Centre for the Public Library and Information in Society

Our mission is to make a valuable and lasting contribution to the field of public library and information research and to encourage interaction between academics, professionals and policy makers, seeking to develop an underlying philosophy of the public provision of information services.



The Information School at the University of Sheffield is one of the most outstanding research departments in the field. It has a high international reputation and has consistently achieved a high rating grade in all UK research evaluations. Established in 1996 by Professor Bob Usherwood, The Centre for the Public Library and Information in Society provides a focus for its work in the public library sector.

Currently led by Dr. Briony Birdi, previous members of the team include Jared Bryson, Rebecca Linley, Richard Proctor, Rachel Riley, Dr. Barbara Sen, Sylvia Simmons, Jackie Toyne and Kerry Wilson. Current and recently completed iSchool doctoral students make a valuable contribution to the field of public librarianship (and related) research include Melanie Benson, Dr. Liz Brewster, Dr. Liz Chapman, Dan Grace, Dr. Kaori Richards (née Ishida), Martin Simmons, Dr. Mostafa Syed, and Jon Webster.

Our mission is to make a valuable and lasting contribution to the field of public library and information research and to encourage interaction between academics, professionals and policy makers, seeking to develop an underlying philosophy of the public provision of information services.

Funding bodies and partners

Our research within this field is reflected in a significant number of funded research projects and associated publications, a wide range of doctoral studies (completed and ongoing), and in numerous dissertations carried out for Taught Masters Programmes. The CPLIS team has worked on a number of high profile studies, funded by organisations such as the AHRC, Arts Council England, British Council, British Library, Department of National Heritage, DCMS Wolfson, Learning and Skills Council, Library and Information Commission, and MLA. We have also worked with local, regional and national partners such as Derbyshire County Council, Essex Libraries, Opening the Book Ltd., and The Combined Regions.

In our capacity as researchers we act as regular consultants to government and professional bodies in the UK and overseas, conducting research and consultancy for public library services, and for other information and advice agencies in the public and voluntary sectors.

Our research is wide-ranging within the field of public libraries and information in society, but it can be grouped into four main areas:

  1. General public librarianship
  2. Reading, materials, education
  3. Social justice
  4. Young people

The first of these reflects our general and broad interest in the field of public librarianship, and the second, third and fourth point to a specific focus of our work. For each one we have selected examples of our funded research and publications, and of the work of both our doctoral and Masters students, who build on and go beyond our funded research, making an invaluable contribution to public librarianship (and related) research, and to the work of the Information School as a whole.

Current research

Doctoral students in the Information School conduct research in a number of areas related to public libraries and information. Ongoing and recent examples include the following: the information behaviour of migrational women (Melanie Benson), the provision of LGBT fiction to children and young people (Liz Chapman, completed 2015), public libraries and community resilience (Dan Grace), exploring views on the value of culture (Martin Simmons), diversity training in public libraries (Mostafa Syed, completed 2014), the history, development and cultural impact of libraries (Jon Webster).

Current funded research related to public librarianship include the following:

Investigating interlending

A scoping study of resource discovery, sharing and cooperation. Dr. Briony Birdi (PI), Professor Stephen Pinfield (Co-I), Sophie Rutter and Dr. Simon Wakeling (Research Associates), working with and funded by The Combined Regions Management Board (2015). Download final project report (including executive summary), and executive summary.

Library stories

Library Stories aims to explore the origins of the free library network in Sheffield and to consider the use and value of these public spaces both at their inception and today. Dr. Anna Barton (PI, School of English), Dr. Briony Birdi (Co-I), working with Our Favourite Places and Sheffield Libraries and Archives (Faculty of Arts & Humanities Arts Enterprise Funding, 2014-15).

Supporting isolated adults via the Six Book Challenge in Sheffield

This project gives Information School students on the MA Librarianship and MSc Digital Library Management programmes the opportunity to work as volunteers for SAVTE (the Sheffield Association for the Voluntary Teaching of English), providing valuable support to some of Sheffield's most excluded and isolated English language larners via our local public library networks and the national Six Book Challenge (Engaged Curriculum funding, 2014-15, project ongoing 2015-16). Dr Briony Birdi blogs on this Engaged Curriculum project.

Research area: Public librarianship

Within the general field of public librarianship research, our work could be grouped into a number of different areas, each focusing on a different aspect of the public library within society:

  • General public librarianship
  • Cuts, closures
  • Family, local, oral history
  • Interlending and resource-sharing
  • Management, leadership, staffing, training
  • Politics and government policy
  • Technology
  • Users, non-users and communities

Snapshot from recent research

'Opinion among our participants was divided over the extent to which public libraries operated under a moral imperative to offer interlending. We generally observed three broad perspectives on this issue. Some identified strongly with the moral argument, and viewed the provision of interlending as the realisation of a duty to meet any and all needs of library users. A larger group shared this perspective in principle, but were more pragmatic about the likelihood of interlending being sustained in a harsh economic environment. A final group might be characterised as rejecting entirely the notion of a moral imperative to offer interlending. A natural question of great significance to the future of interlending is the extent to which any one of these viewpoints represent a majority opinion at an appropriately senior level.’

Birdi, B., Pinfield, S., Rutter, S. and Wakeling, S. (2015). Investigating interlending: a scoping study of resource discovery, sharing and cooperation The University of Sheffield, for TCR (The Combined Regions).

Blog posts

Dr Briony Birdi blogs on public librarianship research and the future of public libraries.

Selected publications

Garland, R. and Willett, P. (2009). We want you back. Public Library Journal, 24(2), pp.19-21, 25.

Grace, D. and Sen, B. (2013). Community resilience and the role of the public library. Library Trends, 61(3), pp.513-541.

Listwon, A. and Sen, B. (2009). Public library services and the Polish community in England: case study. Library Review, 58(4), pp.290-300.

Pooley, A. and Birdi, B. (2008). How ethical are we? Public Library Journal, 23(1), pp.12-15.

Sen, B. (2010). Theory, research and practice in library management and market orientation. Library Management, 31(4-5), pp.344-353.

Usherwood, B., Wilson, K. and Bryson, J. (2005). Relevant repositories of public knowledge? Libraries, museums and archives in the information age. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 37(2), pp.91-100.

Wilson, K. and Corrall, S. (2008). Developing public library managers as leaders: evaluation of a national leadership development programme. Library Management 29(6/7), pp.473-488.

Wilson, K. and Train, B. (2006). Business information service delivery within a regional context: the role of public libraries. Business Information Review, 23(1), pp. 50-57.

Research reports

Birdi, B., Pinfield, S., Rutter, S. and Wakeling, S. (2015). Investigating interlending: a scoping study of resource discovery, sharing and cooperation. The University of Sheffield, for TCR (The Combined Regions).  Executive SummaryFinal Report

Bryson, J., Usherwood, B. and Proctor, R. (2003). Libraries must also be buildings? New Library Impact Study. The University of Sheffield.  Final Report

Bryson, J., Usherwood, B. and Streatfield, D. (2002). Social impact audit. The University of Sheffield, for the South West Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. Executive Summary | Final Report

Linley, R. and Usherwood, B. (1998). New measures for the public library: a social audit of public libraries. The University of Sheffield, funded by the British Library Research and Innovation Centre (report 89). Executive Summary | Final Report

Proctor, R., Lee, H. and Reilly, R. (1998). Access to public libraries: the impact of opening hours reductions and closures 1986-1997. The University of Sheffield, funded by the British Library Research and Innovation Centre (report 90). Final Report

Proctor, R., Usherwood, B. and Sobczyk, G. (1996). What do people do when their public library service closes down? An investigation into the impact of the Sheffield Libraries strike. University of Sheffield, funded by the British Library Research and Development Department (report 6224). Final Report

Simmons, S. and Proctor, R. (1997). People, politics and hard decisions: an investigation into the management of public library closures. The University of Sheffield, funded by the British Library Research and Innovation Centre (report 132). Final Report

Streatfield, D., Wilson, K., Corrall, S. and Usherwood, B. (2007). Evaluation of leading modern public libraries. With Information Management Associates, funded by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. Final Report

Usherwood, B., Wilson, K. and Bryson, J. (2005). Relevant repositories of public knowledge? Perceptions of archives, libraries and museums in modern Britain. The University of Sheffield, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board. Final Report

Usherwood, B., Proctor, R., Bower, G., Coe, C., Cooper, J. and Stevens, T. (2001). Recruit, retain and lead: the public library workforce study. The University of Sheffield, funded by Resource: the Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries. Final Report

Wilson, K. and Train, B. (2005). Libraries are good for business. The University of Sheffield, with SINTO on behalf of the Yorkshire Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (YMLAC). Final Report

Wilson, K. and Train, B. (2005). North West Public Libraries Joint Commissioning Project. The University of Sheffield, funded by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council North West. Final Report

Doctoral theses

Calixto, J. (2002). The educational roles of public libraries in Portugal. Political and professional perceptions. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Cowan, B. (1998). Public libraries, training and the impact of information technology: a comparative study of public libraries in Canada and England. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Jones-Evans, A. (1995). The marketing of public library services for a profit. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Kim, Y-S. (2004). The public library and its support groups: in what way and to what extent do Friends influence public library policy? Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Lilley, E. (1999). The relationship between expectations and the public’s perceptions of public library services. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Muela Meza, Z. (2009). An application of community profiling to analyse the information needs and community issues affecting the people in Broomhall, Sheffield, and to evaluate the roles of their information providers. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Sen, B. (2014). Market orientation as a strategic option for libraries. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Masters dissertations

In date order:


Bartes, M.P. 2014 Bringing the Arts into the Library: An evaluation of the role of Nottinghamshire County Council Libraries in engaging new audiences with arts and culture

Carl, M. 2014 There and Back Again: A Public Library History 1850-1914

Clatworthy, S. 2014 An Investigation into User Experience and Perceptions of Special Collections for Academic Studies

Haji Moksin, N. 2014 Brunei Darussalam public librarians' perceptions on information literacy: a case study

McLean, P. 2013 An Investigation into how Public Libraries in the UK are using Narrative-Based Practice to Demonstrate Social Impact

Richards, A. 2012 An Investigation into the Viability of Librarything for Promotional and User Engagement Purpose in Libraries

Priestley, P. 2011 An investigation into attitudes towards personalization in the museum and library sector: a case study and survey to assess the level of interest in the implementation of personalization in museums and libraries

Williams, L. 2011 Exhibitions in libraries: the role of the information professional

Hartley, J 2005 Tower Hamlets Idea Stores: are they working?

Bell, L. 2004 An investigation into the design of mobile libraries and the effects on service provision.

Blunden, D. 2003 Music to your ears? The impact of call centres on the public library service.

Cuts, closures

Fletcher, K. 2011 What do we stand to lose? Discourses on public library cuts: an analysis of media representations of public library campaigns

Gunter, F. 2003 Open all hours? An investigation into the current expansion of opening hours in public libraries.

Hunter, J.F. 1998 The effectiveness of mobile library provision in urban communities which have lost local static libraries. A case study.

Reilly, R. 1997 The impact of Sheffield public library closures on young children.

Family, local, oral history

Fraser, M. 2015. Connections between the British and Canadian Early Public Library Movements: 1845-1914

O'Reilly, M. 2010 The Sheffield Cathedral oral history project: an investigation into the librarian’s role in oral history

Bayliss, E. 2004 Evaluation and identification of digital resources suitable for local history gateway for public library users

Management, leadership, staffing, training

Ishikawa, N. 2014 Public library professional issues in Japan and the UK under economic depression

Turner, C. 2014 Evaluation of the Libraries and Information East Midlands (LIEM) Motivate, Learn, Lead Programme.

Tsilimagou, D. 2013 Library Leaders as Social Entrepreneurs

José Simões, M. 2011 An investigation into the perception held by the librarians at Leeds Libraries of their role as regards the teaching of information literacy

Fuidge, V. 2010 The role of the music specialist librarian

Pooley, A. 2007 Ethical Training: Censorship and Intellectual Freedom in the Public Library.

Dahlke, H. 2006 An exploration of the concept of advocacy in the public library context.

Fox, H. 2005 An investigation into political and professional attitudes regarding commercial models of service provision in public libraries.

Waldrum, S. 2004 Where geographers and librarians collide: an investigation into the role and use of GIS as a decision making support tool for public library management.

Boxford, A. 2000 Flag it up. Cascade it down. An investigation into the management of training and learning in public libraries.

McCree, M. 2000 Theft in the public library. An investigation into the levels of theft and the impact it has on both service and staff.

Politics and government policy

Barstow, T. 2013 Does the Use of Occupations in Campaigns to Protect Public Libraries Risk Inadvertently Promoting "Big Society" Ideas?

Smith, L. 2010 ‘A cradle of democracy’: democratic engagement and public libraries

Stacey, D. 2006 Framework for the Future: a shared vision? Staff perceptions and cultural issues regarding government policy implementation.

Hague, D. 2004 Numbers, trust and (over) evaluation: librarians and their elected members' views on the culture of accountability. Not on CPLIS, is on pubs database


Karagianni, F. 2014 The Use of Social Media in Engaging with Users in Nottinghamshire Country Public Libraries: Current Practices, users' Approach, Recommendations for Development.

Cox, D. 2013 An Exploratory Study into the Introduction of Fees and Charges for ICT Services Within Public Libraries

Grigsby, K. 2011 Web 2.0 use in marketing public libraries: a case study of North Tyneside public libraries

Midgley, A. 2010 The value of IT access in the library and information services of the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster

Mawe, A. 2007 An Evaluation of Public Library Local Studies Websites in the United Kingdom.

Coxall, O. 2006 A study of library attitudes to IT and the provision of public access to IT and the People's Network in public libraries.

Moore, S. 2006 What are the factors that influence the public's use of OPACs?

Osborne, M. 2004 Motivating people to use IT in libraries.

Piasecki, R. 2004 An investigation into the impact of ICT on small branch libraries.

Hallam, R. 2003 Assessing the quality of websites: the view from public library authorities.

Norris, I. 2003 Equipping public library staff with information skills: a key requirement of the "IT for Me" project.

Witkin, O. 2003 A study of the Potential Impact of Web-Based Music File Sharing On the Provision of Recorded Music by Public Libraries.

Ingham, A. 2003 The attitudes of paraprofessional library staff with relation to public access to the internet.

Butler, E. 2002 Trained or terrified: an investigation into the impact of ICT training on public library staff.

Gardner, C. 2002 An investigation into the impact of electronic resources on public library reference enquiry services.

Towers, H. 2001 An investigation into the impact of information and communications technology (ICT) on mobile library service provision and use.

Users, non-users and communities

Cook, R. 2013 Anti-Social Behaviour in Public Libraries - A Scoping Study

Seals, E. 2012 Community Information or Community Representation? An Investigation into the Link Between Information and Media Representations of Broomhall, Sheffield.

Grace, D. 2011 The role of the public library in promoting community resilience: an autoethnographic study

Garland, R. 2008 Engaging lapsed users.

Ewart, L. 2004 How's my profile? An exploration of community profiling in public library authorities.

Davies, A. 2003 Not for me: a study into the characteristic reasons behind people's choice in not using the public library.

Hayes, K. 2003 Out of our Comfort Zone: an investigation into the perceptions of outsiders on the role and value of how the public library and how insiders receive these views.

Conder, K. 2002 The social role of the local library: the case of Gloucestershire.

Coughlan, R. 2001 An investigation into the non-borrowing use of public library services.

Raven, C. M. 1998 An evaluation of the extent to which branch libraries may contribute to community regeneration through information technology.

Whittaker, S. P. 1998 Do public libraries need 'Friends'? An evaluation of the importance and influence of Friends of library groups in Sheffield and Rotherham

Linley, R. 1996 The role of the branch library in community development and community regeneration.

Research area: reading and materials

Reading is a major focus of our research, in terms of the development of reading skills, fiction reading and attitudes towards different genres, and reader development and reader-centred practice. Related to this is a body of work measuring the impact of public library reading and literacy initiatives and their communities.

Snapshot from recent research

‘The primary intention of grouping ‘Black British fiction’ and ‘Asian fiction in English’ - as distinct from any other fiction genre - was to facilitate their examination, using terms with which the research participants would hopefully be familiar, or would at least be able to understand. The author shares the view of Goebel and Schabio (2013) that fiction genres ‘do not exist a priori, but in the texts themselves and in the interpreters’ heads’ (p.1). It could be argued that any of the books perceived by the participants in the study could be classified in a number of different ways.

Another notable point regarding the grouping is that all genres are strongly felt to have a limited life-span (Fowler, 2002; Goebel and Schabio, ibid.), corresponding to what Goebel and Schabio (ibid.) describe as ‘long-term dispositions in societies, reflecting on social structures, communal vs. individualised concepts of interaction, ontological beliefs, forms of self-fashioning, and…on shortcomings and tensions within a given society.’ (p.1). This societal influence is of particular relevance to a body of literature which originated from the direct descendants of colonial rule.’

Birdi, B. (2014). Genre fiction readers: a quantitative exploration of provided construct ratings.

Journal of Documentation, 70(6), pp. 1054-1075.

Selected publications

Birdi, B. (2014). Genre fiction readers: a quantitative exploration of provided construct ratings. Journal of Documentation, 70(6), pp. 1054-1075.

Birdi, B. (2011). Investigating fiction reader characteristics using personal construct theory. Aslib Proceedings, 63(2-3),pp.275-294.

Birdi, B. and Syed, M. (2011). Exploring reader response to minority ethnic fiction. Library Review, 60(9), pp. 816-831.

Elkin, J., Train, B. and Denham D. (2003). Reading and reader development. Library Association Publishing.

Sen, B. Wakeling, S., Clough, P. and Connaway, L.S. (2012). ‘Readers who borrowed this also borrowed…’ Recommender systems in UK libraries. Library Hi Tech, 30(1), pp.134-150.

Thebridge, S. and Train, B. (2002). Promoting reading through partnerships: a ten-year literature overview. New Library World, 103(4-5), pp.131-140.

Train, B. (2007). Research on family reading: an international perspective. Library Review, 56(4), pp.292-298.

Train, B. (2003). Building up or breaking down barriers? The role of the library in adult basic skills education. Library Review, 52(8), pp. 394-402.

Train, B. (2003). Reading research. In Feather, J. & Sturges, P. (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Information and Library Science (pp.544-546). London/New York: Routledge.

Train, B. and Elkin, J. (2001). Branching Out: a model for experiential learning in professional practice. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 33(2), pp.69-75.

Train, B. and Elkin, J. (2001). Effecting change: reader development projects in public libraries. Library Management, 22(8/9), pp. 395-403.

Train, B. and Elkin, J. (2001). Measuring the unmeasurable: reader development and its impact on performance measurement in the public library sector. Library Review, 50(6), pp.295-304.

Wilson, K. and Train, B. (2006). The lifelong impact of lifelong learning: using qualitative evaluation to measure the less tangible outcomes of adult basic skills education. The Journal of Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 8(1), pp. 1-13.

Research reports

Proctor, R. and Bartle, C. (2002). Low achievers, lifelong learners: an investigation into the impact of the public library on educational disadvantage. The University of Sheffield, for Resource: The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries. Final Report

Simmons, S. and Train, B. (2006). Stock Quality Health Check: an evaluation. The University of Sheffield, funded by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, London. Final Report

Toyne, J. and Usherwood, B. (2001). Checking the books: the value and impact of public library book reading. The University of Sheffield, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board. Executive Summary | Final Report

Train, B. (2003). Quick reads: reader development and basic skills. An evaluation report. The University of Sheffield, with Essex Libraries and the Learning and Skills Council. Final Report

Train, B. (2003). What do you like to read? An evaluation of the EMRALD (East Midlands Reader and Library Development) initiative. The University of Sheffield. Final Report

Train, B., Usherwood, B. and Brooks, G. (2003). The Vital Link: an evaluation report. The University of Sheffield, for DCMS Wolfson. Final Report

Wilson, K. and Train, B. (2005). Give me a break: evaluation of the first national library book promotion in Wales. The University of Sheffield, on behalf of Estyn Allan in association with Opening the Book, Society of Chief Librarians in Wales and the Arts Council of Wales. Final Report

Wilson, K. and Train, B. (2004). Reader development evaluation framework. The University of Sheffield, for the British Council. Final Report

Wilson, K. and Train, B. (2004). Back to basics: an evaluation report. The University of Sheffield, with Thanet Basic Skills Partnership and the Learning and Skills Council. Final Report

Masters dissertations

In date orders:

Yu, L. (2015). Based on services marketing theory, comparing UK and China children’s reading promotion in public libraries

Martindale, G. 2013 Use and Perceptions of E-Books in Derbyshire Libraries

Parker, M. 2012 An Investigation into Derbyshire Libraries "Book Chat" Model in the Current Economic Climate

Wain, L. 2012 What do Public Libraries do to Foster Reader Development and Promote Reading?

Frances, E. 2010 The perceived importance of reading and book knowledge among public library staff

Nguyen, A-H. 2009 The impact of reader's block on reading groups.

Ashford, L. 2009 How successful was the National Year of Reading's impact in Sheffield Public Libraries?

Caddy, E. 2009 An investigation into the opinions of public library staff on how and where a graphic, comic and cartoon collection should be shelved.

Manecke, U. 2009 Bibliotherapy: the restorative power of reading.

Syed, M. 2008 Recognition and empathy: the portrayal of the British-Indian community in English language fiction, and library selection and promotion of such fiction.

Nakano, Y. 2008 The effectiveness of stock selection policy and practice for children and young people in promoting intercultural understanding.

Neill, M. 2008 Graphic novels - the young man's superhero, or the library's contemporary villain: an illuminatory study into the thoughts and feelings of young men when discussing the suitability of graphic novels in the library.

Graham, R. 2007 An Investigation Into Aspects Influencing Fiction Choice for 18-35 Year Olds.

Taylor, C. 2007 Reader Development Websites: An Investigation into their Effectiveness.

Holdsworth, L. 2007 The Use of Displays in Public Libraries: The Librarians' Viewpoint.

Holyoake, A. 2007 Investigate how public libraries can support new writers and examine the benefits of this support.

Brewster, E. 2007 'Medicine for the Soul.' Bibliotherapy and the Public Library.

Gill, L. 2006 The impact of Framework for the Future on the promotion of reading to adults in Sheffield public libraries.

Marshall, D. 2006 To what extent do Sheffield's library based reading groups reach the wider community?

Armstrong, L. 2006 Do personal and institutional anxieties within Sheffield Central Library and Norwich Millennium Library affect the promotion chances of particular genres (Black British, Asian and Gay/Lesbian fiction)?

Hopkins, E. 2006 A study of public libraries' creation of digital collections: library direction, policy and plans for development.

Andrews, J. 2006 The marking of and access to special collections in public libraries: case studies in the East Midlands.

Buchanan, A. 2005 Everyone's a critic: a qualitative study to investigate the perceptions and attitudes towards book review websites on the world wide web.

Hounsome, M. 2005 The impact of Richard and Judy's book club on the reading habits of the general public.

Mathioudaki, A. 2005 Reading and reader development in Greece: the public librarians' approach.

Phillips, A. 2005 What, if anything, distinguishes 'a good read' from literature? An investigation into the roles of 'quality' and enjoyment in reading.

Pollitt, M. 2005 "In it for the money?" An investigation of loan charges for music recordings in British public libraries.

Glenn, L. 2004 The creativity of reading fiction: an exploration of the creative processes and responses of fiction readers.

Coysh, K. 2004 How successful was the BBC Big Read?

Heawood, K. 2003 A social impact of audit of the photographic collection of a local studies library.

Hemsley, K. 2003 The Booker: Prized in Libraries?

Twomey, R. 2003 Fiction Readers on Fiction Reading: An investigation into attitudes, opinions and value judgements.

Baker, K. 2002 Intervene or ignore? The attitudes of public librarians on fiction provision.

Cartwright, H. 2001 A sense of space: an investigation into the impact of the book superstore environment on use and perception of the public library as a place and experience.

Bolam, F. 2000 Buy, borrow or beg? An investigation into how fiction readers get their books?

Scothern, C. 2000 What makes a successful public library reading group? How good practice can be created and sustained.

Walkley, E. 2000 The development of a web-based fiction promotion in public libraries an investigation into styles and implementation to maximise its potential as a reader development device.

Li, M-L. 1999 The role of promotional activities and measures in improving access to materials and services in public libraries.

Stainer, C. 1997 Towards a philosophy of stock management: entertainment, high seriousness, and the public library.

Ton, N. 1997 The currency of fiction in public libraries: the impact of funding reductions.

Lee, H. 1996 'Her and Her Books': a study of female experiences of reading.

Research area: social justice

Public libraries have the capacity to make a major contribution to social justice, and our work in this area gives a snapshot of the work they do, and their potential and actual impact on a wide range of communities and groups.

Snapshot from recent research

‘An important theme drawn from the collected data was that of a parent’s limited understanding of the role they play in their child’s development. It was noted that some inmates do not realise the impact they can have, perhaps because of their own lack of experience of being read to as a child. It is important, therefore, to teach inmates about this critical parental role.’ [Finlay, J. (2014).

A comparative study of family literacy programmes in UK and US prisons. Unpublished Masters dissertation, University of Sheffield.

Selected publications

Birdi, B., Wilson, K. and Mansoor, S. (2012). ‘What we should strive for is Britishness’: an attitudinal investigation of ethnic diversity and the public library. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 44(2), pp.118-128.

Birdi, B., Wilson, K. and Tso, H.M. (2009). The nature and role of empathy in public librarianship. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 41(2), pp. 81-89.

Birdi, B., Wilson, K. and Cocker, J. (2009). The public library, exclusion and empathy: a literature review. Library Review, 57(8), pp. 576-592.

Birdi, B., and Wilson K. (2008). Public libraries and social exclusion: how empathic are we? Library and Information Update, 7(6), pp. 32-34.

Rosenthal, L. and Train, B. (2007). Breaking down barriers. Public Library Journal, 22(1), pp. 8-12.

Stock, E. and Willett, P. (2007). Positively ageing. Public Library Journal, 22(2), pp.26-29.

Train, B., Dalton, P. and Elkin, J. (2000). Embracing inclusion: the critical role of the library. Library Management, 21(9), pp.493-500.

Research reports

Wilson, K. and Birdi, B. (2008). The right ‘man’ for the job? The role of empathy in community librarianship: Final ReportProject website. The University of Sheffield, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Doctoral theses

Syed, M. (2014). Developing the culturally competent public librarian: an investigation of diversity training for public libraries to support empathic service provision to Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Stevens, T. (1995). The role of the prison library in the reform and rehabilitation process. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Masters dissertations

In date order:

Hilliar, J. 2015. An investigation into service provision for users with mental health conditions in UK academic and public libraries

Finlay, J. 2014 A Comparative Study of Family Literacy Programmes in UK and US Prison Libraries.

Tarrier, S. 2014 How Public Libraries in Derbyshire Contribute to/enable Digital Inclusion for those sections of the Community who do not have Access to ICT.

Waite, J. 2013 To What Extent do Public Libraries in the UK Provide Adequate Resources for Trans People?

Fox, J. 2012 The Information Needs of Asylum Seekers in Sheffield

Healy, L. 2012 An Evaluation of the Available Resources for Ethnic Minorities to Research their histories.

Southwell, D. 2012 An Updated Look at Disability Provision in English Public Libraries

Miller, C. 2011 How can public librarians engage with homeless people through outreach activity?

Remy, B. 2011 Exploring the social culture of librarianship through the identifications and experiences of library workers who are members of marginalized social groups

Broadley, R. 2010 An investigation into Yorkshire public library outreach projects aimed at homeless people

Holberry, K. 2010 How can public libraries engage with an ageing population? A case study of Calderdale Library Service

Laughton, C. 2010 What is the extent and value of reminiscence work in public libraries, and what are the possibilities regarding collaboration with archives, museums and the health and care sectors in this area?

Puzey, S. 2008 How successfully does Burngreave Bookstart project meet the needs of a diverse community?

Barton, C. 2008 Investigating HIV/AIDS information in UK public libraries.

Eaton, J. 2007 'Welcome to your library.' A study of Public Library Services for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Sheffield and Liverpool.

Tso, H. 2007 Social inclusion and public libraries: Is the ability to empathise an essential attribute for community librarians to better serve their ethnic minorities users? A case study of Highfield Library and its Chinese community.

Listwon, A. 2007 The Public Library Service Provision to the Polish Community Living in Sheffield.

Mansoor, S. 2006 An investigation into the provision of ethnic minority library services in predominantly White areas.Rosenthal, L. 2006 An investigation into how Guernsey's public library can meet the needs of dyslexic needs.

Stock, E. 2006 Added extras: an investigation into the impact of public library group on the lives of older adults.

Cocker, J. 2006 Engaging the community? An investigation into public library approaches to social inclusion in the North West of England.

O'Leary, M. 2005 Pink perceptions: the information needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender library users as perceived by public librarians and the LGBT communities within Sheffield, UK and Denver CO, USA.

Dobson, S. 2004 Public libraries and the baby boomer generation: an investigation into the public library service provision for Baby Boomers.

Jap, Y. 2003 Writ large - an investigation into public library provision of large print fiction for the elderly.

Lockett, K. 2003 In with the new - out with the elderly? Have initiatives to make public libraries more youth-friendly alienated older users?

Bentley, M. 2002 Institutionalised classism?: an investigation into how far public libraries are serving the needs of working class individuals and communities.

Chaplin, H. 2002 The impact of public library ICT facilities on people living in areas of social exclusion.

Palfrey, M. 2002 Creativity in public libraries: can creative projects be successfully used to facilitate social inclusions?

Jones, H. 2001 Libraries, social inclusion of those unable to meet library membership requirements: an investigation of library policy with regard to membership and social inclusion.

Kosmidou, D. 2001 Lifelong learning, ICT and elderly people - a study of two countries.

Thomas, T. 2001 "A garden in the pocket" - the value of reading for older adults living in the community.

Arrowsmith, J. 2001 "Mobiles with a mission." To what extent might mobile libraries contribute towards social inclusion? An investigation into current potential practices.

Gale, K. A. 1998 Information and youth homelessness: An assessment of the information requirements of young people in housing need and the role of information in preventing youth homelessness.

Research area: Children, young people and families

Although much of the following work could also have been included under ‘Reading’ or ‘Social justice’, there are clearly issues specific to our youngest age groups. The following examples bring together work on reading and stock selection, promotion and censorship in general terms and to specific communities and age groups. It also presents work investigating the impact of specific initiatives for young people such as homework clubs and Bookstart.

Snapshot from recent research

‘The most popular alternative to having a teenage fiction section from the literature is genrefication. This has the advantage of aligning library stock methods with that of bookshops and so might make finding books easier. However, it was clear from the research that complete genrefication would have negative impacts on reader development and would remove serendipitous browsing; two key things that libraries offer that bookshops perhaps do not.’ [Evans, R. (2013).

Do public libraries need teenage stock? Unpublished Masters dissertation, University of Sheffield.

Selected publications

Birdi, B. (2012). The changing shape of reading – the 21st Century challenge. In Rankin, C. (Ed.), Library services for children and young people (pp.39-48). Facet Publishing.

Chapman, E.L., & Birdi, B. (2008). Fiction for all. Public Library Journal, 23(1), 8-11.

Train, B. (2007). Research on family reading: an international perspective. Library Review, 56(4), 292-298.

Train, B. and Elkin, J. (2000). Homework clubs: a model for the qualitative evaluation of public library initiatives. The New Review of Children’s Literature and Librarianship, 6, pp. 177-192.

Wilson, K. & Birdi, B. (2006). Marketing library services to children and young people: the role of schools library services. New Review of Children’s Literature and Librarianship, 12(2), 147-161.

Doctoral theses

Chapman, L. (2015). Provision of LGBT-related fiction to children and young people in English public libraries: a mixed-methods study. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sheffield

Masters dissertations

In date order:

Rawle, E. 2015 What is the role of school and public libraries in combatting the ‘summer literacy dip’?

Evans, R. 2013 Do public libraries need teenage stock?

O'Hara, M. 2012 Why do Some Children's Library Services Take a Disneyised, Themed Approach to the Design of Their Library Services?

Wyatt, A. 2010 A portrait of disability in children’s fiction: the availability and promotion of such resources in public libraries

Evans, P. 2009 Should public libraries do more to promote audio books to children?

Jenkins, D. 2008 Innovation in public library services for young people

Rolland, L. 2008 Reading for teens who don't read

Stannard, T. 2008 The guardians of children's literature? A study into the attitudes of public library staff and parents regarding issues of censorship of children's books.

Chapman, E. 2007 Provision of LGBT-related fiction to children and young people in public libraries.

Dimyan, A. 2006 Spreading the word: is enough being done to promote poetry to teenagers in Sheffield's public library service?

Farmer, J. 2006 Do young people 'drop' libraries or do libraries 'drop' them? A review of library services' provision for 11-16 year olds.

Conway, N. 2005 To what extent does the Bookstart scheme affect the role of the public librarian?

Cope, A. 2005 An examination of teenagers' perceptions of the public library environment; a case study of three central libraries.

Kenward, H. 2005 The challenge of crossover: an investigation into the existence and implications of crossover fiction.

Vasilogamvrakis, N. 2005 Fiction selection practices by Greek public libraries for primary school children.

Morris, E. 2004 To what extent does participation in the Bookstart scheme affect the reader development of parents and carers?

Perkins, H. 2004 An investigation of the use made of the Carnegie children's book award in the promotion of reading for enjoyment and increased literacy standards in schools.

Guildford, E. 2003 Secondary school library materials: their provision and use. An investigation into the provision and use of library materials to contribute and support the curriculum.

Lord, P. 2003 Young people, connexions and the digital divide.

McGill, J. 2003 Public library-nursery relationships: an investigation into their value and impact.

Davidson, J. 2001 Library materials in primary schools: their value, use and management.

Davis, C 2000 Seven years on - an evaluation of the Broxtowe Bookworms/Bookstart Project.

Harding, C. 2000 Next generation/net generation: an investigation into children's ICT use and the impact on public libraries.

Stone, E. 1999 The Impact of public library use on the educational attainment of primary school children.

Waller, J. 1999 Free Books for Schools - an inquiry into the commercial sponsorship of school resource materials (The hidden curriculum of big business in schools).

Newport, K. 1998 The impact of homework centres in Sheffield Public Libraries: An investigation into library provision for children.

Sisson, F. 1997 Children's library design: does the location of the children's department in relation to the main adult library affect the interaction between the child and the library?

Train, B. 1997 An examination of the interaction which takes place between the author and the child, with the library, school and bookshop acting as intermediaries

Rogan, A. 1996 Telling tales: an exploration of the librarian's role as storyteller.

Contact us


Dr Briony Birdi
Information School,
Regent Court,
211 Portobello Street,
S1 4DP

Find us in the Information School

Telephone: +44 114 222 2653

Email: b.birdi@sheffield.ac.uk

Flagship institutes

The University’s four flagship institutes bring together our key strengths to tackle global issues, turning interdisciplinary and translational research into real-world solutions.