Michael Majewski Widdersheim¹, Masanori Koizumi²
1School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, United States of America; ²Graduate School of Library, Information, and Media Studies, University of Tsukuba, Japan

Monday, November 9, 8:00am

Public library systems intersect with both public and private spheres of social life, but how they do so remains a mystery. Many believe private influences distort the public sphere in public libraries, and if so, then library legitimacy suffers, raising normative and material concerns for library systems. To better understand how libraries negotiate public legitimacy and private influence, we approached the problem using a communications system framework. We used qualitative content analysis to examine data from three US public library systems: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, New York Public Library, and Cary Memorial Library in Lexington, Massachusetts. We recorded the many ways private actors communicate with and through public library systems. Then, we analyzed the signals in terms of their components: transmitter, receiver, medium, and message. We found two dimensions: in the Public Sphere dimension, private actors govern, legitimate, and use the library, and in the Private Sphere dimension, private actors exchange personal services and exert economic power. We describe the communication channels shared by private actors and public library systems, identify signals associated with governance, influence, and legitimacy, and consider how these signals relate. This study explores the signal architectures of social life in public libraries.