Public Libraries in the Digital Economy

Bukit Panjang Public Library, Singapore. Image provided by Dale Leorke, all rights reserved.


Professor Scott McQuire, Dr Dale Leorke, Dr Danielle Wyatt, with Sarah Slade (State Library Victoria)


Far from becoming obsolete with the advent of online archives, the public library has been highly successful in its adaptation to networked digital technologies and an increasingly digital culture. This project is one of the few studies to examine the public library beyond its four walls, and make an account of the expanded role it is playing in cities, communities and in broader governmental policies and agendas. Case studies have been drawn from the Queensland Library Network, from new library developments in Geelong and inner Melbourne, from Singapore, and from the State Library of Victoria as it embarks upon a major redevelopment to transition into the digital era.

Importantly, the research reveals the intersection of public libraries with the economic agendas of cities, as articulated in visions of the smart city, the creative city and the digital economy. How are these visions impacting upon the funding structures, governance models and traditional functions of public libraries? How are resources distributed between metropolitan, rural and regional libraries? And what kinds of tensions exist between the library’s increasingly economic mandate, and its historic role as a foundational institution of the modern public sphere?