Printer Friendly

A place for all: social capital at the Mount Barker Community Library, South Australia.

From April-November 2004 a social capital audit was undertaken of the joint use Mount Barker Community Library in South Australia. The strategic direction of this joint public/Tafe library includes social inclusion and building community partnerships, key themes of the social capital model. Quantitative and qualitative methodologies were used in the audit which revealed that although most users perceive the traditional role of the library, new roles have developed and are developing. The Mount Barker Community Library contributes significantly to the social capital of the community it serves. Edited and shortened version of chapter 4 of the author's MA thesis 'Public libraries as developers of social capital: changing roles, values and mission' University of South Australia 2004.

The March 2005 issue of Aplis (18)1) pp4-22 contained a complementary article by the author 'Public libraries as developers of social capital'


This social capital audit report presents the findings of a study of the Mount Barker Community Library conducted from April-November 2004. The library is a joint use facility between the community and technical and further education (Tafe) and is located in one of the fastest growing regional areas of South Australia, the District Council of Mount Barker. It has a membership of 20,600 people and an annual budget of $1.37 million.

Quantitative and qualitative methodologies were used to gather data for the report (see appendix). These included a questionnaire survey of library users; formal interviews with four key stakeholders; informal discussions with library members and staff; and document analysis of strategic and business plans, policy reports, previous user surveys, census data, and other internal and external communications.

Social capital is defined as 'the processes between people which establish networks, norms, social trust and facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit'. It is the social fabric or 'glue' that holds a community together. (1) The stated philosophy underlying the strategic direction of the Mount Barker Community Library includes a commitment to developing social inclusion and building community partnerships, both key themes of the social capital model. It is in this context that the audit set out to identify and measure the extent to which the library is currently contributing to the social capital of the community it serves.

Community demographics

The Mount Barker Council district covers an area of 597 sq kms and is located 35 kilometres east of metropolitan Adelaide. It consists of farming areas as well as 15 mostly historic townships located within the Mount Lofty Ranges. The population of the district has increased from 20,255 in 1996 to 22,780 in 2001 and is steadily increasing by 2 per cent per annum. It is estimated that by the year 2011 the population will reach 32,704. (2)

An analysis of data from the 2001 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of population and housing revealed that

* there was significant growth in both young and more mature family age groups, with 66.9% of the population aged 0-17 and 2549

* income levels relative to the Adelaide statistical division showed a greater proportion of high income households and a lesser share at the low income end

* the educational qualifications of the population indicated a relatively skilled and educated workforce. About 36% noted some form of educational qualification

* the unemployment rate of 5.5% was lower than that of the Adelaide statistical division at 7.9%

* in comparison to the Adelaide statistical division, the country of birth data revealed less diversity in the range of countries of birth and a relatively smaller percentage of the population born overseas. There were also small numbers of recently arrived migrants with 76.2% of the overseas born population arriving before 1986. The share of people speaking English only was considerably higher than that of the Adelaide statistical division. The top five religions were all forms of Christianity. There was a larger proportion of people with no religion compared with the Adelaide statistical division

* the industry data revealed that the population was heavily concentrated in services employment, with the largest industries including wholesale and retail trade; education, health and community services; and finance, insurance and business services. Compared with the Adelaide statistical division, there was a considerably higher proportion of people employed in agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining

* the occupation data revealed that the largest occupations included clerical, sales and services workers, professionals and trades-persons. Compared with the Adelaide statistical division, there was a higher share of managers and administrators

* the proportion of computer users was higher than in the Adelaide statistical division

* there was a substantially higher share of households owning motor vehicles compared to the Adelaide statistical division

* the household data revealed that there was a greater share of 'couple with children' families

The data for household income, educational qualifications and employment status of the population are important indicators of the socioeconomic status of an area and reveal a relatively high socioeconomic status in the district. The country of birth, language spoken at home and ancestry and religion data are important indicators of cultural diversity. This data suggests a relative lack of cultural and ethnic diversity in the Mount Barker Council district.

Library demographics

The library which caters for this population is housed in a modem, attractive, state of the art building which opened in 1997 and is located on the Tafe campus. |t boasts much light and space and a well equipped toy library, local history centre and an independent learning centre housing a number of public access computers.

* the library membership in May 2004 was 20,612. Of these, 16,800 or 81% resided in the Mount Barker Council district. 10,508 (51%) of the total 20,612 members are regarded as active. Those classed as inactive have not borrowed any items for at least three years. Therefore 74% of the population of the district is a member of the library. This is a substantial figure

* 23% of all library members are aged 0-17 and 38% are aged between 25-49, totalling 61% of the entire library membership. This statistic compares favourably to the above ABS statistic of 66% suggesting that the library membership is fairly representative of the general population of the district

* 5.6% of library members are Tafe staff or students

* a surprising statistic was the small percentage (10%) of library members aged 60 and over. In contrast, the UTS study (3) found that 27.8% of library users surveyed were aged 60 and over. This may be due to its noncentral location which affects the accessibility of the library to the community

Key themes identified from the quantitative survey data

A survey consisting of quantitative and qualitative questions was distributed randomly to library users at the same time as the library's annual baseline survey over a week long period in June 2004. The quantitative part of the survey included demographic questions regarding gender, age and residence of participants; questions designed to gain information about the main reasons for visiting the library as well as any social aspects of the library visit ie whether people visited the library alone or with a significant other or others, whether they talked to others while at the library, whether they came to meet people, and so on. The qualitative questions were worded in an open ended manner and the focus was on asking questions which aimed to elicit user perceptions of the 'role', 'benefits', 'experience' and 'value' of the library service. The 250 responses represent a sample size of 1.2% of the total membership, or 2.5% of active members.

Demographic profile of library users


76% of the survey sample reside in the Mount Barker Council district with 24% living in adjoining council districts, the Adelaide metropolitan area, and more distant regional areas. 41% of the sample reside in Mount Barker. The library therefore caters for a diverse population which lives in areas well beyond its immediate community reach. Well over half (59%) of the respondents live outside the town in which the library is situated reflecting the fact that the community served by the library is not centred in one area, but dispersed over a very wide area.


68% of the total sample were female and 32% were male ie twice as many women as men answered the survey. There are no figures available for numbers of males and females in the library management statistics, but this figure certainly does not reflect the gender balance in the Mount Barker Council district. The census figures for the district indicate the breakdown is 48.7% males and 51.3% females. Therefore, a disproportionate number of women responded to the survey. This could reflect either a higher proportion of female membership or the likelihood that men do not frequent the library as often as women, whether they are members or not. Since the library is open for 52 hours of the week, and of these hours, only 12 (23%) fall outside the normal working hours of 9am-5pm, this too may offer a reason why fewer males responded to the survey, assuming that men may be occupied in the paid workforce. It is possible also that males may be less inclined to take the time to fill in a survey. However, female users are clearly in the majority suggesting that a socially inclusive policy needs to take into account ways of attracting more men to the library. This could include opening the library on Sundays and the remaining five evenings.

Age groups

* the smallest group of users fell in the 25-34 age group (9%) with the largest in the 35-49 age group (28%)

* the very young and the very old were well represented in the survey results. 25% of those surveyed were 24 years and under (11% of users surveyed were 17 and under), while 21% of those surveyed were over 60

* the age groups were structured in line with the ABS census age structure so that comparisons could be made. Some of the age groups within the Mount Barker District population were consistent with the survey results. For example, 9.6% of the population of the district is aged 12-17, while 10% of the library users surveyed fall into this age group. Similarly, the highest percentage of people residing in the district fall into the 35-49 age group (24.4%) which is matched by the highest percentage of survey respondents falling into the same age group (28%). 6% of the district's population are aged 70-84 and 6% of the survey respondents were aged 70-84

* discrepancies were found in the following age groups--while 7.7% of the population is aged 18-24, 14% of the users surveyed fall into this age group. This reflects a very good usage of the library by young people. 13.5% of the population is aged 25-34 yet only 9% of users surveyed fall into this group. This is a group that may need to be targeted in library policy and strategy

* 12.2% of the population is aged 50-59 and 15% of respondents fall into this group. 6.2% of the population is aged 60-69 and 14% of the respondents fall into this group. This reflects a very high usage of the library by older users.

Library visiting patterns

* respondents answered more than one of the categories concerning with whom they visited the library ie they may have sometimes visited the library alone but at other times they may have visited with a partner, friend or family member

* a greater percentage of people visited the library with another person (80% came with a partner, family member, friend or fellow student) than came alone (73%)

* a greater percentage of males (25%) than females (19%) come to the library with a spouse or partner, and a greater percentage of males (13%) than females (11%) also came to the library with friends. These results suggest that men may be more inclined to come to the library if accompanied by a partner or friend.

* a far greater percentage of women (46%) came to the library with a family member (including children) than men (24%). A greater percentage of women (l1%) than men (5%) also visited the library with fellow students. From these results, almost twice as many women as men visit the library with family members. This is probably due to the fact that women are often the primary care givers for their children and 77% of the opening hours of the library fall during normal working hours when many men may be unavailable to attend the library with children. The lack of Sunday opening, now commonly provided in public libraries, could be a factor in this

* a greater percentage in the 50-59 age group (84%) came to the library alone, while a greater percentage in the 60-69 age group (38%) and the 70-85% (41%) age group visited the library with a partner

* a greater percentage in the 12-17 age group (65%) and the 25-34 age group visited the library with a family member. The former visited with parents and siblings, and the latter with children

* young people aged 12-17 are the most likely to come to the library with friends (58%) and fellow students (35%)

* the above results indicate that many people come to the library as part of a social group or relationship. Since social capital is increased through relationships and interactions with others, this is an indicator that the library is functioning well as a builder of social capital

Library use patterns

Core library roles

* by far the greatest percentage of users surveyed visited the library to borrow items from the collection (89%). These results suggest that the majority of library users still see the role of the library in the traditional sense as a place to come to borrow books and other items

* the second highest percentage of users came to the library to find information (49%). 24% came to read, 24% to study, and 29% to browse

* 45% of users surveyed (including those who attended the weekly seniors computer group) came to use the computers which suggests that the library's core business has now extended to include information technology, a factor which should be taken into account in any collection development program

Non core library roles

* 13% of those surveyed came to the library because it was somewhere to go. This suggests that for a number of people the library fulfils a social role as well as providing a community meeting place.

* 32% of respondents came to the library for the peace and quiet and to sit and relax. 8% identified it as a safe place to go

* given that a large percentage of users sometimes or always visit the library alone (73%), a surprisingly small percentage of those surveyed did not talk to anyone during their visit (19%). 60% talked to staff, 48% talked to people they know, and 23% talked to people they did not know. 32% stayed longer than expected. All of these results emphasise the social role of the library as a place to meet people, to make connections with others, to communicate with others, and generally to 'hang out'

Comparison of male and female library use patterns

* A greater percentage of men (38%) than women (25%) came to the library to browse and/or to read. Moreover a greater percentage of men (24%) than women (14%) did not talk to anyone when they visited the library.

* A greater percentage of women than men came for the peace and quiet and to sit and relax, and also engaged in talking to people they know, did not know, and to staff. A greater percentage of women (41%) than men (27%) stayed longer than expected

* Overall the survey results found that women tend to talk more, stay longer, and seek more peace and relaxation than men. Men tend to talk less and to seek solitary activities like browsing and reading

Association of age groups with library use patterns

Young people (12-17 years and 18-24 years)

* while the percentage of people per age group who visited the library to borrow books and other items was very high (above 80%) amongst all age groups, the borrowing rate was higher for those aged 35 years and over. This suggests that young people may be visiting the library for other reasons

* the lowest percentage of those who come to the library to read was found in the 12-17 group. However, young people 12-17 (42%) and 18-24 (47%) were more likely to come to the library to study than older people. Young people are also more likely to come to the library to use the computers: 12-17 (58%) and 18-24 (59%)

* young people are more likely than other age groups to come to the library to see people they know: 12-17 (15%); 18-24 (18%), or to meet new people

* 35% of young people aged 12-17 came to the library because it is somewhere to go and 23% because it is a safe place

* the 12-17 group were also the most likely to stay longer than expected (54%), followed by the 18-24 group (44%)

* a greater percentage of 18-24 year olds (29%) come to the library to sit and relax

Generation X-ers (25-34 years)

* the 25-34 age group represents the smallest group of library users (9%)

* this group were the most likely to visit the library for children's activities (35%) or to use the toy library (30%)

Mature people (35-49 and 50-59 years)

* the highest percentage (32%) of those who come to the library to read was found in the 50-59 year age group

* a greater percentage of those aged 50-59 (63%) visit the library to find information

* a high percentage of 35-49 year olds (24%) come to the library to sit and relax

Older people (60-69 and 70-85)

* the 70-85 group was the second most sociable group after the 12-17 year olds, with 59% talking to someone they know during their library visit

* those most inclined to talk to people they do not know were the 70-85 group (29%)

Social capital indicators: trust and relationships

The library as a safe and peaceful place

Young people in particular identified the library as a safe place and 23% listed this as one of their main reasons for visiting the library. Those aged under 49 are more likely to come to the library for the peace and quiet: 12-17 (15%); 18-24 (21%); 25-34 (22%) and 35-49 (21%). Few people over 50 identified this as a priority.

The library as a meeting place and somewhere to go

Young people were more likely than other age groups to come to the library to see people they know or to meet new people. 35% of young people aged 12-17 visited the library because it is somewhere to go. This group was also more likely to stay longer than expected during their library visit (54%), followed by the 18-24 group (44%)

Talking to each other

Many people talked to people they know while visiting the library. The 12-17 year olds were the most sociable group and more likely to talk to someone they know (73%) followed by the oldest group, the 70-85 year olds (59%). Those least likely to talk to people they know are the 18-24 group (26%) and the 60-69 group (26%)

Talking to strangers

Those most inclined to talk to people they do not know are the 70-85 group suggesting that the elderly come to the library for a social outlet and to meet new people. This also suggests a high level of trust in others

Talking to staff

Many people talked to staff. The 60-69 group were the most likely to talk to staff (76%) followed by 50-59 (68%), 25-34 (61%) and 35-49 (54%). Those least likely to talk to staff were the 18-24 year olds (29%)

Not talking to anyone

The highest percentage of those who did not talk to anyone came from the 18-24 group (38%)


The findings from the quantitative data reveal that for many users the library fulfills a social role in addition to the traditional function of lending books and other items.

In particular the study highlighted that young people aged 12-17 and older people aged over 60 years are excellent builders of social capital within the library. Young people are the most sociable of all the groups who visit the library. Many not only regard the library as a safe place; they use it as somewhere to go, to hang out and to meet friends as well as make new friends. Older people are also a very sociable group, with many talking to people they know as well as talking to people they do not know. Older people are also the most inclined to talk to library staff.

Key themes identified from the qualitative survey data

The first three of the qualitative questions asked the respondents to write about the benefits they gain from the library; how the library benefits the local community; and what they most value about the library service. Apart from the content and wording of the questions, there were no prompts, and space was left on the questionnaire for respondents to write what they pleased. Most wrote sentences. Five prominent themes were identified from these responses with each theme embracing a number of elements. They are listed in their order of importance as rated by the respondents

1 Traditional core library role and functions

2 Equity of access for all

3 The library as place

4 Social interaction

5 The community role of the library

The last of the qualitative questions invited the respondent to free associate by jotting down ten words that describe their experience of the library. The responses to this question demonstrated a degree of creative freedom and the findings varied considerably from those of the other qualitative questions. They are therefore dealt with in a separate section.

Traditional core library roles and functions

The theme of traditional core library roles and functions consists of the following elements: books, information, reading, learning, study, borrowing, resources, computers and the internet. This was the most important theme identified from the responses. Books, information, reading and computer/internet (in that order) were mentioned far more than any other factor as the major benefit gained from the library service. Information was listed as the most important benefit to the community, and books as that which was most valued. As well as providing books, audiovisual materials, information and computer/internet access, the role of the library in developing literacy, fostering a love of learning and self education were highly valued by many respondents.

Benefits gained Being able to read good books. Female, 12

Benefits gained A choice of good literature to broaden my views and understanding of the world. Male, 67

Benefit to community It's a resource centre for people from birth to death. Female, 62

Benefit to community The information hub. Male, 42

Benefit to community It is a repository of recorded human endeavour, available to all people, whether they are a part of the formal education system or not. In short, it gives people the material with which they may educate themselves, in a manner of their choosing. Male, 48

Most value Being able to borrow materials which help my children to develop new skills, understanding of the world and literacy development. Female, 45

Most value It is really helping us to develop in our children a love of reading and learning. Our children love coming here and I'm hoping as I get older I will be able to find some time for myself to come and enjoy the library as well. Female, 34

Equity of access for all

After the core library functions, equity of access for all was the second most important theme identified. Many people valued the fact that the library services are free; that they can access materials they could normally not afford; and that the library and its resources are accessible and available to everyone. Some commented that this is the one free service that council provides. There appears to be a perception on the part of some that the library is a direct benefit gained from paying council rates.

Benefits gained A sense that there still remain some things available to citizens which don't have as their primary motivation for existence, profit. Male, 48

Benefits gained It's my second home--provides so many extra services to enrich my life that I couldn't afford or have access to otherwise. Female, 61

Benefits gained I get to use the computers because I can't afford to have one of my own. Female, 19

Benefits gained As I am on a low income I cannot afford to buy the latest books or magazines so the library offers me the chance to read many of the new releases in books and keeps me up to date with the newspapers and magazines. Female, 47

Benefits gained I'm on a carer's pension--the library is really the only form of entertainment available to me. Female, 47

Benefit to community Provides excellent resources at no cost (except of course in our rates). Most people could not afford to buy for their own use the large variety on offer. Female, 60

Benefit to community Because it provides resources for everyone and benefits people mostly who usually wouldn't afford to otherwise. Female, 20

Benefit to community Somewhere central that everyone can go and it's free. Female, 28

Benefit to community It brings us together. It is not just for one particular group; it's for everyone. Female, 16

The library as place

A central theme running throughout many of the responses is a sense of the library as a good place to be. Many appreciate the library as a peaceful and relaxing place to spend time. Some refer to the fact that it simply is there as important. Others value the physical environment, the pleasant atmosphere, the spaciousness and the warmth, while still others describe the library as a meeting place, and a safe haven which is welcoming and open to all. Teenagers, in particular, frequently referred to the safety of the environment. The value placed on the library as a place of peace and quiet in a hectic world is also reiterated throughout many responses.

Benefits gained It's a great place to be. Male, 16

Benefits gained Nice place to go on 'yuk' clays. Female, 28

Benefits gained A feeling of awe from the fantastic architecture. Female, 23

Benefit to community I just think it's a great place to spend time. Female, 44

Benefit to community It is a safe environment to sit and read--a safe haven. Female, 43

Benefit to community Provides a warm, safe, secure environment people of all ages can enjoy as well as find peace for study. Female, 17

Benefit to community It is there and available. Male, 75) Most value That it is there. Female, 56

Most value The large space that is made available to patrons. It is also an inviting place; the reading area encourages patrons within the community to stay and spend time in the library. Female, 22

Most value I can come and read a book in a warm, quiet, safe environment. Male, 19

Social interaction

This theme focuses on the human element, particularly the social interaction between people in the library and with members of staff. A very strong theme running throughout the survey responses is the high value placed on the staff, and the perception that as a whole they are friendly and helpful to library users. Indeed, the staff and the 'service' are the second most valued aspect of the library after books. The role of the library in providing people with company and the possibility for developing friendships was mentioned by a number of respondents.

Benefit to community I find company through the day. Male, 70s

Benefit to community Something here for all ages. Someone to talk to. Something to do. Female, 52

Benefit to community Offers friendship and knowledge to users. Female, 75

Most value: The staff are helpful and nice. Female, 14

Most value Specific staff members with whom I have close relationships. Male, 24

Most value The seniors computer help afternoon and the excellent staff who are all both friendly and helpful as well as knowledgeable. Female, 69

Most value Great customer service. Female, 17

The community role of the library

This theme embraces a number of elements that have been broadly classed under the umbrella of 'community'. It includes broader social relationships than one on one interactions, particularly the role of the library in bringing families together, in creating a sense of community, and in providing a local focal point or hub. A number of people describe the library as a community meeting place and a centre for community information and entertainment.

Benefits gained Keeping in touch with family members near and far. Male, 26, comes to use the internet

Benefits gained Keeps me in touch with what is going on around the district. Female, 44

Benefit to community We'd be lost without it. Female, 48

Benefit to community Good place for families to come. Female, 26

Benefit to community Provides an educational, informative and social resource for the community. Female, 45

Benefit to community A place where all the family can enjoy themselves. Kids can play while mums and dads can read or study. Female, 14

Benefit to community Not only does the library, have books to read but they hold interesting talks, displays and now they have music" as well. You can stay in the library for hours and keep entertained. Female, 47

Benefit to community A service used by the whole community. Brings the community together. Female, 49

Benefit to community It brings all the families together in one place. I catch up and chat with familiar people. Female, 35

Benefit to community It aids community spirit. Male, 73

Most value Something else for youth to do in an otherwise small town. Female, 16

Experiencing the library

The last of the qualitative questions invited respondents to 'jot down ten words that you associate with this library or that describe your experience of this library'. Unlike the other qualitative questions which enquired about benefits and value, and therefore incorporated an assumption that the responses to the questions would be positive, the above question allowed scope for a range of possible answers. Most people responded to the question literally and answered in words. Some wrote sentence answers and within these sentence responses were some criticisms. The most common criticism was centred around problems with noise and competition between community and student users for quiet versus noisy space, a factor attributed to the joint use nature of the library
 One small criticism--sometimes when student groups
 are in here l find them chatty, noisy and even at times
 disrespectful of others who are looking for somewhere
 quiet. Male, 47

 Noisy children and talkative adults are a problem
 when studying. Female, 27

 Sometimes there is a lot of competition in that there is
 teaching going on aloud as in a classroom or students
 speaking loudly and this is distracting. Female

This competition for space and competing demands for quiet individual activity versus noisy group interactions probably stems from the fact that the library is not simply a library for the community alone but is also a library for Tafe students and Adelaide Hills Vocational College (secondary) students. While the management of the library supports allowing more noise in the library, it may need to more fully address this issue in the future and design spaces within the library building that can comfortably accommodate both individuals and groups with different needs. However, some respondents welcome the trend towards more noise
 A wonderful meeting place for young and old and you
 don't have to be as quiet as we all had to years ago.
 Female, 52

A number of responses from older people reveal just how important the library is to them
 It is something to help me maintain an interest in life.
 Male, 86

 The district would be much worse off without it. Male,

 Makes each day better and helps keep me sane.
 Female, 60

For some, their experience of the library is one of increased well being
 I always leave with a great sense of relaxation.
 Female, 52

And for others, the library experience reminds them of its community role
 A sense of ownership by the community over a
 community asset--its ours. Male, 67

Another commented on the access problems with the location of the front door at a lengthy and uphill walking distance from the car park, a design outcome of its joint use nature

It's a long walk to the entrance. Female, 71

As a reflection of the high value placed on books, a number of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the recent 'weeding' of the collection.

Where have all the books gone? Male, 24

Over 200 different words were used to describe the experience of the library. These were tabulated and ranked in order of their importance. This time, books and core library functions were not at the top of the list. Instead, 'friendly', 'helpful' and 'quiet' were the three most cited words. The overwhelming response to this question revealed that members of the library experienced library staff as friendly and helpful and that staff approachability was one of the most important aspects of the library experience for them. The responses to this question also reinforce the value and importance to library members of peace, quiet and relaxation. Comfort and warmth were similarly significant. Overall, the top ten themes were

* Friendly

* Helpful

* Quiet

* Books

* Staff

* Relaxing

* Comfort

* Peace

* Information

* Warmth

These themes can be grouped as

Staff--friendly, helpful

Core librao' functions--books, information

Librao' as place--quiet, relaxing, comfort, peace, warmth

The experience of the library for the majority of respondents can therefore be summarised as consisting of the staff, the core business and the building. The overwhelming majority were more than satisfied with each of these three elements of the library.


The findings from the qualitative data echo those received from the quantitative data. They demonstrate that for the majority of people the traditional core library functions of borrowing books, accessing information, reading and computer/internet access are perceived as the major benefit gained from the library service.

While the library management is keen to extend its reach beyond books and beyond the stereotype, the majority of users still perceive the role, benefit and value of the library as a place to come to borrow books and other items. They also highly valued the library as a quiet and peaceful place. This was reflected in many comments to this effect as well as a number of criticisms of increasing noise levels.

Other significant themes which emerged from the qualitative data were the value placed on the helpfulness of staff, the perceived high quality of the service, the aesthetics and comfort of the physical environment of the building, the fact that the service is free and available to everyone, and the library's role as a community meeting place and information centre.

It would appear from these results, therefore, that the key purpose of the library is still to provide the services it has always provided, with an additional emphasis on audiovisual materials and access to information technology.

The social and community aspects of the library, which were frequently cited as of immense value, benefit and importance to users, are perceived by library users more as essential byproducts or secondary outputs of what is basically the core service of dispensing information.

Key themes identified from formal interviews with management stakeholders

This section identifies prominent themes derived from formal interviews with managers, as well as analysis of relevant policy documents. It looks at what is important from the perspective of the library, council and Tafe management. Since social capital inheres in relationships, this section will also look at the relationships between the library, council and Tafe, the three direct partnerships involved in the joint venture of the library.

Library management perspective

During the last two years, the library's management has undergone a significant shift from a more traditional books and collections focused service to a focus on the library as a social agency. This transition occurred under the leadership of the former manager who combined the role of community services manager with library services manager. In a move which departed from conventional practice, this manager was not a librarian, and brought to the position a freshness and vibrancy which was able to challenge the perceived role of the library as just a repository of books.

During her 18 months in the position, this manager raised the profile of the library in the community, fostered numerous social, cultural and community partnership initiatives, and generally promoted the library as an extension of community services. For the first time, the library was publicly envisioned as a community centre and issues of the social exclusion of particular groups from the library and the community development role of the library were placed firmly on the agenda. One of the innovative initiatives of this manager was to develop a position within the library for a youth and information officer. Following the community services model, the person selected for the position was a social worker who brought an additional dynamic community development focus to traditional library services. With the departure of this manager, the senior librarian stepped into the role of acting manager, and has endeavoured to continue and build upon the social and community mission initiated by his predecessor.

The current manager seeks a balance between the dual roles of the library as a warehouse of books on the one hand and the library as a community centre on the other. Whilst acknowledging that the library still needs to focus on development of its collections and that the majority of people still see the role of the library in a fairly traditional sense, the manager is nonetheless keen to focus more on the community development role of the library. To this end, the library's 2004-2005 business plan identifies four strategic drivers
 which seek to recast the role of the library to
 encompass a more socially responsive and educative
 approach as well as changing the image and identity of
 the library to link it more closely with the cultures of
 the District of Mount Barker community

The four strategic drivers are

* information literacy

* social inclusion

* staff development

* community partnerships

All of this is good news from a social capital point of view, particularly the second and fourth drivers which are both important indicators of social capital. Promoting and fostering information literacy is a core value of the library profession and underpins what libraries are all about. This driver emphasises the empowering nature of access to, and effective use of, information and its role in providing people with a pathway to personal growth and fulfillment. It also recognises the library's joint use nature and its vital role in complementing the formal education at Tafe and the Adelaide Hills Vocational College.

Social inclusion, as seen throughout the review of the literature, is a central facet of social capital. With this strategic driver, the library's management aims to create an environment and services which cater for people who normally do not use the library, particularly those who are marginalised and socially excluded, such as youth, the homeless and the unemployed.

The third strategic driver is staff development. The manager believes that not all staff are embracing the new direction of the library as articulated in the business plan, that there are pockets of resistance to adopting positive measures for social inclusion. To this end, the driver aims to bring about cultural change amongst the staff in order to change attitudes and behaviours, values and beliefs. The primary strategy to achieve this to date has been the implementation of a customer service philosophy called FISH! based on the four elements of: play; choose your attitude; make their day; and be there.

The fourth strategic driver aims to develop partnerships with local groups and organisations. This is also envisaged as a means to address social exclusion, particularly through enabling excluded groups to be involved in the planning, introduction and monitoring of services so that the services reflect what the community needs rather than what the library thinks they need. This is closely connected to the idea of community capacity building in which communities build their own capacity as opposed to having services delivered to them.

Overall, the manager has a vision of the library as a stimulating meeting place, a place where people want to stay and do things. He advocates an 'in your face' style of librarianship which involves being seen in the community--by going out into shopping centres, into classrooms, attending council meetings, and making connections with community agencies such as CentreLink. Concerning the library's relationship with council, the manager believes that councils in general tend to view their library service as predominantly a cost centre ie a service which costs council money without any economic return. He sees the need, therefore, to take on a stronger advocacy role in order to impart a philosophy of libraries to council.

To place itself more at the heart of the community, the manager believes the library needs to be more welcoming and tolerant, especially towards young people. He advocates that the library needs to change its shush mentality not simply through what the library does and the activities it offers, but through staff attitudes. At the same time, he cautions that there is a need for balance, that the library should be neither a playground, nor a morgue.

He is consciously working towards a social capital model for the library, and defines social capital as the fabric that holds the community together--the difference between the community as a group of individuals who care only about themselves, and that of a group of people relating to each other and caring for the community'.

In conclusion, the library manager has articulated a vision, mission and philosophy for the library throughout the 2004-2005 business plan and the course of the interview. This vision suggests that the manager is actively contributing towards the development of social capital both within the library and within the wider community served by the library. The challenge is to convert the vision into reality.

Council management perspective

The council perspective outlined here has been gathered from a combination of analysis of policy documents, informal communications with council managers and a formal interview with the former manager of policy and governance (P&G).

Council perceives the role of the library service in a highly pragmatic sense. Under the Libraries Act 1982 funding is made available to South Australian councils to provide a library service, although there is no requirement that they must provide that service. In the words of the P&G manager 'it is historical that we have one and that councils should provide one'. In describing the relationship between council and the library, the manager confirmed the point made by the library manager that council perceives the library as a cost centre. Library expenditure accounts for only 6% of council's annual operating expenditure. However, council management is also aware of the important role played by the library in the following areas--literacy, recreation, social interaction, access to technology and services that cater for people with disablities eg large print books, and outreach services such as the home library.

Interestingly, the P&G manager spoke of the negative feelings and high expectations that members of the community have towards council and the positive feelings they have towards the library. She believes that many do not realise that the library is a council service and suspects that the library is valued because it is not associated with council, but, she adds, 'people might value council more if they were aware that it provides the library service'.

The results of council's community survey 2004 which collected data from 500 telephone interviews, found that 25% of respondents were aware that council provides the library service, whereas 68% were aware of its role in the provision of roads and footpaths. The survey found that 7 out of 10 households in the Mount Barker Council area reportedly had at least one member who had visited the library at least once in the previous 12 months, an outcome which the P&G Manager described as a 'pat on the back' for the library service.

On the relationship between council and Tafe, partners in providing the library service, the P&G manager described it as a 'good relationship at a local level'. She explained how at a local level, there is good faith and cooperation between the parties.

It appears that in many respects council takes the library for granted or at least perceives it as a 'given'. As the P&G manager noted, council is well aware of the implications for the community if there was no library and suggested that in this regard it is actually a 'moral issue' for council that the library exists.

From a social capital perspective, council appears to be fostering both social inclusion and community partnerships. Indeed, council's previous strategic plan 2001-2004 highlighted ten values or core beliefs, one of which included a 'commitment to social inclusion'. Moreover, the new strategic plan for 2004-2007 was prepared after extensive consultation with the community. This consultation took the form of the distribution of a discussion paper which invited comments from members of the community, a series of community workshops held in three townships, and a community survey. The discussion paper clearly states council's position on community consultation and 'creating successful communities'.

Tafe management perspective

An interview was conducted with the Tafe manager in order to gain the perspective of Tafe. Historically, Tafe and council agreed 20 years ago to be partners in offering a library service to the Mount Barker community and to Tafe students.

The Tafe manager enjoys a good working relationship with library and council management although the impression was of a degree of remoteness in the relationship between Tafe and council. Certainly the Tafe manager is well in touch with the library, situated as it is on the Tafe campus. She believes that the library provides a good service to students although there are some areas in which she sees the potential for a shift in the future direction of the library service for students. In particular, with the increasing emphasis on elearning options, the manager sees the library's place in the future as becoming more supportive of students' needs in this area. She suggests the likelihood of a growing role for the library in assisting students to access elearning technologies and training them in internet searching skills.

The manager supports the social and community mission of the library. In particular, she endorses the emerging role of the library as a meeting place which has become more socially interactive. She cites the example of the games events (mah jong evenings, chess tournaments etc) and the Saturday music afternoons as excellent examples of ways in which people who are lonely or traumatised in some way can come to the library and find enjoyment and peace, opportunities to socialise, or just to be alone in a nonthreatening environment. One thing the manager would not like to see is the conversion of the library into a service point for council where people would come to pay their rates and dog licences. This has been a trend in new libraries elsewhere and has been mooted by council for some years.


The library's ongoing existence is ensured through funding received from the council via general revenue from rates (69%), the state government via library grants (13%) and Tafe (18%). The joint funding of the library by council and Tafe was formalised by a joint use agreement which was drawn up in 1997. It outlines financial contributions from each of the parties, the use of the building and other management issues.

A sticking point in the relationship between the three partners has been the failure of Tafe to sign this agreement. Negotiations have been long and protracted despite the former library manager's attempts to publicise the issue in the local newspaper. While the parties have been operating under the conditions set out in the agreement for over five years, both council and library management feel that the long term financial future of the library cannot be fully secured while the agreement remains unsigned.

From the Tafe perspective, there is a lack of balance between the community versus student library usage and the council versus Tafe expenditure ratio on the library. Only 5.6% of library members are Tafe staff or students, while 18% of the library's budget is supplied by Tafe. Furthermore, Tafe expenditure on the library far exceeds this amount, since it is required to finance the upkeep of the building and other facilities, maintenance of the grounds, security, cleaning, and more. Tafe therefore feels that any signed legal document needs to accurately reflect, rather than exceed, Tafe services. It seems likely therefore, judging from the interview with the Tafe manager, that Tafe sees a potential solution in the reduction of some of its current funding and instead purchasing a discrete service for its students. In other words, Tale would prefer to pay council for the service it uses. This of course means that council would need to increase its current investment in the library.

From a social capital point of view, this unresolved issue could be viewed not simply as hampering future planning for the library, but the relationships of trust between all parties involved. Notwithstanding, the Tafe position is that the unsigned agreement does not affect the fact that business still carries on as usual. Whilst the relationship between council and Tafe appears to be strong, it could be further strengthened if the joint use agreement was signed.

Key themes identified from participant observation

This section identifies key themes related to social capital development drawn from the researcher's observation and participation in the library as a member of staff as well as a researcher. Data has been gathered from field notes, analysis of internal documents and statistics, formal interviews with management and informal discussions with staff and library users. The structure for this section utilises in part the audit framework proposed in the UTS study. The five areas below are considered reliable indicators and measures of the social capital potential of the public library. (4)

Relationships and trust building

The previous section looked at the relationships between the library and its two funding and management bodies--council and Tafe. This section considers the relationships within library staff and between library staff and library users.

Historically, there have been a number of deep seated issues which have affected the morale and trust levels of library staff as a whole, a situation not unusual in workplaces. Over time, problems have become entrenched and attitudes ingrained. The library management has responded proactively by introducing the FISH! strategy as a means to address these issues within the workplace. Through encouraging a greater sense of play and fun; supporting staff to 'be there' for each other and 'making their day'; as well as urging staff to be more conscious of 'choosing the attitude' they bring to work, it is felt that this will change the internal culture of the workplace, increasing trust levels, and thereby significantly impacting on relationships between staff and the public. In the manager's words
 I see FISH! as also being instrumental in delivering
 social justice and social inclusion outcomes. By
 changing our internal culture and customer service
 attitudes and philosophies we will, I believe, begin to
 see things more clearly from a customer perspective
 and will go out of our way to 'make their day' as well
 as collectively and creatively come up with solutions
 to problems and ways to enjoy our work and deliver
 quality service and services to our customers and

Informal discussions with staff reveal that there is a degree of uneasiness and uncertainty about some of the changes that have occurred within the library in the last 12 months. These include the weeding of the collection which was perceived by some as too drastic; the loosening of policies relating to library members which has left some staff uncertain about where the boundaries lie; and the increasing move towards introducing social and popular culture initiatives, which rests uneasily with those staff who still perceive the library as a quiet place for reading. Staff expressed concerns that an increased emphasis on the library as a community centre could compromise its provision of core services. Such uncertainty is natural and understandable in a climate of rapid change. The manager believes that the FISH! cultural change strategy will also help to address these problems, although he acknowledges that positive results will not occur overnight and that morale and trust levels are likely to decline before they improve.

Partnerships and networks

Numerous partnerships and informal networks have been formed between the library and groups and organisations within the local community. Many of these partnerships have been established under the current management, particularly as a result of the work of the youth and information officer who is a professional social worker. The input of this staff member into the organisation has greatly increased the social capital development potential of the library, and the vision behind conceiving this position is to be applauded.

Examples of partnerships with the library include

* Adelaide Hills Vocational College--this is a strong partnership since the college is situated on the Tafe campus. The college is also linked in partnership with Lutheran Community Care. The library's youth officer offers literacy support to young people, in a general sense, and via specific projects such as a youth magazine. She supports young people in accessing literacy tools for their magazine articles and also assists them in writing assignments for their studies. More informally, she offers individual support for emotional and social issues, although her position within the library does not allow much time or scope for the latter.

* through the role of the youth officer, the library is represented in the community via collaborative work with various organisations including Adelaide Hills Community Health Service; The Hut (a community information centre in Aldgate); Toad's Hall (a drop in centre for youth in Mount Barker); Lutheran Community Care (an agency providing social and personal support to young people); Adelaide Hills Council; and the Adelaide Hills Division of General Practice. The collaboration takes various forms, from supporting initiatives of the organisations, to promoting youth activities in the library, as well as hosting community presentations.

* the Saturday music in the library program, Unplugged, is another example of inviting community participation. Collaborative relationships have been formed with local schools to encourage senior music students to perform at these events, thereby facilitating performance opportunities and the building of confidence.

A number of the above groups have formed informal networks with each other. For example, Lutheran Community Care is based on the Tale campus, within metres of the library, and its social worker, with the library's youth officer, work in collaboration to support young people from the Adelaide Hills Vocational College. Informal networks of this sort play an important role in building the social capital not only of the library but the Tafe campus and wider community of which both are a part.

Since the council does not have a youth development officer, the library's youth officer is currently in the process of forming a library youth advisory committee (Yac), a group of young people who can keep her informed of youth views on the use of the library. She envisages that this group will have a say about internal or outreach library developments such as the proposed youth space, the selection of materials and general support for students. In addition, the vision for the library Yac is that it can act as an advisory group to the library manager who could then funnel youth concerns to the library management committee 'in this way, young people would have some influence in decision making regarding issues facing youth in the community, in direct relation to the library'.

Each of the above partnerships in the area of youth create bridging social capital since they build social capital between youth and the library, as well as between young people and other individuals, organisations, and groups within the community. It could also be said that these partnerships are building bonding social capital between the young people themselves in helping them to feel more connected with each other.

The children's services librarian has likewise been instrumental in forming partnerships with various organisations and informal networks including

* Schools--participate in community service activities and work experience opportunities; attend the library for excursions, orientations and tours

* Vacation care centres--attend the library for excursions

* Homeschooling families--attend the weekly writers' group

* Child and Youth Health--visits, talks, support

An important facet of social capital development in the library is supporting families. An example is the parenting group which encourages the development of family literacy through reading stories to babies and providing talks on parenting and other opportunities for parents to share their experiences as new mothers and fathers. The well stocked toy library, which has been praised as one of the best in South Australia, is also a hub of social activity and offers opportunities for parents, especially mothers, to socialise and network with other parents and share stories about their children and related experiences.

Similarly, the home library delivery service builds social capital in the community through its outreach to those who are elderly, frail, lacking in mobility and otherwise isolated. It delivers books monthly to residents of nursing homes and others in need who are living independently in the Mount Barker community and outlying townships. Apart from the leisure and recreational value of the books provided, the social contact of the visit is very important to those who receive this service.

Finally, the local history officer has facilitated a fruitful partnership with the National Trust. Much of the Trust's historical collection, which was formerly stored in members' homes, is now housed in the local history centre at the library. The centre, with its extensive collection of historical materials relating to the local area and environs, contributes significantly to the social capital of the entire community, providing as it does a valuable focus for local family history and genealogical research.

Each of the above partnerships contributes to the social capital of the library and the community served by the library.

Social inclusion

The Library business plan 2004-2005 identifies a number of social groups as neglected and therefore excluded in past library strategy, service delivery and staffing. These groups who commonly face stigma and discrimination, include homeless people, travellers, youth, and the economically disadvantaged. The plan states that the library will seek to address social exclusion by
 becoming a much more proactive, interventionist and
 educative institution by mainstreaming the provision
 of services for socially excluded groups and adopting
 staffing and resourcing strategies which prioritise the
 needs of excluded people in the community.

The library manager has commented that while the library does not have policies that exclude, it also does not have policies that include. The point is that a conscious effort needs to be made to develop policies that deliberately emphasise social inclusion. The manager has articulated a strong commitment towards addressing social exclusion. He sees the appointment of the youth officer as a strategy aimed directly at addressing the issue of the social exclusion of youth from the library. Planned initiatives include the creation of a youth space and the involvement of young people in the selection of materials for the collection. For example, the youth officer is planning a Comic Book excursion with a group of young people who will participate in purchasing resources that appeal directly to them. This is an example of community capacity building in which young people have direct input to selecting their own library resources as opposed to the library deciding what resources they need. By actively including young people in the selection process, library management believes that this will ensure that the collection is not only relevant to young people but that they will then be empowered to feel a sense of ownership in the library and its collections. Similarly, the library has significantly increased its purchases in the area of popular culture as a means to address social inclusion issues. This includes dvds, cds and graphic novels, all of which are proving extremely popular with library users.

In the manager's view, one of the most significant barriers to social inclusion within the library is its rule based culture in which overdue fees, fines, rules and restrictive and often punitive policies prevail. The current management is committed to loosening up such rules and policies. In the last 12 months, a number of changes have been made in this area which include

* softening membership rules to enable young people to join the library who previously were unable to without the presence of a parent or carer. For example, those under 16 can now join independently as temporary members until a parent is able to sign them up. Those 16 and over are now recognised as adults (the norm in most libraries is 18) and can join without parental consent and have independent internet access.

* changes to the temporary residents policy which required that those without a fixed or permanent residential address (and therefore possibly the most economically disadvantaged in the community) must pay a $50 refundable deposit. Membership criteria has been broadened and the requirement to pay the deposit removed.

* the reduction in the maximum overdue fee from $3 to $2 combined with an increase in the grace period before fines begin to accrue from 6 to 12 days, aims to minimise the punitive and discriminatory impact of the overdue fines system.

Community capacity building

Community capacity building is intimately linked with the development of social capital in communities. Capacity building has been defined as
 the developing or acquiring of skills, competencies,
 tools, processes and resources that are needed to
 strengthen a neighbourhood or community's
 processes and systems so that individuals, families,
 and local groups may take control of their own lives (5)

In addition to the capacity building initiatives designed to address social exclusion of youth, another capacity building initiative is the weekly Cyberseniors computer group which offers computer help for anyone aged over 50. The environment is relaxed and nonthreatening and a staff member and several volunteers offer one on one assistance at whatever level the person requires. Seniors are also welcome to use the computers at this time even if they do not require specific help. Once confidence is gained, many go on to help each other. A number of people visit weekly to keep in contact with family members overseas. Others find it a safe place to become familiar with computers; while still others make social connections through the group. This is an example of the library not simply providing a service, but empowering a group (in this case seniors who often feel socially excluded in terms of knowledge of information technology) to develop their own skills. The library offers the space, facilities and support for seniors to develop the capacity to develop computer literacy for themselves. The social outcomes are increased self esteem and self confidence and the social spinoffs include meeting others at a similar level of knowledge. This demonstrates capacity building at its best.

Social use of space

Observation of the social use of the space in the library reveals that many different individuals and groups use different areas for different purposes. The way the space is organised affects the way it is used. The small tables located in the newspaper reading area are mostly used by solitary people, usually men, who like to sit quietly, reading newspapers and magazines. Men tend to sit one per table while women are more likely to gather to talk. On Saturday afternoons, the musicians play here and this has created some competition between the differing needs of library users which has resulted in several complaints. Overall, however, the reaction to music in the library has been very positive. A solution to this problem could be to relocate the music to another part of the library.

The small tables located in the centre of the library with children's boardgames permanently spread out, and several chairs grouped around them, frequently attract family groups who play happily together, or children who play while their parents browse. Other tables contain chess sets and these are used by young teenage boys after school as well as parents with their children. Women play mah jong in the corner by the window and groups of primary school children use the carrels and the large group study area in the afternoons. This area is also used by the weekly children's writer's group and a weekly book group.

Secondary students from the vocational college also use this study area throughout the day, sometimes with a teacher who offers tuition and support. Tafe students gather in one area of the computer room (independent learning centre) while the other half is used by community members including school children and university students.

From a social capital point of view, there is a pressing need for a meeting room to be made available which would enable community groups to gather, hold talks and forums, and exchange views. At present a room is available within the Tafe complex for this purpose, but is infrequently used and does not facilitate the type of community feeling and activity that could be generated if a meeting room was located within the library.

In short, the space in the library caters for a diverse range of user groups with an equally diverse range of interests and needs, all of which contributes to social capital. The way the space is arranged encourages social interaction in some areas and not in others, and in some cases both in the same place at the same time. Not surprisingly, there are sometimes clashes of needs between those who prefer or need quiet for study or leisure purposes and those who seek to socialise or study primarily in groups. All are in agreement that the space within the library is comfortable, aesthetic, welcoming, light, spacious and airy. The open building design facilitates a degree of flexibility in how the space is arranged. Therefore, judicious planning and re-organising of the spaces so that quiet areas and noisy areas have more space between them may serve to alleviate some of these problems.


The social capital audit of Mount Barker Community Library has taken into account the views of library members, library staff and key management stakeholders from the Tale and council. It reports on observations, as well as quantitative and qualitative data, as to how the library is used, how staff feel about the library and how the community experience the library.

The management of the library is committed to extending its reach beyond books to embrace a social and community development model for the library. However the findings from the user survey reveal that the majority of library members still perceive the role, benefit and value of the library as a place to come to borrow books, to find information, to browse and read and, increasingly, to use the computers. Many also highly value the library as a quiet and peaceful place. Clearly, the traditional role of the library still has, and will probably always have, an enduring relevance for its users.

At the same time, new roles for the library have been identified through this study. Additional themes have emerged from the user survey which demonstrate that the library fulfills a social role over and above the function of lending books and other resources. The data presented in this audit report indeed highlights the enormous social and community benefits derived from the library experience.

Many regard the library as a community meeting place and information centre, and a place where they can come to be entertained, to meet people, to socialise with friends and family, and to make new connections. Library members also value highly the helpfulness of staff, the quality of the service they receive and the aesthetics and comfort of the library building itself. The fact that the library service is free and available to everyone is an important factor for many. For quite a number of people, particularly the lonely, the isolated and the elderly, the library contributes significantly to their sense of health and well being and enriches their lives in profound ways, as revealed through comments such as it 'helps me maintain an interest in life' and it 'makes each day better and helps keep me sane'.

The library not only fosters social interactions between individuals and groups within it, but through its established and evolving partnerships with numerous outside groups, informal networks and organisations, it serves to foster relationships within the wider community, promoting social cohesion, increasing community confidence and ultimately, building social capital.

Library management and staff have become key players in this emerging trend towards building social capital. The strategic direction of the library has shifted significantly in the last two years to embrace a firm commitment to developing social inclusion and building community partnerships, both central themes of the social capital model. A wide range of initiatives which address social exclusion and involve community capacity building have been identified which all contribute to the social capital not only of the library but of the community in which the library is located. The social capital audit study of Mount Barker Community Library, therefore, has found that the library contributes significantly to the social capital of the community it serves.

To a degree all libraries, by virtue of their core values of equity of access for all, inclusiveness, and the provision of a free service, contribute to the building of social capital in their communities, just by their existence. However, there is always room for improvement. To further develop the social capital of Mount Barker Library, the answer lies not simply in increasing opportunities for social interaction within the library or by staging one off social events, but in truly fostering the development of networks and partnerships within the community, as well as improving the accessibility of the library to the local community. The entrance to a library is crucial and the inaccessibility of the current entrance leaves much to be desired, disadvantaging the frail, the sick, the elderly and parents with young children. Its distance from the car park also poses a security risk at night. In addition, consideration needs to be given to increasing the accessibility of the library from the nearby town centre, which is where typically public libraries are best located. At present the two are not connected and a busy road separates them--mooted plans for an overpass or walkway would significantly address this problem. Stronger links could be established with local businesses and employment services in the town. There is also a pressing need for a community information and referral service to be based at the library.

The importance of socially inclusive and sustainable communities, the need to build social capital, and the stated priority to develop South Australia as 'a place in which people care for each other and contribute to their communities', are all emphasised in the state government's strategic plan. Further, one of the targets the state government has set to achieve its strategic objectives is to align state and local strategic plans within the next 12 months and to agree on joint initiatives from them. Similarly, Mount Barker Council has articulated its vision to 'create successful communities'. In this context it is evident that, on the whole, the Mount Barker Community Library is not only contributing to the social capital of the local community but moreover actively contributing to the achievement of the strategic goals and policy objectives of both the state government and the District Council of Mount Barker.



Candy Hillenbrand

Extracted from Public libraries as developers of social capital: changing roles, values and missions

MA thesis University of South Australia Dec 2004

The following suggests a framework and guidelines suitable for any public library seeking to evaluate its social capital development potential.

Aim of the research

To evaluate the social capital potential of your public library, identifying both strengths and weaknesses.

Output of the research

A social capital audit presented in the form of a report which is made available to the library management board or committee.

Research methodologies

* Include qualitative as well as quantitative approaches in order to capture the inner experience of participants.

Research methods

* Include a range of methods which canvas the views of a wide cross-section of stakeholders.

* Examples: surveys; interviews; observation; document analysis (of strategic plans, business plans, budget reports, minutes of meetings, internals memos etc); analysis of inhouse library statistics; analysis of local census data.

* Include questions that act as indicators of social capital in interviews and questionnaires.

Identification of stakeholders

Include library users; nonusers if possible; library manager; library staff; council manager(s); Tafe manager or school principal (if a joint use library); any other important partners.

Data analysis

* Collate quantitative data using spreadsheets or statistical software packages

* Undertake content analysis of qualitative data

* Cross-tabulate data where required and reduce data to user friendly tables.

Structure of the audit report

* Demographics of the community- derived from ABS census data

* Demographics of the library--derived from library management statistics

* Presentation and analysis of quantitative data from user survey

--Demographic profile of library users eg residence; gender; occupation; age groups; comparisons between these factors.

--Library visiting pattern--with whom do they visit the library?

--Reasons for visiting the library (library use pattern)--options include core and noncore library roles and activities, as well as social uses of the library.

--Social interaction--with whom do they talk; do they stay longer than expected?

--Look at comparisons between the above factors eg core versus noncore library use; male versus female use patterns; association of age groups with library use patterns.

--Social capital indicators--isolate and treat separately the questions or options relating to trust, relationships, social interaction and networks eg library as a safe place; library as a meeting place; talking to others.

* Presentation and analysis of qualitative data from user survey

--Identify key themes from the qualitative data eg core library functions; equity of access, library as place; social interaction; community role of the library.

--Include narrative descriptions from survey responses to illustrate each key theme.

* Presentation and analysis of data from interviews with stakeholders

--Present the library management perspective

--Present the council management perspective

--Present the perspective of other management stakeholders

* Presentation and analysis of data from participant observation (or similar method)

--Identify indicators of social capital eg relationships and trust building; partnerships and networks; social inclusion; community capacity building; social use of space.

--Describe and analyse aspects of the library service which relate to each of these social capital indicators.

* Conclusions

--Present the conclusions derived from the audit study.

--Summarise the strengths and weaknesses of the library service as revealed through the data analysis.

--Evaluate the overall social capital development potential of the library.

* Recommendations

--Present a series of recommendations for library and council management, or where applicable, the library management committee.

--Include suggested strategies for implementing the recommendations, where applicable.


(1) Cox, E Raising social capital, Lecture 2 The 1995 Boyer lectures: a truly civil society 1995 accessed 22 February 2004

(2) District Council of Mount Barker website Population growth http://www.dcmtbarker. wth.htm accessed 25 February 2004

(3) University of Technology, Sydney A safe place to go: libraries and social capital Sydney, University of Technology, Sydney and Public Libraries Branch State Library of NSW 2000 accessed 2 Dec 2003

(4) ibid pp33-35

(5) Library Board of Victoria Libraries building communities: project information guide Background report Melbourne, New Focus Research Pty Ltd 2003 p7

Candy Hillenbrand Mt Barker Community Library, South Australia

Received January 2005

Candy Hillenbrand BA MA has worked at Mount Barker Community Library whilst completing in 2004 her Masters degree in library studies Public libraries as developers of social capital: changing roles, values and missions University of South Australia. Her undergraduate background in politics and human sciences has particularly inspired her interest in the social and community building role of public libraries. Address: PO Box 1796 Macclesfield SA 5153
COPYRIGHT 2005 Auslib Press Party Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Hillenbrand, Candy
Publication:Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 1, 2005
Previous Article:Building public library community connections through cultural planning.
Next Article:Providing and promoting public library services to a culturally diverse New South Wales.

Related Articles
Lane Cove Library, a part of life: the social role and economic benefit of a public library.
Libraries for all?
Assessing the social impact of public libraries: what the literature is saying.
Changing lives, making the difference: the 21st century public library.
Capitalising on social capital ...
'The wheel is come full circle'.
Friend or foe? The role of Friends of Library groups in community development.
Time to free public libraries?
"The books were just the props": public libraries and contested space in the Cape Flats townships in the 1980s.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters