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states tbat it provides "the best in library service," and "tbe staff guides .... by offering an information commons where free expression and asso- ciation can occur .... the entrance is a circulation desk, which often had a line-up of people waiting to ..... research software NVivo to help identify emergent themes, distinctions,.

A Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name? Investigating the Relationship between Public Libraries and Social Capital

Un endroit où tout le monde vous connaît par votre nom ? Étude sur la relation entre les bibliothèques publiques et le capital social

Cotherine A. Johnson Faculty of Information and Media Studies University of Western Ontario London, Ontario N6A 5B7 cajoí[email protected] Matthew R. Griffis Faculty of Information and Media Studies University of Western Ontario London, Ontario N6A 5B7 [email protected]

Resume ; Alors que de nombreux commentateurs ont établi un lien entre les bibliothèques publiques et le capital social, peu d'études empiriques menées jusqu'ici ont démontré qu'il existe une telle relation. Cet article décrit une étude examinant la relation entre les bibliothèques publiques et le capital social. Pour cette étude, des usagers de trois succursales de bibliothèques d'une ville de taille moyenne de rOntario ont répondu à des questionnaires et ont été interrogés. Les résultats indiquent une forre corrélation entre les indicateurs du capital social et l'utilisation de la bibliothèque. Des entrevues réalisées auprès d'usagers assidus démontrent également les bénéfices sociaux pour les répondants lors de leur utilisation de la bibliothèque. Abstract: While many commentators have made the connection between public libraries and social capital, few empirical studies conducted have demonstrated that there is such a relationship. This paper reports on a study that investigated che relationship between public libraries and social capital that involved administered questionnaires and conducting interviews with patrons in three branch libraries in a medium-sized city in Ontario. Findings show a strong relationship between indicators of social capital and library use. Interviews with frequent library users also indicate the important social benefits that respondents gained from their use of the library.

© The Canadian Joumal of Information and Library Science La Revue canadienne des sciences de l'information et de bibliothéconomie 33, no. 3/4 2009


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Introduction It is nothing new to most librarians and patrons that public libraries are in many respects social places. To many people, the library is their home away from home, where they spend many long hours hanging about, reading, using the Internet, and participating in library programs and special events. Just like the Cheers bar in the old sitcom, the library is a place "where everybody knows your name." Or is it? There has been much discussion lately in the library and information science (LIS) literature that libraries serve a purpose beyond mere dissemination of information and provision of reading and leisure materials. Several years ago McCook (2000) exhorted libraries to become more involved in community building by taking an active role in community development projects and discussions. Commenting on Robert Putnam's speech to the American Library Association (ALA) meeting in San Erancisco in 2001, Nancy Kranich, president of the ALA, stated, "As librarians, we should share Putnam's concerns about the erosion of social capital in our communities. We can play a role in finding new means to connect citizens and boost civic participation ... Libraries build social capital and encourage civic engagement by developing community partnerships, facilitating local dialogue, and disseminating local data" (Kranich 2001b, 7). With the prompting of the library community to include libraries in his study of institutions that foster social capital, Putnam prepared a chapter in his and Lewis Eeldstein's book Better Together: Restoring the American Com-

munity (Putnam and Feldstein 2003) on the libraries' role in building social capital titled, "Branch Libraries: The Heartbeat of the Community." This chapter discusses the many different ways in which branch libraries engage with their communities and create a comfortable, shared space where community members can engage with each other. The following paragraph sums up this idealized vision of the library's role in building community: As our glimpses of the branches in Chicago show, the new neighbourhood library functions as a kind of community center, a place where people get to know one another, where communities find themselves. The book discussions, readings, and classes, the homework help after school, the nods and helios people exchange when they see each other at the library for the second or fifth or twentieth time, the librarians greeting people by name, and even the artwork that reflects the talents and interests of the neighbourhood all contribute to the connections that bind people in community. (49)

Since then library stakeholders have also sponsored research that has investigated the role of libraries in the community. The American Council for Libraries, for instance, stated that public libraries "need to look

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carefully at opportunities to strengcben tbeir role in addressing tbe serious problems in their own communities" if tbey are to compete successfully for public dollars (Public Agenda 2006). Tbe Urban Libraries Council published "Making Cities Stronger" (Manjarrez, Cigna, and Bajaj 2007), whicb focused on the important contribution of libraries to community economic development. In 2008, the Working Togetber project funded by the Canadian government produced tbe "CommunityI^d Libraries Toolkit," which provides strategies for libraries to ensure that all members of tbe community, especially low-income people, benefit from tbe resources and services provided by the library {Singh and DeFaveri 2008). In the wake of tbis focus on communities, libraries are quickly adopting tbe language of social capital and community building to define their community roles. For instance, the London Public Library in London, Ontario, describes its role as a "community bub" {London Public Library 2007). The mission of tbe Milwaukee Public Library states tbat it provides "the best in library service," and "tbe staff guides Milwaukeeans in tbeir pursuit of knowledge, enjoyment and lifelong learning, ultimately enriching individual lives and tbe community as a whole" {Milwaukee Public Library 2009). The Halifax Public Library stated tbat one of its guiding principles in the construction of tbe new central brancb was tbat the library would be "an accessible, brigbt, and welcoming destination for adults, youth, families and newcomers providing opportunities for civic and social interaction as well as quiet individual use" (Halifax Public Library 2009). A scan of Nortb American library websites reveals similar statements about the community role of public libraries. Obviously library administrators believe that libraries have a lot to contribute to tbe social capital of tbeir communities. Rather than accept rhis assertion at face value, bowever, there is a need to investigate whether the public library does in fact contribute to social capital. Tbe purpose of tbis paper, therefore, is to report on a study that investigated tbe relationship between public libraries and social capital and to determine whether tbere is a relationship and how chat relationship is manifested.

Literature review and conceptuai framework There is no commonly accepted definition for social capital in tbe literature. The simplest way to define it, according to Field (2008), is the idea tbat relationships matter; "By making connections with one another, and keeping tbem going over time," Field explains, "people are able to work together to acbieve tbings they either could not achieve by tbemselves, or


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could only achieve with great difficulty" (1). In short, "social capital" both describes and, as a theoretical framework, explains the benefit of maintaining and/or expanding one's social connections and relationships. Definitions: Bonding and bridging

The literature reveals a plurality of definitions for social capital. Though some researchers have observed antecedents in the work of Emile Durkheim (Field 2008; Portes 1998), nearly all of today's definitions of social capital stem from the seed planted by Pierre Bourdieu (1980; 1986) and the concept as it was developed by Coleman (1988), and Putnam (1995; 2000). Putnam's definition of social capital is the most frequently used and is one of the two iterations we recognize in the present study. Putnam (1995) defines social capital as a resource embedded in "dense networks of social interaction" (67) that produces greater social cohesion. Fundamental to Putnam's definition is the idea of civic engagement, the voluntary actions of individuals that "foster sturdy norms of generalized reciprocity and encourage the emergence of social trust" (67). Reciprocity and trust, then, are social capital's two main ingredients. Holding that civic engagement and social trust are strongly associated, Putnam measures social capital hy assessing enrolment or involvement in civic groups and community associations (i.e., religious groups, political groups, labour unions, PTA, and sports leagues) as an indication of "good neighbouriiness" and prevailing "social trust" (73). Some researchers have identified two kinds of social capital—"bonding" social capital and "bridging" social capital. While bonding social capital has since become synonymous with Putnam's definition, Woolcock (2001) defines bonding social capital as "relations between family members, close friends, and neighbors," and bridging social capital as relations between "distant friends, associates and colleagues" (71-2). Either way, bonding social capital is more closed in nature, contained within the tight relationships between members of a social network. Bridging, on the other hand, concerns exchanges between people who are less tightly connected and are, consequently, members of different social networks. Just as bonding social capital is ofien associated with Putnam, bridging is often associated with the work of Nan Lin (2001a), whose network theory of social capital recognizes social inequality more explicidy than any previous definitions. Un defines social capital as "resources embedded in a social structure which are accessed and/or mobilized in purposive actions" (12). In other words, social capital is the benefit derived from

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one's social network based on the value of resources (both tangible and intangible) one can access through the people one knows. The more highly connected one is and the more people one knows from all walks of life, the better one's social capital. As Putnam (2000) explains, "Bonding social capital constitutes a kind of sociological superglue, whereas bridging social capital provides a sociological WD-40" (23). Bonding sociai capital often refers to community-level social capital that allows people to work together to achieve common ends, while bridging social capital is often associated with individual social capital that allows people to get access to the resources often available at a greater distance from oneself, that improves individual lives. Bonding and bridging forms of social capital are not mutually exclusive and, when considered in combination, they offer a more holistic approach to understanding how social capital's creation, accumulation, and reproduction can produce wider, stronger bonds of social cohesion, which may lead to stronger communities. Thus, this study will recognize and measure both forms to reflect this holistic approach. Social capital in the LIS literature

Because it is so context-bound, social capital as a phenomenon of study is interdisciplinary in nature and multidisciplinary in use, having become a popular focus over the past fifteen years in such fields as social policy, political science, economics, community development, sociology, anthropology, and education (Johnson 2007). Social capital's entry into the broader library and information science (LIS) literature is only recent, however. Bhandar, Pan, and Tan's (2007) case study of a collaborative information science project examines social capital's influence on knowledge integration and inter-organizational relationships; Huysman and Wulf (2006) examine relationships between social capital and knowledgesharing tools; Hersberger (2003) examines social capita! and the social support networks of the homeless in Seattle and North Carolina; Williams and Durrance (2008) examine social capital and community informatics; and Johnson (2004) examines the relationship between social capital and information-seeking behaviour in Mongolia. While not specific to libraries, these studies lay important groundwork for future studies of social capital within the LIS sphere. Increasingly LIS researchers are recognizing the importance of investigating social capital as a way of understanding the character of library use. Varheim (2007; 2008) advocares increased attention paid to the relation-


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ship between libraries and social capital, and, in his 2003 article on the subject, Wayne Wiegand advocate a shift in perspective for researchers of libraries and public libraries, in particular, and suggests considering "the library in the life or the user" rather than the more traditional approach, "the user in the life ofthe library." He encourages researchers to examine the role of the library as a site for the "exchange of social capital In its various and diverse forms" and the fostering of reciprocity and trust (380). Kranich (2001a) argues that libraries, real and virtual, create social capital by offering an information commons where free expression and association can occur through offering a variety of programs and events that facilitates encounters among people of different ages, cultural backgrounds, economic status, and interests. They also create social capital by linking with other institutions within the community and hy helping to increase literacy. Drueke (2006) argues that public libraries, having long been collectors of community information, contribute to social cohesion by providing information on community events and community organizations through lists, inventories, or even community events bulletin boards, thereby facilitating connections between different community members and groups. Joseph (2006) encourages public libraries to position themselves as "focal points" for retirees, providing a place For them to meet, do recreational reading, develop Internet skills, and interact through a variety of programs, fulfilling a "vital role in building social capital in communities by providing meaningfiil volunteer roles, opportunities to engage in community consultation and breaking down some of the barriers or social exclusion" (117). And Bourke (2005) argues the potential for libraries to network and build partnerships with organizations outside the library, such as the local "husiness community, other government agencies, schools [and] community agencies" (71) to increase and improve the quality of library services and programming and to "huild bridges to the excluded and marginalized" (74). Finally, Gong, Japzon, and Chen's (2008) study of three public library branches in New York City examined levels of social capital within the three neighbourhoods and, more specifically, examined the "effect of neighbourhood social capital on public library use" (66). To the researchers, branch libraries "serve as the loci of neighbourhoods hy offering public spaces for individuals to meet formally and informally" (65). The three neighbourhoods used in the study were distinct from one another and included the affluent Upper West Side in Manhattan, die

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working-class Hub in South Bronx, and a middle-income neighbourhood in Flushing, Queens. The study collected information on library use activities (including recreational reading, Internet use, getting other materials), community involvement and civic engagement, frequency of library use, and the convenience of the library in "relation to the residence, workplace or school of the respondents" (75). The study found a discrepancy between levels of social capital within a particular neighbourhood and library use: while the Upper West Side had the highest level of social capital of the three neighbourhoods, it had only a medium level of library use. And while Flushing had only a medium level of social capital, it had the highest library usage of all three neighbourhoods. The researchers argue that in neighbourhood research, levels of social capital depend on not only civic engagement but also "the structural and spatial composition of residents," such as levels of racial and ethnic diversity and segregation in a neighbourhood (68). Although there are many similarities between this study and ours, particularly in how social capital was measured, our study differs in that we focus on individual characteristics of study participants and their relationship with social capital rather than on neighbourhood characteristics in general.


The study reported here is a mixed methods study consisting of questionnaire data collected at three branch libraries and two commercial malls in a mid-sized Southwestern Ontario city and qualitative interviews with frequent library users at the same branch libraries used for the questionnaire study. Research settitig

The research for this paper was conducted in the fall and winter of 2008/ 9. The population of the city as of the 2006 Census was 352,400 (Statistics Canada). The population of the city grew by nearly 5% between the 2001 and 2006 censuses, with the largest increase experienced by the over 65 age group, which increased from 13% of the population in 2001 to 19% in 2006. The city has a diverse economic base consisting of manufacturing, higher education, and health and financial institutions. The unemployment rate for the city in 2006 was 6.1%, which was similar to that for the province as a whole. However, the city has not escaped the effects of the economic downturn of 2008/9, with several plants announcing layoffs resulting in an unemployment rate of



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10.2% in May 2009 {local newspaper 2009). Tbe median income for all households in 2006 was $67,018, wbich is similar to the Ontario average, and 11% of households experienced low incomes, also similar to cbe provincial figures. The city bas a fairly stable population witb over 50% of residents baving lived at the same address for five years or more and only 14% having moved to tbe city from another municipality, province, or country between the 2001 and 2006 censuses. It is also a fairly homogenous population from the standpoint of etbnic origin or race, witb only 11% ofthe population identified as visible minorities. Tbe bighest percentages of visible minorities are Arab / West Asian and Black {20% each), Soutb Asian {13%), Chinese {12%), and Latin American {12%). Tbe city, therefore, is a largely homogenous, stable community with a moderately high average income level, but is currendy experiencing bigb unemployment, a growing seniors population, and a steady influx of immigrants—all factors tbat migbt affect library use. Data collection in the branch libraries

Tbe library system consists of a central branch and 15 neigbbourbood branches. Three brancb libraries tbat represented different kinds of neighbourhoods were cbosen as sites to collect both questionnaire and interview data. We visited eacb brancb on four different days of the week and different hours of the day—during the morning, afternoon, and evening, and on Saturdays. Our usual length of stay for each visit was two to tbree hours, and we administered 20 questionnaires on average during each time slot. We also interviewed 16 people at tbe tbree brancbes during tbe periods wben we were administering tbe questionnaires. Tbe following is a description of each of tbe branches. Library A

Library A is located in a shopping mall in a residential neigbbourbood tbat contains single-family bomes, several condominium developments, and some social bousing. Tbe mall itself is largely a service mall containing a grocery store, Sboppers Drug Mart, a Bulk Barn, as well as a Goodwill outlet, GoodLife Fitness Centre, and a play gym for children. Tbe week we were collecting data, a flea market was set up in tbe main mall concourse where individuals were selling used jewellery, books, and china. Although this neighbourbood is considered to be one of tbe more affluent neigbbourboods in tbe city, the mall seems to cater more to moderate- or low-income needs. Tbe library is located within tbe mall

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opposite the children's play gym and is accessed via a long corridor that runs off one of the side mall concourses. A Neighbourhood Resources Centre and a Community Health Unit are also located off this corridor. This branch did not seem well-integrated with the rest of the mall and was not readily visible to visitors in the mall who did not pass by it directly. There was no signage advertising the library on the mall's outdoor sign and no signage within the mall, other than a large sign on the (windowless) library wall facing the mall concourse, which gave access to the rear entrance to the mall. One would have to know about this branch ahead of time before visiting or use the rear entrance. We were set up in the corridor just outside the entrance to the library. The library had steady use for most of the periods we were there, although it was quite difficult to recruit people to complete the questionnaires. Most people seemed to come in either to drop off books or to pick up new books from the hold shelf. The self-checkout machine was in constant use. When asked to participate, patrons often said they were too busy or did not like to do surveys. However, we were able to collect 76 questionnaires and conduct seven interviews at this branch. Library B

Library B is also located in a mall. The neighbourhood surrounding the mall, however, is quite different from that of Library A. Library B's neighbourhood consists mainly of apartment buildings with very few .single-family homes. The neighbourhood is known for the number of seniors who live in the apartment buildings. Because this neighbourhood is close to the university there are also a significant number of students who live here as well as a growing number of immigrant families. The mall in which Library B is located contains a Victorian Order of Nurses office, a medical appliance store, and a house of worship, as well as retail outlets such as a shoe store and a dress shop, which seem to cater mainly to the senior population. Other shops include an LCBO, a Dollar Store, Shoppers Drug Mart, hair salon, and an optician's shop. This mall was very busy on the days we were collecting data. Since it is only a short walk from the apartment buildings to the mall, it is easy for residents to get to, especially during the winter months. A food court located in the centre ofthe mall was usually occupied, with many customers appearing to sit and visit for long periods of time. The library was also busy during the days we were there. The entrance to the library opens directly into the mall, with a wide entrance, and large glass windows provided an unobstructed view into the interior of the library. To the left: of the library


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entrance is a comfortable seating area, which was occupied by people reading newspapers and magazines on most of our visits. To the right of the entrance is a circulation desk, which often had a line-up of people waiting to check out books or talk to the library staff. A self-checkout machine was rarely used. People seemed very interested in our study and we had no trouble recruiting people to participate. We usually were able to get 10 questionnaires completed each hour. We collected 78 questionnaires at this branch and conducted four interviews. Library C

Library C is located in one ofthe poorer neighbourhoods ofthe city. The neighbourhood is dominated by single-family homes and low-rise apartment buildings. The library is located at the corner of a busy through street and a residential street. Just opposite the library is a Beer Store and across the street are a Polish delicatessen and a Dollar Store. Next door is a seniors' centre. A library has been at this site since 1922; however, the current building is new, completed in 2002, with large floor-toceiling windows dominating two sides ofthe building. The library shares its space with a Neighbourhood Resource Centre, which includes Youth Services, an Ontario Early Years Program, mental health services, and a "food cupboard" that provides emergency food aid to local residents. The library also contains an Employment Resources Centre that is ftinded by Industry Canada. The two meeting rooms are shared by the library and the resource centre. A drop-in pre-school program, part of the Ontario Early Years Program, meets in one of the meeting rooms three days a week. The library itself is bright and cheerful, with new ftirniture and up-to-date computer equipment. While we were there an artists group met in one of the meeting rooms. This is largely a selfcontained program that has been meeting on Friday afternoons "for ages," a library stafl" member told us. A board game group, attended mainly by adult males, also met on the Saturday when we were there. Again this is a long-standing program that has little direct input from the library except to provide space. We were also able easily to get people to complete our questionnaires or agree to be interviewed most of the time. We noticed that as we came back to the branch each day that the same people would be there. However, on the one evening we were there, there were very few adults in the library. Although we spent nearly three hours at the library that evening, we were able to collect only 10 questionnaires. Perhaps not coi neiden tally, a number of teenagers were hanging about and using up the chairs in the lounge area. They were

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Library service area population and sample characteristics

%o\er65 % >bach $50,000

Figure / ; Distribution of participant characteristics across data collection sites

frequently coming in and leaving and then coming back again, obviously feeling very comfortable in the library space. They seemed to use the library mainly to visit with one another. We collected 69 questionnaires and conducted five interviews at Library C. Figure 1 is a visual representation of the differences among the three library sites and the general population for the library service areas. The first bar of each colour represents the general population ofthe library service area and the second bar represents the sample. The major differences appear to be for education for Library A and C, where the sample of both areas is much more highly educated than the population of the library service area in general. For Library A as well, the sample also has a significantly higher income level than the surrounding population. A total of 226 people completed questionnaires in the branch libraries. Data collection in the malls

In order to gain participation from non-library users we also administered the questionnaires in two commercial malls in the city. The two malls selected represent two different income areas, one middle income (South Mall) and the other lower to middle income (East Mall). The South Mall is a large commercial mall containing over 175 stores including a Wal-Mart, the Bay, Sears, and Zellers, and a number of retail chain stores. The East Mall is a smaller neighbourhood mall that contains a Wal-Mart, nofrills grocery store. Winners, Sportchek, and a bulk food



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Table 1 : Demographic characteristics of participants in mall survey South Mall (%)

East Mall (%)

Over 65 yeors



University degree



< $15,000












> $50,000




store, as well as a few smaller chain stores. We obtained permission from the management of each mall to set up our data-collection tables inside the mall, but we were restricted from moving away from the tables to recruit participants. We hired four master's students in the LIS program to collect the questionnaire data in the malls. They worked in pairs for a total of 160 hours over three weeks in March 2009. While we had estimated that they would be able to collect 2 questionnaires an hour, it proved more difficult than expected to convince shoppers to participate. On their own volition, the research assistants devised several methods to induce people to participate, including offering participants free coffee and donuts, a chance to win a draw for a book prize, and crayons and colouring books to occupy children while their parents completed the questionnaires. In the end they managed to collect 205 questionnaires, or 1.3 questionnaires an hour. Neither of these malls contained a library, but there were branches nearby. Table 1 presents the age, education, and income characteristics of participants recruited at each of the malls. In general the South Mall participants were slightly younger and better educated and had higher incomes than the East Mall participants. An unanticipated outcome was that most of the people recruited in the shopping malls were also library users. Only 9% of the participants said that they had never used a library. Rather than consider this sample separate from the sample recruited in the libraries, therefore, we decided to combine both samples in order to achieve a better balanced sample based on library usage. Table 2 depicts the rate of library use for both the library and the mall samples.

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Table 2: Library use of library and mall samples

Mall (%]

Combined (%)




6-25 times (moderate)




Over 25 times (high)




Library use 0-5 times (low)

Library (%)

Table 3: Demographic characteristics of combined study sample Characteristics






Living alone


Employed full time




University degree


Income < $15,000








> $50,000


Note: Mean age, 49

Witb tbe mall sample almost evenly divided between low, moderate, and bigb usage, adding tbem to tbe library-recruited sample results in a better balanced sample based on library use—tbe variable of most interest in tbe data analysis. 7-tests were conducted on tbe two samples to determine whether tbeir demographic characteristics differed significandy. There were no significant differences between tbe two samples based on demographic cbaracteristics. Wben combined, tbe total sample consists of 431 participants. Table 3 presents tbe cbaracteristics of tbe combined sample. For the combined sample, participants were older, witb a mean age of 49 years when compared with tbe city as a whole, wbich had a mean age of 38 years. Twenty-one per cent of the sample were over 65 years—a figure almost equal to that of tbe city population, which bad 19% of its


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population over age 65. The median income for all census families in 2006 was $67,000, seeming to indicate that the sample population was not as well off as the city as a whole. The sample also contains a higher percentage of people with a university degree, compared with the city at 36% and 20% respectively. Questionnaire study

The questionnaires were designed to elicit information about participants' library use, their demographic characteristics, and indicators of their level of social capital. We administered two versions of the questionnaires—one to the participants we recruited in the library branches and the other for participants we recruited at the shopping malls. The only difference between the two was that the mall questionnaire did not ask about participants' library use, since it was assumed they had not used the library. We did ask, however, whether they had ever used the library and how frequently. Many of the questions relating to library use were based on questions asked in a study that was sponsored by the Americans for Libraries Council (Public Agenda 2006). Questions designed to elicit indicators of community social capital were drawn from Robert Putnam's Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey developed by the Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America Project at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. This survey has been administered to nearly 50 communities in the United States. Tbe questions were designed to measure levels of trust, community involvement, and civic engagement. We used a position generator to elicit measurements of individual social capital. This is a research instrument developed by Nan Lin (2001b), which consists of a list of occupations that are ranked in order of prestige scores. For this study a list of 17 occupations was created based on industries and occupations that are common in the research area. Prestige scores are based on Ganzeboom and Treiman's study (1996) on occupational prestige. Participants were asked to put a check mark beside any occupation in which they knew someone "well enough to talk to." Two measures of individual social capital were derived from this instrument: reach, which is access to the top four occupations based on prestige scores, and diversity, which is the number of different occupations in which a person knows someone. This instrument has been used in several research studies and has been found to be a reliable and valid measurement of individual social capital (Lin and Erickson 2008).

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Participants in the questionnaire study generally had a very high opinion of libraries, regardless of whether or not they were frequent library users. Table 4 presents responses to the question, "In today's world, with Internet access and online and large booksellers such as Amazon and Chapters/Indigo, do you think libraries have become more, less, or the same in importance to their community?" Table 4: Importance of libraries to library a n d mall participants Library (%)

Mall (%)










The library and mall sample responses are separated here to illustrate the similarities and differences between the two samples. For instance, twice as many respondents in the mall sample felt that libraries had grown less important as a result ofthe prevalence ofthe Internet and online bookstores. Remember that 9% of the mall sample said that they had never used a library. However, a similar proportion of the samples also felt that the library had the same importance, despite these influences. A similar question was asked in the Long Overdue study sponsored by the Americans for Libraries Council and administered via telephone to a random sample of residents of the United States (Public Agenda 2006). In that study a signiflcantly larger percentage of respondents (36%) indicated that libraries had become less important to their communities (74). This may be the result of the sampling methodology used. Also, the responses to the statement "The library is a safe place to go in my community" were very similar between the two samples. Seventy-one per cent of the mall sample agreed strongly with this statement, which was only slightly less than the 78% of the library sample who also agreed strongly with the statement. Again, both of these responses are much higher than the responses to a similar question asked of library users in Australia, where 61% ofthe respondents agreed strongly with the statement (State Library of New South Wales 2000). Although the diflierences in methodologies between the studies make it difficult to make such comparisons, the stronger positive response to the questions by respondents to this study may indicate that the city library has made a strong


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connection with the community and thus has garnered a high level of support from residents. In general, however, most people, whether they are library users or not, hold the institution in high regard and believe it serves an important function in society (Public Agenda 2006). In the following discussion of findings from this study, the correlations between library use (low, moderate, and high, see table 2) and social capital indicators were measured. A Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient with a confidence level of less than .05 was considered a significant relationship, and less than .01 a highly significant relationship. Community involvement

Seven questions in the questionnaire asked about the participants' involvement in community activities. The questions were: 1.

Within the last five years have you worked on a project to improve community life?


Within the last five years have you ever attended a school or town meeting?


Do you know a community leader (for example, but not limited to, an elected official, spiritual leader, club president, business leader, community activist) well enough to talk to?


Within the last five years have you attended a club or organization meeting?


Have you ever been an officer on a committee of a club or organization?


Have you ever volunteered?


When was the last time you attended a program at a community or recreation centre? (Answers ranged from never to within the last month.)

The responses are presented in table 5. While over half of respondents answered positively to questions related to community involvement, only two of these indicators are statistically related to library use: having attended a club meeting and having been an officer in a club. Obviously these two indicators are also highly correlated with each other. Although most respondents were quite heavily involved in community activities, this involvement is not correlated strongly with

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Table 5: Correlation between library use and Indicators of community involvement Indicator


Worked on o project


Altended school meeting


Know community leader


Attended club meeting


Have been officer in a club




Attended community program


*p< .05, "p