Centre for the Public Library and Information in Society


Who we are

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.