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Literature Promotion in Public Libraries – Between Policy, Profession and Public Management

Gitte Balling holds a PhD in literary aesthetic experiences. She is a assistant professor at The Royal School of Library and Information Science where she teaches courses on cultural promotion and media culture. Her research interests are cultural promotion, literature sociology and cultural policy.

Nanna Kann-Christensen holds a PhD on organizational development in public libraries. She is associate professor at The Royal School of Library and Information Science where she teaches courses on library development. Her research interests are library development, cultural policy and organization studies.

This article discusses a model that can be used in order to analyse notions on literature promotion in public libraries. The model integrates different issues which interact with how literature promotion is understood and thought of in public libraries. Besides cultural policy we regard the logics of new public management (NPM) and professional logics in the field of public libraries. Cultural policy along with the identification of underlying logics present among politicians, government officials, managers and librarians/promoters of literature, play an important part in creating an understanding of literature promotion in Danish libraries. Thus the basic premise for the development of the model is that cultural policy (Policy) has an important influence on notions on literature promotion and other activities in public libraries, but that cultural policy must be seen in some kind of interaction with the logics of the profession (Profession) and NPM (Public management). The article further examines interrelations between Policy, Profession and Public Management. The article identifies a consensus between the NPM logic and the professional logic of the librarians regarding issues of measurement and visibility, and between cultural policy rationales and the NPM logic regarding the view on users. Finally a conflict regarding the goals of policy and librarians is identified. The article concludes that NPM as a means does not colonize the ends of cultural policy and literature promotion, but that the instrumental aspects of cultural policy in the field of public libraries have difficulties gaining access to the practice in public libraries.

Key words: Libraries, Literature promotion, Librarians, Literature, Professional identity, Library Policy, Users, New Public Management.


The public library is a central institution for promotion of literature in Denmark. Libraries are constantly striving to develop both new and traditional forms of dialogue with users regarding literature, both in the physical space of libraries, but also largely on existing and emerging digital platforms. In this article we aim at developing a model that integrates different issues which interact with how literature promotion is understood and thought of in public libraries. Literature promotion in this context is defined as the special efforts which are made at public libraries in order to increase the interest for and lending of literature. This covers both exhibition, literature events e.g. book talks, book clubs, and reader advisory.

The model consists of three interconnected issues that relate to literature promotion. Besides cultural policy we regard the logics of new public management (NPM) and professional logics in the field of public libraries. Cultural policy along with the identification of underlying logics present among politicians, government officials, managers and librarians/promoters of literature, play an important part in creating an understanding of literature promotion in Danish libraries. Thus the basic premise for the development of the model is that cultural policy (Policy) has an important influence on notions on literature promotion and other activities in public libraries, but that cultural policy must be seen in some kind of interaction with the logics of the profession (Profession) and NPM (Public management).

Within an institutional perspective the three P’s derive from three different institutional fields. The policy field is concerned with policy making, and has the society as its turning point. The profession is concerned with the library, in this case the practical literature promotion. NPM is basically not concerned with any ends, it is an administrative recipe primarily concerned with efficiency. From this perspective one would expect that arguments and logics from the three P’s would be seen as contradictory or conflicting. On the other hand, the library professions raison d’être is to carry out the cultural policy of any given government. Thus public libraries exist as a result of cultural policy. NPM can be seen as an emerging logic, potentially in conflict with both Policy and Profession, because it wants to incorporate means from the private sector/business world into the field of culture, where the profession is concerned with the content of librarianship, not efficiency or competition.

In this article we want to analyse the relations between the three P’s regarding conflict and consensus. Our research question therefore concerns how and when conflict or consensus between Policy, Profession and Public management can be identified. In analysing the empirical material we have a special focus on users and the way users is regarded, both from a political perspective and from an institutional perspective. The argument for this focus can be found both in the political discourse regarding libraries and other cultural institutions where a strong user orientation is emphasised (Kulturministeriet 2009; Styrelsen for Bibliotek og Medier 2010a) and in the professional raison d’être among librarians that to a large extend is concerned with user contact and user satisfaction (Ørom 1993, Kann-Christensen 2009, Johannsen 2009).

Empirical and theoretical perspectives

The empirical foundation for this article consists of two kinds of data; political documents and in depth interviews.

Library and literature policy is often being implemented at the institutional level through examples, guidelines and analysis presented in publications from the Ministry of Culture or the Danish Agency for Library and Media. The empirical foundation for this article therefore consists of the most recent reports where guidelines in relation to literature promotion play a role. We have chosen to include the report The Public Libraries in the Knowledge Society (Folkebibliotekerne i Videnssamfundet) (Styrelsen for Bibliotek og Medier, 2010a), and the latest national cultural policy Culture for everybody (Kultur for alle) (Kulturministeriet, 2009). The national cultural policy constitutes an overall view on the political intentions and expectations to cultural institutions in general whereas the library report presents the political intentions regarding public libraries. Through them we will seek to identify logics and rationales on a political level. Thus document analysis is a key research method in this article.

Further we base our analysis on qualitative in depth interviews conducted with central actors in the field. The interviews have been carried out in three of the six Danish county libraries (A, B, C), thus covering half the county libraries. County libraries are large public libraries who act as county libraries when it comes to “tasks aimed at a regional co-ordination within a defined geographical area and at strengthening professional skills in the libraries” (Act Regarding Library Services, 2000). County libraries has been selected due to the fact that large libraries have the size and the means to focus more intensive on literature promotion to the point where several of them has created jobs almost solely concerned with promotion of literature. We have conducted in depth interviews with librarians (2), other academic library staff (2) and library managers (3) during the fall 2010. This has been done in order to identify the notions that are present among professionals and managers in the field.

The article takes its theoretical point of departure in institutional theory and the concept of institutional logics. Institutional theory is concerned with resilient aspects of social structure and with the discussion on how conformity to these structures legitimizes practices in fields and organizations.

Institutional theory argues that social actions must be seen in relation to the institutional context (Scott, 2001). In this way institutional theory confronts the notion or logic of rationality as the predominant reason for understanding organizational behaviour. Institutional logics have been dealt with by several researchers. In an influential book March & Olsen (1989) point to the relevance of other logics than the rational logic of consequence which people and organizations act by. One of these is logic of appropriateness. We do what is appropriate for us in the situation we have to deal with. Thornton & Ocasio (2008) discusses institutional logics – a concept that supports the understanding of how various topics attain meaning in a field. Institutional logics determine how various factors within the field achieve attention. It is suitable to use the concept of institutional logics in order to understand the relationship between policy, public management and profession in the field of public libraries and the literature promotion that takes place here, since the library field is both homogeneous, but also to a certain extent can be characterized by conflicting logics (Kann-Christensen 2009).

To further qualify the discussion and in order to cover policy, public management and profession we add the concept of rationales (Skot-Hansen 1999, 2005), as it is used in cultural policy research, and also the concept of logic, as it is used by Joli Jensen in her work concerning arts advocacy (Jensen, 2003). The question here is whether one can juxtapose the concepts of rationale, logic and institutional logics? Since the three concepts to some extent cover the same fields and are partly overlapping, a discussion of the concepts and their interrelation seems appropriate.

The concept of rationales has been widely used in the research on cultural policy (see Skot-Hansen 1999, 2005; Belfiore 2004; Grøn 2010). In the work of Skot-Hansen the concept of rationales has been used to identify and frame changes in the intentions embedded in the cultural policy in Denmark. Skot-Hansen uses the national and regional cultural policy documents as well as the actual allocation of subsidies to identify changes in rationales and cultural policy intentions. The concept of rationale is thus connected to the political level where the rules and direction of cultural policy in praxis are articulated. Skot-Hansen uses the word strategy synonymously with the word rationale (Skot-Hansen 1999, p. 17), which further points at the concepts relation to a political strategic level. In her later works Skot-Hansen (2005, 2006) adopts Joli Jensen’s concept of logics.

The concept of logic, as it is used by Joli Jensen in her article on expressive logic is understood as a perspective, which colours the way arts advocates view art. Jensen thus speaks from the position of what can be defined as the cultural elite (e.g. critics, intellectuals, arts advocates) (Jensen 2003). Furthermore Jensen speaks from the professional level. Even though it can be discussed whether literature promoters are part of the cultural elite, they will certainly share the views on arts and arts advocacy put forward in the article by Jensen.

Jensen’s concept of logic can be compared to the concept of institutional logics as it is used in institutional theory. Institutional theory is concerned with social behaviour and decision making in organizations and how this behaviour can be analyzed (Kann-Christensen 2008). Institutional logic is a core concept in institutional theory that since it was first introduced by Alford & Friedland (1985) has been further developed and discussed. In this article we base our understanding of the concept on Thornton & Ocasio’s work that defines institutional logics as: “the socially constructed, historical patterns of material practices, assumptions, values, beliefs, and rules by which individuals produce and reproduce their material subsistence, organize time and space, and provide meaning to their reality” (Thornton & Ocasio 2008, p. 101). The concept of institutional logic is thus strongly connected to professional practice at an institutional level, and to a large extend relate to professional identity.

The concept of rationales emanates from a political strategic level and can be viewed as something which to some extent influences or frames the practice. Further, a rationale is not necessarily institutionalized. Since our object of analysis contains both the political and the practical level, it makes sense to include both the concept of logic and the concept of rationale but also to keep the difference between these concepts in mind. The practical implications are that logics are connected to people (i.e. professionals), rationales to politics.

Policy, Profession and Public Management

In the following we will go further into the discussion of the interrelation between the three P’s in order to answer our research question regarding whether we can find conflicts or consensus between them. Firstly we discuss the three P’s in relation to users and literature promotion in libraries. The presentation and discussion are based on the empirical data as mentioned above supplemented with existing research on the subject. On this background we go further into the discussion by describing the relations between the three P’s with focus on conflict or consensus. Finally we discuss the result of the analysis.

The model of analysis consists of the three P’s and their relation to literature promotion in public libraries as shown below:1

Model 1. Three P's in literature promotion


P for Policy: Cultural policy and logics in arts advocacy

The development of cultural policy in Denmark is usually understood through the concept of rationales. In two influential articles, Skot-Hansen has argued that cultural policy since the 1960’s has developed from a humanistic rationale as the principal argument, over a sociological rationale to the emergence of an instrumental rationale in the 1980’s (Skot-Hansen 1999, 2005). In Skot-Hansen’s latest model (Skot-Hansen 2006) she refines her own theory and creates an understanding of cultural policy where all guidelines and activities serve a purpose and therefore can be seen as instrumental. Nevertheless new concepts such as experience and entertainment have emerged in the cultural sector. This transforms cultural policies and therefore also literature promotion in the direction of more user involvement and user acknowledgement. A similar understanding can be found in the work by Joli Jensen (2003) on arts advocacy. Jensen introduces the concept of instrumental logic versus expressive logic and connects it to the concept of aesthetic experiences. According to Jensen the instrumental logic is closely connected to a traditional, elitist and excluding approach to art advocacy, with a clear distinction between “good” and “bad” culture. Arts advocacy with focus on an expressive logic, on the other hand, is defined by tolerance and inclusiveness both regarding forms of culture, types of aesthetic experiences and regarding participants (users).

Danish public libraries are subject to the Act regarding Library services from 2000. During a heated debate concerning literature promotion, new media and demand oriented librarianship in 2008 certain voices began to question whether this act was still sufficient. After this debate wore off a report on The Public Libraries in the Knowledge Society (Styrelsen for Bibliotek & Medier, 2010a) was published. This report has already gained wide impact in the public libraries, and can be seen as an element in the instrumental cultural policy regarding activities in the public libraries.

In the report The Public Libraries in the Knowledge Society the above mentioned tendencies regarding instrumental rationales and logics can be retrieved. Thus the library as institution is viewed as a central player in the development of the society at large, both as a provider of information but also as an institution where information is organized according to quality, diversity and actuality. The library is still being characterized as a provider of enlightenment, education and cultural activity, but these classic virtues are not emphasized as a way to support the creation of democratic citizens. Instead library services are seen as a way to support the development of the Danish society in an increasingly challenging competitive globalization:

In the knowledge society the public library’s efforts to further enlightenment, education and cultural activity is more important than ever before. Society’s value creation is to an increasing extent based on the citizen’s ability to transform information into knowledge and to use this knowledge to create new values. Due to increased competition, which is a result of the globalization, this value creation becomes even more essential (Styrelsen for Bibliotek og Medier, 2010b, p. 6).

In the mandate for the committee behind the report, the task of the report is closely connected to the Danish globalization strategy. The report asserts the role of public libraries in relation to the “challenges facing the knowledge society, the globalization strategy’s focus on education, lifelong learning and societal cohesive force” (Styrelsen for Bibliotek & Medier 2010b, p. 3). In the mentioned Globalization strategy (Regeringen 2006) it is evident that societal cohesion and the competitiveness of the Danish society are two sides of the same coin. In this manner it can be argued that libraries are to support the competitiveness of Denmark as a nation, which points at the library policy as driven by an instrumental rationale.

At the same time the library is being characterized as a provider of enlightenment, education and cultural activity, which relates to the humanistic rationale, but with a strong consideration of the cultural diversity and equality which characterizes the late modern society. This late modern version of the humanistic rationale also points to an increasingly acknowledging view of the library users. The same inclusive view on users can be found in the official cultural policy, where it is emphasized, that the art and culture is for every Dane, who should experience the cultural institutions as inclusive and not excluding (Kulturministeriet 2009, p. 10). As a consequence of this perspective, non-users are paid a great deal of attention. The minister of culture underlines that all cultural institutions should have special focus on non-users, both in relation to the cultural activities offered by the institution, but also in the shape of user involvement and participation.

In the report The Public Libraries in the Knowledge Society (Styrelsen for Bibliotek & Medier 2010a) literature promotion is emphasized as a core activity for libraries and the report encourages the libraries to develop new and different promotion strategies which on the one hand appeal to citizens and on the other hand motivated users to lifelong learning. The library is defined as a showroom for the new literature, “a showroom that not only contains the new literature as physical materials, but also supports it with activities spreading from the dialogue based meeting with authors to writing workshops” (Styrelsen for Bibliotek & Medier 2010a, p. 52, our translation). The report points at the challenge connected to the question on quality. Due to the late modern changes in cultural taste, it had become difficult to manage an aesthetic and professional based concept of quality. Still the libraries strive to operate on a quality based understanding of literature, but “the user orientation has a strong influence, and thus also the dogma which recognizes that there are many paths leading to the good reading experience, and no authoritative promoter should dictate it” (Styrelsen for Bibliotek & Medier 2010a, p. 53, our translation).

Seen as a whole the current cultural policy and library policy balances between a classic understanding of culture and literature as supporting for enlightenment and education, which relates to the humanistic rationale, and on the other side a strong instrumental understanding of culture institutions as means to political ends, e.g. the handling of global competition. The user is acknowledged as someone, who not only wants materials made available, but also seeks experiences and influence. As a consequence the concept of quality is increasingly based on the user experience and a more diverse perspective on taste and quality.

P for Profession: Professional logics

The professional identity of librarians has been analyzed and described in several places. Some researchers have focused on the stereotype (Radford & Radford 2003), others on the library profession (Schreiber 2006). In the following we will present a brief overview on the research done in this area and provide an elaboration of this through a discussion of interviews with librarians conducted in relation to this article.

Ørom (1993) represents an early but important discussion of librarian identity. He describes two different classical librarian identities that are in play from the 1960’s and onwards. The first one is related to promotion of culture in the library. The second one is related to information retrieval. Both identities are associated to knowledge about the library’s materials and a close contact with the users. Ørom discusses how technology challenges these two identities. In the time when Ørom wrote this article the technological aspects of librarianship was not yet institutionalized, and the article suggests that technological advances in the library would challenge the two identities because it would create a focus on service rather than enlightenment (Ørom 1993). Understandably Ørom didn’t envisage web 2.0 but today it is reasonable to argue that technology hasn’t merely produced a service oriented librarian identity. Technology also play an important role, both regarding promotion of culture and information as well as it enables new communication possibilities between librarians and users as well as among users (Balling, et al. 2008).

Jochumsen & Hvenegaard Rasmussen (2006b) analyzes Danish public library periodicals from 1964 up until today. They show that among librarians, a certain discourse and attitude towards users has evolved from an unambiguous (elitist) concept of quality to be presented to users towards a wish to get in touch with the public on their terms. The latter attitude became consolidated during the 1990s and forward and is explained through the theoretical perspective of the late modern society. Accordingly, by now, no one in the field of public libraries will question that public libraries should reflect their users’ preferences and needs. It has become an institutionalized norm. Johannsen (2009) confirms the conclusions regarding librarians view on users.

Another study relevant for this research show that librarian logics today can both be in conflict and in harmony with NPM logics (Kann-Christensen 2009). Kann-Christensen confirms Ørom’s notions on librarian identity when she shows that both at field level and organizational level the librarian logic, regard user contact and promotion of information and culture as crucial issues. Furthermore it is shown that the librarian profession, in principle is not opposed to either pressure for efficiency nor continuous change of the library. However one can identify a resistance towards changes in the library that take away the possibility for the librarians to influence their organization and work.

As mentioned above Ørom emphasizes knowledge of materials as a core part of the librarian identity. The empirical study made for this article shows that librarians who work with literature all read themselves and have a profound love for literature.

Our study also shows that the interviewees have deep empathy for users. Users are people who should be respected, not only as a means to a customer satisfaction end, but because it is part of the librarian’s job:

The most important for me is not that people learn something about literature. The most important is that they have had a good and pleasant experience, and also that they feel that they themselves has been in focus (C3).

I hope that people leave the library enriched and with a broader horizon (...) and they should also feel very well welcomed. Kindly treated, respected and understood. [They should feel] that people here at the library engage in listening to them and talking with them (B1).

The two statements are almost identical, and points to a librarian identity that seem to be stretched between a customer and service oriented view of themselves and their users, but also a profound interest in and love for literature.

Similar conclusions can be found in the work of Jofrid Karner Smidt in her study on the literary taste among Norwegian librarians (Karner Smidt 2002). Karner Smidt concludes that librarians are concerned about not to educate or sermonize. Rather they emphasise the democratic ideal and equality as a central value in their professional work. They are aware that people have different taste, but they regard all tastes as important.

The significant focus on the user, as can be found in the above mentioned studies, also points in the direction of a view on users as a customer or an equal partner in the continuous development of the library. Librarians and literature promoters therefore to a greater extent than before take users preferences into consideration, although they also build some of their professional identity on knowledge on materials, enlightenment and experience rationales.

P for Public management: Customer orientation and visibility

When the local public library engages in contracts with the municipality regarding goals concerning new user groups, lending rates or other issues concerning the organization and service of the library it is because all public institutions have had to work actively to take in reforms of NPM (Kann-Christensen 2009). NPM is concerned with improving the efficiency of the public sector through the means of the market, and have been institutionalized both as reforms, discourse and logics in the entire western world (Hood 1991; Greve 2002; Belfiore 2004; Hood & Peters 2004).

It is a commonly accepted fact that libraries today must tend to the visibility, competition and performance measurements in order to be successful. These demands are in different ways related to the concept of New Public Management, but can also be viewed as general demands in the late modern society (Jochumsen & Hvenegaard Rasmussen 2006a; Kann-Christensen & Andersen 2009; Buschman 2003). NPM is based on a belief that competition among institutions will improve the quality of the services they provide. Consequently public libraries become subject to measurement, evaluation, comparison, etc. The underlying intent of these efforts is to make production and use of resources in the public sector more controllable, legitimate and transparent (Jarlov & Melander 2005). In cultural policy studies NPM has been criticized for focusing on quantitative output such as lending rates instead of focusing on the impact of cultural activities in society (see e.g. Greve 2002; Belfiore 2004).

It can be discussed to what extend the NPM logic focuses on users. On the one hand NPM is concerned with administrative and managerial issues in the public organizations and with the agendas between the institutions and the policymakers. From this perspective there is no clear consequential user view. On the other hand the argument for reforming the public sector in the first place has always been the citizens (also known as tax payers or even users).

Following the NPM logic the library becomes a competitor on a market, and logically the user becomes a costumer. But it has also been argued that the customer view derives from other societal tendencies than NPM, e.g. the development of new consumption markets (Jochumsen & Hvenegaard Rasmussen 2006a). But it is also reasonable to argue that it is the emphasis on performance measurement that creates the customer satisfaction view (Kann-Christensen & Andersen 2009). When lending rates, number of visitors, number of home page clicks become performance indicators libraries act accordingly, and tries to increase these numbers by satisfying the customers’ wishes.

This also influences criteria for quality. In the empirical material one can see examples of statements where quantitative performance indicators affect how literature promoters asses the quality of their work:

There have to be people attending. It’s best if there are lots of people coming. I might as well be honest and say so. It’s no use to put an event together if only 7 people attend (B2)(on book talks).

Another criterion for success that can be linked to NPM is the librarians’ efforts to make the library visible in the community. This is important both in relation to politicians and to present and potential users:

(…) events are also a way to market the library, something I know a lot of library managers have focus on… that events also makes the library visible in the local community and among politicians (C3).

This reflects an assumption that if the library is visible, it will attract more users and thus gain more legitimacy. One way of interpreting these statements is that users become a means to legitimize the library to politicians who will evaluate the library in economic terms (performance measurement). In other words, it becomes imperative for libraries to be able to document that they have satisfied users and that they strive to make themselves visible to all potential customers. Apparently the NPM tool of quantitative performance measurement plays a role when it comes to understanding the library professional notions on the purpose and effects of literature promotion.

Interrelations: Conflict or consensus?

Since the three P’s derive from different institutional fields, we would expect public management to be in conflict with both policy and professional logics. Many studies from e.g. the health care sector have shown how professional logics are incompatible with NPM (Reay & Hinings 2005; Zeuthen Bentsen et al. 1999). On the other hand it can be argued that public management and policy spring from the same well, namely the political world. In Denmark it is the Ministry of Finance and its connected agencies that have been primus motor in the introduction of NPM reforms in the public sector. And interestingly we have identified issues in the empirical material where Public Management and Policy goes hand in hand.

When it comes to the cultural field the Ministry for Culture have a special and different context since its raison d'être from the beginning was to act as an antithesis to the cultural market and to secure Danish artist freedom of expression through financial support (Duelund 1995). This does not mean that The Ministry of Culture is NPM-free, but that we must expect to see conflicting logics in the relation between Policy and public management.

Consequently this means that we must expect a great deal of consensus between the cultural Policy and the Profession and a great deal of conflicts between Public managements and both the rationales of cultural Policy and the Profession. Since the obvious is less interesting we have chosen to focus on “the unexpected” conflicts and consensuses. Thus the following is primarily concerned with consensus between Public management and Policy and between Public management and Profession. Furthermore we will primarily discuss conflicts between Profession and Policy.

Cultural Policy and New Public Management: The countable user

Since NPM is a logic that challenges (and therefore must be expected to conflict) the traditional humanistic and sociological rationales of cultural policy (Skot-Hansen 1999), the most important issue to discuss in this section is the consensuses between the cultural policy rationales that can be identified in the field today and in the logic of NPM.

The parts of Public Management that we focus upon in this article, regard measurement and efficiency. When analyzing consensus between Policy and Public Management regarding literature promotion, the concept of “user” springs forth as a major source of consensus. The concept of user has emerged in the entire cultural field in the last decade. Earlier in the history of cultural institutions, the professionals regarded readers or patrons in libraries, visitors at museums, audiences in theatres etc. whereas today everybody is a user. The concept of users must be seen in relation to the concept of non-users who serves as a central argument for the current cultural policy strategy. Here it is emphasized that both libraries and other cultural institutions through their performance contract are obliged to focus on involvement of non-users (Kulturministeriet 2009). But why do we see this focus on non-users? The argument is twofold: on the one hand the latest cultural habits survey shows that one third of the Danish population never visit cultural institutions (Bille et al. 2005). The survey further shows that non-users primary can be found among senior citizens, unemployed and people from low-income groups. In the current cultural policy strategy it says: “Non-users are different groups of Danes, among them young people, immigrants and socially challenged” (Kulturministeriet 2009, p. 10, our translation). The political intention is to use cultural activities as a tool to empower less resourceful citizens. On the other hand participation in cultural activities is seen as a way to create common cultural points of orientation which will help to maintain the cohesiveness of the Danish society in a global and technological society:

When we all have common experience references, a common sense of the cultural heritage and of the way Danes have thought and felt through time, then it facilitates our common understanding. Then we get a common ground to stand on and to advance from (Kulturministeriet, 2009, p. 4) (our translation).

The concepts of users and non-users are interesting for two reasons. Firstly one can ask: what is a non-user? How do we define cultural activity? The political argument has its point of departure in surveys on the physical presence in cultural institutions or a visit on a website. A lot of young people are culturally active, but on other platforms and in other institutional environments than the public cultural institutions (Jenkins 2008). Non-users are in other words people whose cultural habits are incompatible with the public surveys.

Secondly – what is a user? The term user can be said to contain no information regarding the behaviour of the subject. Surveys initiated by the Danish Agency for Cultural Heritage are called user surveys, all the reports included in this article operates with the term user (Kulturarvsstyrelsen 2010). We are no longer readers, patrons, listeners, viewers, we are users. But how does one use a museum or a library? The concept of users can be defined as content or behaviour independent and can be applied on a variety of cultural institutions without problems. And one can argue that this is exactly why this term has been put into use – because it allows different cultural institutions to be compared. Cultural institutions are measured and controlled through performance contracts where it is important to be able to count the amount of people visiting the different institution. The term user allows bench marking between different libraries and between libraries and other cultural institution.

In this perspective one can argue that there exists consensus between a cultural policy that puts a great deal of emphasis on reaching as many people as possible and operates with user involvement as a mean to reaching that goal and a NPM logic that offers tools which makes measurement more easy. The political argument is primary concerned with social cohesion as protection against a global community. Cultural activities are to a smaller degree seen as something that in itself enriches people’s lives. Thus the two P’s correspond in what can be seen as more quantitative approach to users.

Public Management and Profession: The easily influenced profession

As stated above Public management and the library Profession has very different underlying logics. NPM has a more quantitative perspective on the library service whereas librarians have a more qualitative approach to materials and users. Apposing attitudes towards librarianship is thus to be expected. In this section we therefore want to examine consensus between NPM and professional logics.

As shown previously, the professional logics of library staff is strongly connected to user contact and knowledge of library materials. In the interviews we have made, the literature promoters (who had different educations and different positions in the organizations) displayed a profound interest in and love for literature, as well as a high level of job satisfaction due to good strong connections with readers (users). In this manner the literature promoters we have interviewed to a high extend display a consistent professional logic.

When it comes to NPM-features in literature promotion they are primarily concerned with performance measurement, customer satisfaction and efforts for making the library and its service visible in the communities. One librarian illustrates this point:

We have had a specific objective in our contract regarding higher lending rates. […] Our acquisition policy reflected this. We bought books so there wouldn’t be too long waiting time. We consciously fed the patrons with books, so they took out as many as possible. That’s what gives us the money. This is what we are rated upon. Very much so, and high visiting rates (A1).

Increased lending rates are emphasized as an effect of good literature promotion. The statement shows how certain efforts can increase the lending rates. This very explicit focus on performance measurement can be viewed as a result of the strong NPM influence in the libraries. And apparently the literature promoters do not resist this, rather it seems as they accept is as part of the terms they operate by.

But the interviewees also display a more implicit NPM-stance. An example of this is the answers to the question on best and worst experiences with literature promotion activities:

If I dig deep [into myself] the criterion for success is that there must be people attending. The result must be able to measure up against the efforts. I don’t want to put together something if only three people attend (C3).

The worst is if nobody shows up. That ruins my mood (A2).

Even though the necessary number of people varies in the above statements, the overall criterion for success regarding literary events in the library is the number of people attending. Nevertheless, it seems that the number of people attending the literary events (and the number of members in the book clubs) is very present in the interviews. This quantitative emphasis points towards a strong customer orientation or performative rationality (Kann-Christensen & Andersen 2009; Jochumsen & Hvenegaard Rasmussen 2006b; Johannsen 2009). The absence of users indicates that something has been done wrong. This can be either a wrong concept or lack of marketing. Nowhere in the interviews can it be identified that it is the users that are wrong in not attending (since the customer is always right?). The number of attendees becomes synonymous with the quality of the concept or event. Still the arguments put forward are twofold:

The first argument relates to the personal job satisfaction of the literature promoters. The second and most interesting argument regards the visibility of the library. Events market the library, and the more people who attend the more visible the library is to other potential customers. Literature promotion becomes a means to improve the library’s visibility. Actually the only thing that can make an otherwise poorly visited event a success is if it makes the library make the news. If the media reports from the event it is also a success.

When we did the speed-lit event, which is a variety of speed dating 22 people attended. […] that’s not a lot, but when you think about that the news reported live from the event […] and all the major news articles wrote about speed dating at our library, that made up for it; because we had a lot of publicity (C3).

The events brand the library as a place where something is happening. This is important both in relation to politicians and to present and potential users. This reflects an assumption that if the library is visible, it will attract more users and thus gain more legitimacy. A variant of this line of thinking is put forward by interviewees that link the quantity of users to a concern for how the taxpayers money are spend. The promotional activities must appeal to a broad audience; many citizens should benefit from the library. Thus quantitative performance measurement plays a role when it comes to understanding the library professional notions on the purpose and effects of literature promotion.

Why can conflicts between NPM and professional logics not be identified? Some explanations to this question can be found in the theoretical discussion of professional logics given previously. The professional logics of librarians and literature promoters have been subject to change several times due to many different reasons. Librarians have taken in technology (Ørom 1993), service rationales (Schreiber 2006) and new organizational forms (Kann-Christensen 2009). They have even changed their image of the patron (Jochumsen & Hvenegaard Rasmussen 2006a, Johannsen 2009). The constant in the professional logic is user contact and knowledge and promotion of lending materials. And NPM does not challenge this constant. NPM is seen only as a new way of practising literature promotion. It does not challenge the content of the practice. Neither NPM nor new technology prevents close user contact; therefore we find an overall consensus between Profession and Public Management in literature promotion.

Profession and Cultural Policy: Users as fellow readers

The interrelation between policy and profession can be characterized by consensus. As shown previously, the Danish cultural policy is anchored in a humanistic understanding of culture as something that has a positive impact on citizens and helps develop democratic and educated people. The current cultural policy can be said to balance between a humanistic and an instrumental rationale, which correspond with the professional logic that in their approach to users balances between a desire to create possibility for both enlightenment and experience.

Still a conflict can be identified in relation to the current cultural policy, where library services are seen as means to a higher goal, namely to strengthening Denmark’s competitiveness in a growing and competitive globalization. That cultural policy has a higher goal than the immediate needs of the users, is nothing new. Goals such as education and enlightenment of the citizens can be traced back to the establishing of the modern library (Skouvig 2007). This more humanistic goal is in perfect harmony with the view on literature promotion among librarians. In our interview material library promoters thus emphasizes the importance of literature promotion as being a good experience, but is should also to some extend support education:

[Users] should have a cultural experience and its fine if [they] leave the library more educated (C1).

The statement is a typical example of how librarians view their role as promoters and the overall goal of literature promotion. First and foremost people should have a good experience, and if the experience leaves a trace of knowledge it is fine. The close relation between the globalization strategy and library services as it is formulated in the political documents cannot be found in the professional logic of the librarians. The overall instrumental end of the cultural policy, with its focus on societal cohesion and the competitiveness is nonexistent both among librarians and library managers in our interviews. When asked about the ends of literature promotion on public libraries, librarians are more concerned with providing the users with a variety of experiences:

The purpose is to open people’s eyes, and I don’t only mean in relation to fine literature, but to the diversity which exists in literature (B1).

According to the librarian logic, the goal for literature promotion is not to make people more capable in order to support a development of society. Rather their view on literature promotion and reading experiences can be defined according to Joli Jensen’s concept on expressive logic:

The arts, as cultural forms, are valuable to us because of the aesthetic experience they offer, not because they “make us better.” If we focus, with Dewey, on aesthetic experiences, we can lose the worst instrumental logic and develop the possibilities of an expressive perspective (Jensen 2003, p. 76).

The goal with literature promotion is not a specific goal; it is not to reach a particular level of enlightenment or education. Rather our study suggests that librarians not so much are concerned with which books or genres users are interested in as long as they are interested in literature. They don’t judges the cultural taste or preferences of the users but support almost every whish from the users. This corresponds with the previously mentioned study of Karner Smidt. Librarians seem eager not to make any qualitative judgments regarding literature, but instead support a variety of individual reading experiences.

As shown above librarians have a passion for literature and for their users. They are perfectly aware of the fact that literature promotion is a core activity and that they are subject to demands regarding visitor and lending statistics, but that do not seem to be the reason why they perform literature promotion and engage in reader advisory activities. They engage because they are passionate readers themselves:

I have chosen to take my own top 5 or top 3. My favorite books, and then it’s just so nice to see people almost fight over them (on book talks) (A2).

The interviewees do not see themselves as being superior to the users. Rather than talking about users they talk about people and perceive them as fellow readers:

As we all know people want to participate, they like to be allowed to express their opinion. They also want to engage in another person, who respects their opinion. They don’t want a stern librarian to hit them in the head and tell them that it is not okay that they don’t understand Dostoevsky (C3).

Overall one can say that the conflict between cultural policy and profession has to with how we perceive cultural experiences. The librarians interviewed focused on the immediate experience of the reader, and were less concerned with a higher educational goal:

The most important thing for me is not that they [users] gain knowledge about literature. The most important is that they have a good and nice experience. And that they feel that they themselves have been in focus (C3).

This strong focus on experience and on user acknowledgement means that any discussion on quality falls silent. Not all librarians agree with this consequence, but it could indicate that it is appropriate between librarians to accept the overall norm regarding experiences.

Consequently the perception of users as fellow readers creates complications regarding the boundary between readers and library professionals. On the one hand the equal relation between librarians and users can be seen as a positive development away from the authoritative librarian as we know him and her from the past. On the other hand this equality oriented approach to promotion and users holds some problems regarding the role and position of the library professional. When asked about promotion strategies the interviewees do not refer to their professional knowledge regarding literature and promotion. Rather as the statements above reveal their arguments are tied to their own private literature preferences and reading experiences. This issue is not connected solely to library professionals, but is a condition that influences many professionals’ fields as a result of the grooving focus on users and user involvement.

Concluding discussion

In this article we have argued that three interrelated issues – the three P’s – can be used in order to understand how and why literature promotion is practiced in Danish public libraries. We have done so by exploring the relations between the three P’s. Furthermore we have concentrated on the unexpected relations regarding conflicts and consensus. Overall we must conclude that in all three of the examined relations we found unexpected consensus and conflicts.

Between Public Management and Cultural policy we found that in the current policy documents the user is someone who should count in a statistic. The Danish Ministry for Culture and the Agency for Library and Media are exceedingly preoccupied with a content-independent user concept. The user and certainly also the non-user play a major role in the cultural policy, both as a means to an end (the instrumental purposes of the policy) but also as a means to legitimize subsidies.

Between Profession and Public Management we found that the preoccupation with performance indicators is not questioned among the literature promoters. Performance measurement is a condition for the work, and is treated loyally as such. An explanation for this is that performance measurement does not pose any danger to the close relation between neither users nor literature. We do not perceive the distinct focus on the user just as a way to satisfy the customers. Rather the relation between the user and the literature promoter is characterized by recognition and a shared love for literature.

Between Cultural Policy and Profession we found a conflict regarding the way the purposes of the literature promotion are perceived. The cultural policy put forward in the documents we have examined are highly instrumental. The purpose of the cultural sector should be to support societal cohesiveness and to strengthen Denmark’s competitiveness in the knowledge society. The professional view of the purpose and effects of literature promotion is characterized by a more expressive logic perspective as well as a profound interest in the users as readers. Therefore we argue that the literature promoters do not share the political interest in the non-users.

The P for Policy represents purposes. Policy makers have goals for the current cultural policy. Libraries should support the challenges posed by globalization and competition in the knowledge society. The P for public management represents the means. How should the Danish society get the most out of the money? The P for Profession represents the performing part of the system. The profession consists of the ones who should bring together the ends and the means.

In this article we have shown that professional rationales to promote literature are corresponding, not with the current political goals but to in some ways with the NPM logic, and certainly with the expressive logic. The librarian logic actually brings together NPM logic as well as the expressive logic. This allows three possible interpretations:

Firstly, the good news would be that what arts advocates may fear – that the means (NPM) will colonize the ends – can be abolished. Literature promoters in Danish Libraries share a profound love of literature with their users. They want to provide users with many different experiences in order to enrich their lives.

Secondly this also means that the instrumental aspects of the cultural policy in the field of public libraries have difficulties gaining access to the practice in the public libraries. In short – librarians and literature promoters do not care much for their role in relation to globalization or the strengthening of Denmark’s competitiveness.

Thirdly it can be argued, that librarians still end up doing “the right thing”: They promote literature and they strive to make as many people as possible to come to the library. Maybe not for the right reasons (in the Policy perspective), but they agree with the strategies (the Public Management perspective) – even though the goals from the policies are decoupled from practice.

The professionals display an interesting aversion against making qualitative judgments and dispositions. The literature promotional activities are for everybody, all kinds of readers and all kinds of literature. In this manner literature promotion can be characterized as anti-authoritative and anti-elitist. But the question is whether librarians in the longer run will damage their own professional case if they continue to refuse to bring their professional relation to and knowledge of literature into play in the formulation of future promotional strategies.


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1 We are not the first to point at this triad of meaning / logics. See e.g. Schön and Rein (1994) who operate with three similar levels.

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