Centre for the Public Library and Information in Society


Reading and literacy (education), reader development and library 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 SummaryFinal 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

Doctoral theses

Birdi, B. (2014). ‘We are here because you were there’: an investigation of the reading of, and engagement with, minority ethnic fiction in UK public libraries. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sheffield. 

Brewster, L. (2011). An investigation of experiences of reading for mental health and well-being and their relations to models of bibliotherapy. University of Sheffield.

Cole, N. (1998). Attitudes to intellectual freedom and their impact on public library stock selection policies. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Ishida, K. (2009). The partnership between libraries and the book trade to deliver better reader development: its history and future prospects. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Masters dissertations (in date order)

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.