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The emergence and impact of neoliberal ideology on UK public library policy, 1997-2010

Greene, Margaret and McMenemy, David (2012) The emergence and impact of neoliberal ideology on UK public library policy, 1997-2010. In: Library and Information Science Trends and Research: Europe. Library & Information Science . Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 13-41. ISBN 9781780527147

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Abstract

Over the last thirty years, the globalisation of neoliberal ideology has been pervasive and all encompassing. The chapter uses a mixed methods approach by combining content and discourse analysis to examine how neoliberal discourses have impacted on public librarianship. Since New Labour’s election in 1997 public service restructuring in the United Kingdom has taken on a more oblique managerialist and consumerist approach. The impact of managerialism in the public library service has focused mainly on modernising and improving services to the individual user, and is based on scenarios where public libraries have to model themselves on the private sector, and where managers have been empowered over professionals. The wider shift away from collectivist service provision to more personalised and individualised forms of consumption are also explored, which is epitomised by the rise of the citizen consumer. The growing concern with the transformation of professional library language and the adoption of neoliberal doctrine is examined. Moreover, the rhetorical use of language and strategies to justify change and transformation are examined and also how at times there has been an “unquestioning” acceptance of neoliberalism by some public librarians (McMenemy, 2009b; Buschman, 2005).