Culture and public library use: researching community needs

With books, multi-media, online resources, bus passes, and hearing aids Edinburgh Libraries provide our community with access to information as well as support with everyday necessities. These services and others are curated by library staff to match community needs. Research into community needs helps library staff to choose what resources will be most useful for their community. Rachel Salzano, a PhD researcher at Edinburgh Napier University, is hoping that her research with Edinburgh community members will provide information that can help Edinburgh Libraries staff continue to provide their excellent services.

Rachel’s research focusses on the relationship between culture and public library use in newcomers to the community. Much of the published library research mentions a connection between culture and how individuals use the public library, but none so far have focussed on this relationship. Rachel is attempting to fill this knowledge gap in order to help library services more closely match community needs. For the current research, she is working with refugees and asylum seekers specifically.

Rachel has provided two options participants can take: a questionnaire with optional follow-up interview or an art exhibition. Participants can choose one or the other (or even both, if they want). The questionnaire – – asks about how participants use the public library, in their country of origin and in the UK and cultural background. The follow-up interview is based on the results of the questionnaire and asks questions to help clarify the results of the questionnaire.

The arts exhibition asks participants to create and send Rachel a piece of artwork based on this prompt:

Take a photo or create a piece of artwork that represents why you use the public library in the UK. If the way you use the library has changed since you came to the UK, you can also create a piece of artwork representing why it has changed. Submit as many pieces of artwork as you want.

The artworks will be placed in an online, and in-person, exhibition. The in-person exhibition will be available when government regulations allow. Through an interview, Rachel will work with participants to create a description that will accompany the artwork. Prizes will be awarded based on public voting. Read more about the art exhibition via the project website.

Examples of possible photos or art creations that can be submitted.

If you want to know more about the project, please email Rachel at

Both Rachel and Edinburgh Libraries participated in RIVAL a project to establish a collaborative network of Scotland-based Library and Information Science (LIS) researchers and practising library and information professionals interested in maximising the impact and value of LIS research.

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