other, were always a negotiated compromise between the
librarians and the citizens of the community the library in question served (Wie-
gand 2015).
When the modern idea of public librarianship was implemented in European
countries, it was naturally moulded and adapted to dierent national contexts, for
example the impact of the popular movements in Sweden, the broad movement of
popular colleges in Denmark, the struggle for independence from Sweden in Nor-
way, and, in all the Nordic countries, the dominating position of the social demo-
cratic welfare state from 1945 and onwards. In Germany, Hungary, and Switzer-
land, other national trends and traditions had impact on the implementation of
5 The integration of colored people is more doubtful. In the southern states of the US, public
libraries were also segregated.
1 Introduction Physical Places and Virtual Spaces 7
the public library model in particular and the development of LAM institutions in
general. For example, in Germany the dominating party in establishing the Ger-
man welfare state in the first decades after WW2 was CDU, a relatively conserva-
tive Christian–Democratic Party (van Kersberger 1995), as opposed to the social
democratic parties of the Scandinavian countries, which kept socialism as a pro-
grammatic vision well into the latter half of the 1970s.⁶
The modern concept of a public library was in Norway implemented by
Haakon Nyhuus, library director in Oslo from 1898 onwards. In the years imme-
diately preceding the appointment of Nyhuus, annual circulation in Oslo’s public
library varied between 20,000 and 30,000 per year, i.e. from 0.09 to 0.13 volumes
per inhabitant. In 1900, when Nyhuus had been in oce for two years, that figure
had exploded into 310,000, i.e. 1.2 volumes per inhabitant. In 1915 that figure
had more than doubled to 660,000 volumes, i.e. 2 volumes per inhabitant yearly.
These figures illustrate the crucial role of the library in integrating ordinary peo-
ple women as well as men, workers as well as middle class, youngsters as well
as adults in the public and that libraries have been important in establishing a
literary public sphere.
Museums were vital in creating one basis for a unified national discourse
a national and cultural identity by giving citizens access to the national cultural
heritage. Early museum collections were first established for facilitating scientific
enquiry, and not primarily for public access. In the nineteenth century, museums
were also used as instruments for creating one basis for a unified national dis-
course, a national and cultural identity. To this end, museums of cultural heritage
and history of industries and the like have developed collections in order to pre-
serve buildings and other cultural heritage objects which were about to disappear
from the rural scene and modern way of life. Exhibitions open to the public had
partly other origins than the endeavors of creating museum collections, such as
oddities, entertainment events, or the world exhibitions from the mid-nineteenth
century onwards. Museums as places for exhibitions and dissemination of knowl-
edge to the public followed suit. The Norwegian Folk Museum was established in
1894, and Bergen Museum established the first permanent building for exhibi-
tions in Norway in 1897. In modern society, most museums combine a scientific
approach with preservation of heritage and outreach activities. Their mission as
institutions for the public can be taken for granted.
6 In spite of these dierences, there were fundamental similarities. Haakon Nyhuus, the Nor-
wegian public library pioneer, and Szabo Ervin, who implemented the modern public library
concept in Hungary early in the twentieth century, never communicated as far as we know. Nev-
ertheless, they had the same reform ideas and implemented the public library ideas stemming
from the United States at approximately the same time (Audunson 1996).
8 Ragnar Audunson et al.
Archives and the archivist profession deal with what is sometimes called the
secondary value of archival materials. The primary value is to evidence actions
and events. The secondary value is as information and heritage and is often able
to shed light on aspects of past events beyond the intended purpose of the records.
The archivist profession has traditionally been regarded as an auxiliary profes-
sion to the historians. Early dissemination activities have been directed towards
the professional community, such as printededitions of transcribed ancient diplo-
mas. Since the early twentieth century, there has been a modest expansion of the
user communities to include amateur historians and genealogists. However, the
threshold for finding and interpreting old handwritten materials remained too
high for the larger public. Reaching out to the general public is therefore, gen-
erally speaking, a more recent aspiration for archives than for libraries and muse-
ums. Access to archival materials, and outreach as part of the archivists’ profes-
sional repertoire, has predominantly expanded to the general public and gained
momentum through digitalization of much sought sources. Outreach programs
and physical events prepared by archival institutions may not necessarily be a di-
rect result from digitalization as such, but their recent growth have likely been
stimulated by the increased demand and visibility instigated by the archives’ dig-
ital presence.
The development of libraries, archives, and museums has not been a unilat-
eral top-down process structured by governmental and professional authorities.
Popular movements have also been active in establishing and running libraries,
archives, and museums. In the Nordic countries, public libraries in their formative
years were closely associated with democratic popular mass movements such as
the trade union movement, the temperance movement the folk high school move-
ment, and countercultural movements representing the linguistic, cultural, and
religious periphery against the elites of the centre. Voluntary work and the eort
of local enthusiasts have often been important in creating and running local mu-
seums. Although archives at a national level are relatively strictly regulated and
governed via law and governmental authorities, local enthusiasts and local as-
sociations such as local history associations have often been instrumental in es-
tablishing local history archives, as have popular mass movements such as the
labour movement and the temperance movement.
Focusing upon libraries, Söderholm and Nolin identify three historical waves
of community engagement. In the early twentieth century, during the first wave,
the focus was upon literacy and public education, the second wave in the late
1960s and 1970s focused upon “radical” grassroots work for targeted social in-
clusion, while the third wave which took o around 2000, and still lasts, focuses
upon community hubs, open social space, and diversity (Söderholm and Nolin
2015, 253). In an adapted form, these three waves are probably also valid for mu-