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Cultural sustainability: a perspective from independent libraries in the UK and the USA

Rowley, Jennifer and Loach, Kirsten (2020) Cultural sustainability: a perspective from independent libraries in the UK and the USA. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science. ISSN 0961-0006 (In Press)

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Abstract

As organisations that collect and maintain cultural artefacts, independent libraries make important contributions to cultural sustainability. Surfacing and elaborating on these contributions has the potential to establish their value to wider sustainable development agendas. However, sustainability policy and research across the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) sectors tends to focus on environmental, social, and economic concerns. The small number of studies that do consider cultural sustainability tend to focus on the role of GLAMs in heritage preservation, without consideration of their role in sustaining culture through the three other key areas of preserving and promoting cultural identity, cultural diversity, and cultural vitality. In addition, previous studies do not consider the role of culture in enabling sustainability at an organisational level. Complementing previous research on the relationship between museums and cultural sustainability (conducted in Australia, Cyprus, and Romania), this study seeks to expand understanding of the relationship between GLAMs and cultural sustainability in the context of the independent library sectors in the UK and the USA. Semi-structured interviews conducted with professionals from independent libraries in both countries employed a card-based game method to explore the key areas of cultural sustainability in which their organisations can contribute. Interviews also explored the challenges associated with achieving organisational sustainability, together with the organisational values that impact on the sustainability of independent libraries. The research identifies a series of supportive and conflicting relationships between the contributions that independent libraries make to each of the four key areas of cultural sustainability, as well as the organisational values that can inhibit or assist organisational sustainability. Resulting in a framework to assist in the management of internal organisational sustainability and contributions to external cultural sustainability agendas in independent libraries, it provides a new perspective to support understanding of the relationship between GLAMs and cultural sustainability.

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