If we don't take that who will: an ethnographic exploration of a local studies collection in an Australian public library

PhD Thesis

Forsyth, Ellen. 2023. If we don't take that who will: an ethnographic exploration of a local studies collection in an Australian public library. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/z3v6z

If we don't take that who will: an ethnographic exploration of a local studies collection in an Australian public library

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorsForsyth, Ellen
1. FirstProf Helen Partridge
2. SecondProf Celmara Pocock
3. ThirdDr Kate Davis
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages266
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationAustralia
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/z3v6z

With Australia’s diverse population, it is important that each local studies collection reflects and represents the heterogeneity of its community. Research suggests that collecting practices can contribute to bias, such as limited collection of digital original materials. A wider investigation of how collecting bias contributes to unrepresentative local collections has not previously been undertaken. This thesis addresses this problem through an ethnographic investigation of local collections policies and practices in an Australian public library and argues for a social justice approach to collecting. This study is positioned within a critical theory paradigm, a research tradition focused on questions of power, inequity and social change, directly relevant to the research question. The research findings identify the opportunities for, and difficulties of, collecting diverse content for local studies collections. They also identify factors that make it difficult to implement a strategic approach to local collections. Local studies collections are rarely able to reject unsolicited donations, which limits the capacity of staff to implement more proactive collecting. Drawing on the idea of mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors, the thesis highlights how a social justice framework for local studies collecting in public libraries can ensure greater inclusivity and equity. Such approaches can amplify voices that may have been silenced and make people and themes with little visibility much more apparent within local studies collections. A social justice approach to local studies has the potential to provide a more representative record of the community as a wider range of voices and stories are documented, collected and preserved. This would be beneficial to the local communities that libraries serve, ensuring greater engagement from and ownership by underrepresented groups. It also serves to ensure that local studies collections have greater depth, representation and range of content for research.

KeywordsDiversity; equity and inclusion; Local studies collections; Public libraries; Social justice
Contains Sensitive ContentDoes not contain sensitive content
ANZSRC Field of Research 20204610. Library and information studies
Public Notes

File reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher/author/creator.

Byline AffiliationsSchool of Humanities and Communication
Permalink -


Restricted files

Published Version

  • 39
    total views
  • 0
    total downloads
  • 6
    views this month
  • 0
    downloads this month

Export as