Centre for the Public Library and Information in Society


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 Unpublished Masters dissertation, University of Sheffield.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 Report. Project 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 Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.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.