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Public Libraries: enacting “public spaces” for community development and lifelong learning

Boadi Agyekum


Public libraries in Hamilton provide countless services to different users, particularly older immigrants. The library system proves to be an inclusive learning space, promoting lifelong learning for all. The paper explores the relationship between public library use, lifelong learning and community development. In addition, it demonstrates the function of the library in the provision of equal and universal access to information and learning. This paper focuses on a qualitative interview materials. In-depth interviews were conducted with 25 participants (13 females and 12 males) in six public libraries in Hamilton, Ontario. In addition, we interviewed six library staff in the six public libraries (three in the lower Hamilton and three in the suburban Mountain) and conducted observations of the day-to-day practices in the six public libraries. Purposive sampling was used to ensure diversity in library use. Using the grounded theory (GT) method, interviews were transcribed, coded, categorised, and analysed using NVivo 10. The interviews explored the viewpoints of participants accessing public libraries in Hamilton. The findings reveal that public libraries are sources of educational, informational, and well-being – providing lifelong learning through library activities and programmes. Specifically, the acquisition of new skills and new friendship through the library space is a vibrant resource for developing the adult learner’s capacity for social development in the community and the world at large. The study would be one of a kind to deploy library users’ narrations for interrogating public library spaces as a tool for understanding spaces of lifelong learning in Ontario, Canada. It highlights the many ways in which social relationships through library use shape perception, attitude and learning.  Different users of public libraries attain a sense of accomplishment for different reasons. This paper, therefore, calls for a policy approach in which the diverse experiences of public libraries are more widely recognized and nurtured.

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ISSN: 21586195

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